Thursday, August 1, 2013

Queen of the Night: Night Blooming Cereus

 "She will make the face of heaven shine so fine that all the world will be in love with night." 
    ----from William Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet."

What’s so special about a plant that would make you venture out late in the evening to pull up a chair and wait for it to bloom?  Become giddy with excitement as the petal opens to reveal a bloom big as a saucer and deep as a chalice?

These photos, taken with flash, were shot just after the bloom opened, around 9 p.m..

It’s none other than the Night Blooming Cereus, also known as Queen of the Night. Its immaculate white petals, exquisite as a royal wedding gown, emit a heady, enigmatic fragrance like none other, and last only one night.

People have been known to throw a party in honor of this plant that blooms but once a year.  Yes, when a night-blooming cereus blooms, it is indeed a special event.

A few nights ago, my plant, with its four blooms, entertained us for a few hours. While we didn’t sit before it to watch it unfold, I found a YouTube video that records the process over a 12-hour period. 

It's a rather unattractive and unruly plant that throws out tall, sturdy branches that are hard as nails. Large, leathery and strappy leaves emerge along the branches over a period of a few years as the plant develops. My plant was three years old before it bloomed the first time a few years ago. It isn't winter hardy and must be brought inside during cold months.

I repotted the plant into an old bucket this spring. Before bringing inside for the winter, I'll find a pretty pot (large!) and repot it again. Note that I had to stake the heavy branches to hold them upright.
I shot a few pictures on days after the buds formed and started to grow toward opening:

The morning after the blooms opened, they closed up as daylight came. Here's a picture of one of the blossoms closed and ready to drop off in a few days.

And here's Kitty Carl checking them out!


  1. Dear Sanda.
    I had the pleasure of seeing one open about 7 years ago, on a visit to see my friends in S.A again.
    My one friend has one plant.. and she kept telling me about "The Queen of the night".. we went out after dark..she must have known it was ready to open.. and just like that slowly slowly itopened.. i was dumbstruck.. never seen or heard of the plant until then.
    They are stunning really a sight for sore eyes.
    A lovely post.. thank you Sanda.. val x

  2. Fantastic - some competition for the Evening Primrose then!!!

  3. Queen of the Night is the perfect name for such an elegantly beautiful bloom. If you can predict the opening, I would have a party too - everyone could dress in white, eat angel cake, and have a wonderful night! x

  4. Patricia's idea sounds wonderful. What a perfect way to admire this exotic, ethereal bloom.

  5. What a dramatic plant. With the perfect name for it. Very demanding to keep too, as a Queen:

  6. As always stunning photos,have you noticed some of the most beautiful flowers have rubbery,ungainly leaves or even ugly roots,but like people you can always find something charming about them?


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