The species are natives of various parts of tropical America, chiefly Mexico and Central America, where they are found generally growing, in company with Bromeliads and Orchids, upon the trunks of gigantic forest-trees. Phyllocactuses are therefore epiphytes when in a wild state, but under cultivation with us, they thrive best when planted in pots or in baskets—the latter method being adapted for one or two smaller kinds. It is easy to imagine the gorgeousness of a group of these plants when seen enveloping a large tree-trunk, clothing it, as it were, with balls of brilliant or pure white flowers. We are told by travellers of the splendours of a Cactus haunt during the flowering season, and those who have seen a well-managed pot specimen of Phyllocactus when covered with large, dazzling flowers, can form some idea of what wild plants are like when seen by hundreds together, and surrounded by the green foliage and festooning climbers which associate with them in the forests where they abound.
Cultivation.—For the following cultural notes we are indebted to a most successful grower of Cactuses in Germany, whose collection of Phyllocactuses is exceptionally rich and well managed: The growing season for these plants is from about the end of April, or after the flowers are over, till the end of August. As soon as growth commences, the plants should be repotted. A light, rich soil should be used, a mixture of loam, peat, and leaf-mould, or rotten manure with a little sand, being suitable. Small plants should have a fair shift; larger ones only into a size of pot which just admits of a thin layer of fresh soil. When pot-bound, the plants flower most freely, and it is not necessary to repot large specimens more often than about once every three years. When potted they should be placed in a sunny position in a close house or frame, and be kept freely watered. In bright weather they may be syringed overhead twice a day. For the first few days after repotting it is advisable to shade the plants from bright sunshine. A stove temperature is required until growth is finished. After this they should be gradually ripened by admitting more air and exposing to all the sunlight possible. During winter very little water is needed, just sufficient to prevent shrivelling being safest. Excess of moisture in winter is ruinous, as it often kills the roots, and sometimes causes the plant to rot off at the collar. The lowest temperature in winter should be 50 degs., lower than this being unsafe, whilst in mild weather it might be 5 degs. higher.
It is a bad plan to turn these plants round, in order, as some think, to ripen the growths properly. As a matter of fact, it does no good, but often does harm, by suddenly exposing the tender parts to the full force of sunlight.
The stems may be trained either in the form of a fan or as a bush. Old branches which have flowered and are shrivelling may be cut away in the spring.