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Review on

Jungle Cacti Pests Epiphyllum, Dragon Fruit

Jungle Cacti Pests and How to Get Rid of Them

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Some common pests of Epiphyllums are mentioned on the Main Growing Page but this is a more complete list of all Jungle Cacti pests of Epiphyllum, Dragon Fruit, Schlumbergera,Rhipsalidopsis, Echinopsis and some other plants offered on this website. Many of the pests listed here you may never encounter since they may not be as common depending on where you live. Many can cause a lot of damage in a very short period of time though. Some pests listed here maybe more common with plant types other than Epiphyllum, such as Dragon Fruit, Schlumbergera, Rhipsalidopsis or Echinopsis etc. so those will be noted in each pests descriptions and remedies. In addition theres a list of each pest by number on this page and how commonly its found to attack each genera.

Common and Less Common Pests by Plant Genera

Aporophyllums-Common #7,10,13 & (11-usually only when in bud/blooming) less common #8 rare occurances; #9 & 14

Epiphyllums-Common #7,8,9,10,13 & (11-usually only when in bud/blooming) less common #5, 12 & 14 rare occurances; #1,2,3 & 4

Echinopsis and various spiny cacti types-Common #7,10,13 & 14 (11-usually when in bud/blooming) less common #8 & 9 rare occurances; #5

Dragon Fruit-Common #7 & (6 if planted in ground) #4 & 5 when bearing fruit-damage to fruit. less common #8,10,13,14 & 11-when in bud developement. Rare occurances; #2

Schlumbergera-Common #7,8,9,10,13,14 less common #11 & 12 Rare occurances; #1,2,4 & 5

Rhipsalidopsis-Common #8,9 & 10 less common #11,12,13 & 14 Rare occurances; #1,2,4 & 5

Above is a list of Jungle Cacti genera and which pests by number are the most common to each plant type. although this page below lists many pests that could be a problem at your location, many are rarely if ever encountered. Each pest has a corresponding number and description below on this page that will match to the numbers next to each plant type above. Although some pests are rarely a problem should they ever try to make your Jungle Cacti Garden there home, the complete list below will help you rid them quikly. The Jungle Cacti pest descriptions below are in no particular order. And this list is still being added to.

Not all bugs or creatures in the garden are harmful, many are beneficial.
To see the 'Good Bugs, Animals and Other Beneficials Page' click the link below.


Jungle Cacti Pest List

(Above pictured are common Rabbits)

1) RABBITS Rabbits can nibble on Epiphyllums if left low to the ground and there numerous in your area. First thing is to have your pots a minimum of 12 inches to 2 ft off the ground most rabbits wont climb very high, if there in hanging pots rabbits wont be a problem, there foragers so if its low and tender it’s a meal for them.

Remedy; If you just cant keep them away from your Epiphyllums with proper fencing try this simple solution. Garlic juice-Crush a garlic or get it pre-crushed fresh cloves in a jar or can, dilute with enough water about 90% water to 10% garlic juice, add a raw egg for good adhesion then mix in blender. Apply every week until they decide your epis are not very tasty anymore. Use a standard hand spray bottle. Its unsually not nessary depending on your own growing area to spray all your plants, just the perimeter or entry areas. It does not last forever you will need to re-apply after waterings. If this deterent doesnt work poisons maybe your only alternative besides a catch and release at another location useing a live animal trap.

(Above pictured are common Deer)

2) DEER -Yes Deer can eat Epiphyllum, they tend to like the new tender growth. The San Diego Epiphyllum Society had a problem with them at the Wild Animal Park shadehouse. The following remedy could be used there since security guards regularily patrol the area in evenings.

Remedy If building a 10ft fench is not for you then check out the link below for a motion activated sprinkler. Like your flood lights when they turn on, there’s a device that does it with a sprinkler/battery attached to a hose. It turns on and gets them wet when they pass by. They hate getting wet and it won’t hurt them. Works great for coyotes too if there a problem also. Of coarse coyotes wont eat your Epiphyllum or other plants but if you have small children or pets around they will attach if hungry enough.

(Above pictured are two Raccoons feeding)

3) RACCOONS -They seldom eat Epiphyllum but may dig up your pots/soil looking for bugs.

Remedy #1 put a stinky old shoe on both ends of the area, they smell humans and tend to stay away. Remove food sources that draw them in such as dog food, seal your trash cans etc.

Remedy #2 Some are used to humans so a live critter trap or cage is the only way to move them away from the area. There very tough and remember wild animals. If relocation with a wild animal trap is nessary you need to chain the trap to a post, tree or stake into the ground etc. or they can push there paw pads thru the trap openings and walk away with your trap too. Never handle raccoons they have sharp teeth and even nastier claws. They may look cute but many can be very dangerous when cornered.

(Above pictured is a large black Crow)

4) BIRDS -Large crows can devour Epiphyllum and Dragon Fruit plants and any fruit if they set there minds to it.

Remedy try foil reflective tape or old/scratched DVD’s or CD’S tied up high with a string. The wind blows them around causing reflections, spooks them. Some nothing will deter them so a BB gun is the only way. Many states and counties require a permit though.

dove in epiphyllum basket 2
(Above pictured are Doves nesting in a Epiphyllum planted in a hanging basket.)

Smaller Birds such as doves are actually more beneficial since they tend to make nests in hanging basket plants. They will smash a few Epiphyllum stems down but they seldom break any and after they have there brood they leave behind rich fetilizer in there manure droppings. Your plant one month after them moving on usually will be greener and have healthier stems then it did before they nested there! Many will return to the same plant if not moved year after year. You can still water your plant while there nesting, most fly away briefly when you do but they come back soon after. If the smaller birds really bother you or are causing heavier damage to your Epiphyllums just rub your hands, cloths or any human scent on the stems regularily and they will move on, they dont like the presence of human scent.


5) RATS -If you live in an area with lots of fruit trees around, pets with food outside there around. When those two sources run out they like the tender new growth on Epiphyllums in desperation for a tender meal, they will also eat fall fruit seed pods left on the stems. Dragon Fruit fruit pulp can also be attractive to them. They can climb shade covers easily and tend to munch on the highest plants. So since there generally nocturnal and if you see big bites but very high up on hanging baskets thats whats eating them not snails or slugs. Often there droppings are noticable nearby.

Remedy Remove all food sources-dog/cat food, clean up thick bushes or wood piles where they might nest and put out poison bait boxes around the perimeter.

(Below for your enjoyment is a slideshow of a few of the varieties available from


6) GOPHERS -Gophers will not harm Epiphyllums since there mostly planted in containers or hanging baskets, but Dragon Fruit planted in ground they will if not controlled. They will burrow and eat the smaller tender roots. If hungry and larger they will eat the main tap roots too in effect killing the Dragon Fruit plant.

Remedy #1 Theres several ways to control Gophers the two most effective are bait bars or poison bars or pellets placed in there holes. There is one downside to using poison bait besides the chance your pets or small children playing in the yard could come in contact with the poison. Large hawks and owles may eat the dead gophers poisoned by the bait so best to use low residual types. Remedy #2 live traps. One live trap called 'BLACK HOLE' is very effective its simply a 3" X 10" plastic pipe with a cable noose, as they struggle the noose tightens. The name is black hole since one end has only a small hole about 1" diameter which resembles the normal light a gopher sees in a mound opening to the surface. No residual since poison is not used so very safe. Remedy #3 Another poison free method is simply flooding the burrows with water until they emerge. The water method is only effective if the terrain is faily level if theres no slopes otherwise you will never fill the mounds up with enough water. Gophers are mammals and need to breath air so eventually they have to come up for air if flooded. Contrary to there monsterous look with big front teeth they are helpless out of soil and blind during daylight and there bodies are somewhat fragile. Once they emerge a knock with a shovel usually takes them out then bury in a hole to recycle back into the earth, bury deep enough that dogs or other animals do not attempt to dig them up about 1 ft or so.

NOTE; If your property is bordered by adjacent property that does not control a golpher infestation you will never get rid of them. Use chicken wire or hardware cloth shapped in basket form in order to plant each Dragon Fruit plant around the root ball in the ground. They may nibble small feeder roots that grow beyond the wire mesh but never reach the main roots or tap roots that way. Below is a wire kit thats available too which basically is very simple as making your own from rolls of chicken wire but gives you an idea of the concept. Gophers usually never dig deeper than 18" so no need to make a basket deeper than that.

(Below shows an example of one product made to keep Gophers from eating the main tap roots of Dragon Fruit)

7) SCALE - Theres several different varieties of scale. These pests can cause considerable damage to Epiphyllums and occasionally Dragon Fruit, Schlumbergera and other stemmed growth type jungle cacti. Other varieties are formidable pests on many types of plants including trees as hard & soft type scale. These types also attack other spiny types of cactus too. Scale is one of the hardest pests to continually control so it was given its own separate page, see it by clicking the link below.

8) SNAILS/SLUGS- Can take big bites out of Epiphyllums in just a few evenings.See the pictures below of what they can do in a short time of only a few evenings. Remedy #1 Use snail bait broadcast in the area where there causing damage. Remedy #2 Another slug killer is a bowl of beer filled only 1/2 way, for some reason they cannot resist the beer, but once they slide in they drown. Another good preventitive measure is to clear nearby vegitation weeds etc. where they hide. Look on the bottom of pots thats where they can usually be found in the day. These pests tend to feed in evenings when the hot sun is not present.

(Below are pictures of Slug and Snail damage.)
Epiphyllum stem damage from snailsEpiphyllum stem damage from snails2snail on epiphyllum stem

9) Caterpillars Can cause considerable damage to new growth and very tender Epiphyllum, stems in a short period of time. Remedy Theres a beneficial bacteria thats very effective to kill catapillars its called Bacillus thuringiensis or BT for short it is a type of bacteria that's used to control the population of caterpillars. This natural pest control has been used by farmers and gardeners since the 1930s. Commercial preparations of the bacteria are still widely available today in feed stores and garden shops around the country. Its sold in a liquid or powder form. After killing a catapillar it will split open spreading the bacteria in your garden. It only kills catapillars not bees or other helpfull insects so its very safe. But if you water often you will desipate or wash off the bacteria and its effectiveness is much less requiring a re-application.

( Above pictured is a Catapillar.)

How Does BT Work? When a caterpillar bites a leaf that's covered with BT, the bacteria multiply inside its body, damaging its digestive tract with sharp protein crystals. These substances are extremely toxic to the caterpillar, so it will stop feeding on your plants and die within 20 minutes after its first mouthful. Once the caterpillar dies, its body splits open, releasing more bacteria to protect your garden or lawn. The conditions that are required for BT to multiply are only found in the stomach of caterpillars, so butterflies, bees, earthworms, spiders, beetles, and humans are completely safe from poisoning.

mealy bugs

10) Mealy Bugs Are soft bodied usually white in color but some are brown or pinkish. They attach themselves to Epiphyllum, Dragon Fruit and Schlumbergera stems. Echinopsis and other cacti they will attach to the spines usually. They suck off the plant though not usually killing it, but they can weaken it considerably. Remedy #1 Wash them off with a strong spray of water and your fingers. If you dont have a large collection and you only find a few this is very effective, after all they are soft bodied and easy to crush. Remedy #2 If you have a large infestation malathion is very effective. Remedy #3 Horticultural oils are semi-effective too under the right circumstances to smother them.

Mealy Bugs Facts; Most are slow crawlers (females) but the males do fly but never eat on your plants. The males life cycle is only to fertilize eggs and there life cycle is very short. Females will crawl and lay eggs on your Epiphyllum plants usually where stems separate or at the base of stems. On spiny cacti such as Echinopsis they attach to individual spines and close to the base by the soil line. If you would like to learn more about Mealy Bugs just click the link below.

Aphids with lady bug
(Pictured above are a colony of Aphids being devoured by a Lady Bug)

11) Aphids Aphids can show up quickly, breed very fast and be in large numbers or colonies in days. Aphids tend to show up during Epiphyllum bloom season as they especially like flower buds.

There are many species and colors of aphids. They come in shades of green, red, brown, black and yellow and almost all have fat little pear shaped bodies with several little tubes poking up out of the back end called cornicles. The green variety of Aphids will be the most commonly found on Epiphyllums and to a lesser extent Dragon Fruit flower buds and on the tips of tender new growth. They also like Echinopsis and other Cacti flower buds but seldom attack the main plant body itself. They feed by piercing plants and sucking their juices. In doing so they can also transmit viruses that can cause yellowing, curling and distorted growth. Aphids also secrete a sticky substance called honeydew that often results in the colonization of an ugly sooty black fungus. This honeydew secretion will also attract Ants that will harvest the honeydew and Ants will in turn protect there little Aphid farmers from other predators.

Remedy #1 Catch Aphids as soon as they appear or blast them by Spraying with water. One Aphid “colonizer” can produce up to 100 offspring in as little as a week and is capable of doing so several times. Slowly walk through your Jungle Cacti garden several times a week paying close attention to the underside of leaves, buds and especially new Epiphyllum growth tips. Also check for aphids on newly purchased plants and transplants recently introduced to the Jungle Cacti garden. A strong spray of water is an effective way to dislodge aphids from your plants. Most dislodged aphids will be unable to return to the Epiphyllum plant if in a hanging basket or high placed container.

Remedy #2 You can kill aphids on Epiphyllums by spraying with a solution of 2 tsp mild dish or laundry soap to a bottle of luke warm water. The soap washes off the aphid’s protective waxy coating and causes dehydration. You can also mix three parts luke warm water to one part vegetable or horticultural oil and a couple drops of dish soap. This mixture can be sprayed on to clog the respiratory spiracles of aphids. Spray once a week taking turns between solutions. If using these solutions on food plants, be sure to wash them before eating. If using the oil solution, don’t spray on very hot and sunny days as the oil can magnify the sun and possibly harm your Epiphyllum plant. Pyretherins can also be used these are an extract of the chrysanthemum flower. Synthetic and equally effective forms are called pyrethroids. The brand Safer uses these in there insecticidal soaps. Bonide, Schultz and Pyola are other good brands.

Remedy #3 Insecticide chemical spray like Malathion is very effective as are many other products like Seven and Ortho all in one. Only use this chemical insecticide remedy if they are too far out of control to use any of the other methods. Remember using insecticides kills good bugs too and often takes your Jungle Cacti garden out of balance. Once out of balance continually spraying insecticide may be required to control the returning bad bugs. Try other methods first and chemical remedy as a last resort.

Remedy #4 Lady Bugs; Use natural predators such as Lady Bugs. To learn more about Lady Bugs and how to keep them in your Jungle Cacti Garden click the link below to visit the ‘Good Bugs, Animals and other Beneficials in the Garden Page’.

grasshopper pest page
(Above shows what one variety of a Grasshopper looks like.)

12) GrasshoppersGrasshoppers can cause considerable damage to Epiphyllum and Schlumbergera. The can take large bites out of tender first year growth stems in a short period of time. Theres over 8000 varieties of Grasshoppers many will eat a variety of vegitation, so if they seem to be eating just one plant as there favorite once its devoured they will try another. Grasshoppers will change colors to blend in with the vegitation like Epiphyllums they may be eating, making locating them even harder. Locasts are also in the Grasshopper family and theres been many horror stories as great plagues that have made about them, most are true. If you have Grasshoppers erradicate them imeadiatly before they lay eggs and multiply. Birds, lizzards and even Cats will eat grasshoppers but they can seldom keep up with there fast reproduction rate.Remedy #1 Biological Controls A well-known biological control for grasshoppers is Nosema locustae, a naturally occurring protozoan that causes disease and death in crickets and grasshoppers. Spores of the parasite are impregnated into wheat bran flakes and applied on the growing area. It takes one to three weeks for the grasshoppers to be infected. Following ingestion, the spore ruptures and activates the disease in the grasshopper. Infected individuals are lethargic and slow, making them easy prey for birds. Nosema locustae is not toxic to birds, animals, or other insects. Nosema is effective against adults too but most effective against the second and third instars. Reports on the success of N. locustae are mixed. It is not a good "rescue" treatment and will not result in instant adult mortality. Remedy #2 The fungus Beauveria bassiana is yet another biopesticide registered for grasshopper control.Available from some farm supply shops.Partial Remedy #3 Neem oil has not shown much success as an anti-feedant against grasshopper species in the United States but has promise as a growth regulator and it can slow them down but not erradicate them.Remedy #4 Insecticides maybe your best choice since most Grasshopper infestations when found are already out of control due to there rapid reproduction. Malathion, Seven, Ortho plus, Bayer total, Conserve and many other insecticides are effective againts Grasshoppers. Re-apply 2 weeks after first application to be sure you get any eggs.

spider mites on euphorbia mattslandscape.com1
(Above shows Spider Mites webs on an Euphorbia plant)

13) Spider Mites Spider Mites tend to be a problem for many plants Epiphyllum & Schlumbergera occasionally for Echinopsis and to a lesser extend Dragon Fruit. What are Spider Mites? There very small spiders that crawl around your plants making very fine webs, beneath the webs they suck on vegitive tissue seldon killing plants but severly weakening them. There webs also greatly reduce airflow required by most Jungle Cacti. Remedy #1 Biological Control - Predators There are numerous insects (lacewings and lady beetles) that prey on spider mites. However, the most commonly sold predators are other types of mites. Predatory mites (usually Phytoseiulus spp., Amblyseius spp. or Metaseiulus spp.) can be purchased and released onto infested plants. Be sure to check listings to determine which species is appropriate. Some species are host specific and each predator works better under different weather conditions. If predators are used, do not apply pesticides that will kill them. Remedy #2 Horticultural oils and insecticidal soaps - "Soft Pesticides" Most spider mites can be controlled with insecticidal oils and soaps. The oils, both horticultural oil and dormant oil, can be used. Horticultural oils can be used on perennial and woody ornamentals during the summer at the 1 to 2 percent rate. Higher rates of horticultural oil (3 to 4 percent) or dormant oil are useful for killing mite eggs and dormant adults in the fall and spring. The insecticidal soaps are useful in the warm season. Remember that mites are very tiny and soaps and oils work by contact only. Therefore, thorough coverage of the plant is necessary for good control. Remedy #3 Chemical Control - Miticides Spider mites are usually not killed by regular insecticides, so be sure to check the pesticide label to see if "miticide" is present. Pesticides claiming "for mite suppression" are usually weak miticides and will not perform well. There are few products available to the homeowner. Dicofol (=Kelthane) is registered for over-the-counter use but is difficult to find. Acephate (=Orthene), dimethoate (=Cygon), chlorpyrifos (=Dursban), diazinon, disulfoton (=Di-syston), and malathion have over-the-counter product labels but are considered weak miticides.

thrips on stem mattslandscape.comthrips variety
( Pictured above are Thrips there small and come in many colors )

14) Thrips Are not as common on Epiphyllum or Dragon Fruit but are more common on Schlumbergera and Rhipsalidopsis. There are over 6000 varieties of Thrips not all attack plants but the ones that do can cause allot of damage. Since Thrips are very small there hard to notice when they first appear but they hatch eggs in only a few days and can expand in numbers very fast. Thrips are piercing sucking type insects that will not only cause discoloration to stems but also spread diseases very fast in your Jungle Cacti Garden if left uncontrolled. They tend to live above and beneath the soil so if you run your hand across the soil and many small insects jump about its usually Thrips.

Notes; Thrips can also attack Echinopsis and other spiny type cacti and succulents.

Outdoors Thrips are hard to erradicate since they hide in hard to get spaces so although Remedy #1 insecticide is effective covering all the areas maybe difficult. Indoors there even more common in houseplants since at 70 degrees temp. thats perfect breeding temperature for Thrips. Remedy #2 Lady Beetles are effective against Thrips see the good bug page for more info on Lady Beetles.


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