As I get to know and grow a more varied range of plants these days, I have a pot of Keng Huay which I will never discard, no matter what. It is a plant which I have since kept with me after my paternal grandmother, whom I am very close to, passed away 8 years ago. How time flies… She was the one who brought me up whilst my parents were busy working their lives away to earn enough money for the family while I was young. I remembered my grandmother telling me she first got the cutting of this plant from a Chinese temple.
I have been rejuvenating the plant by propagating fresh leaf-cuttings periodically so that I do not lose it altogether. The plant seems to need to grow to a certain large size before it flowers, so don’t worry if your plant doesn’t flower. It is a rather maintanence-free plant that asks for some direct sunlight to grow and as a cactus, it doesn’t need to be watered all too often, but more frequently than the spined cactus though. For me, it only gets bothered by scale insects.
The many buds that were produced.
The Keng Hua, a name known by the Hokkiens here, is in fact, a cactus that is botanically known as Epiphyllum oxypetalum. It is considered as a ‘lucky plant’ here because whenever it flowers, the plant supposed to bring good luck and of course, strikes with the lottery!
What we see as “leaves” are actually the much flattened stems of the cactus. It doesn’t really have those fierce spines we see in other cacti. In Singapore, we can only see plants that bear flowers that are white and in both single and double flowered forms. This genus of cactus actually has more flower colours than white, but surprisingly, these do not fare well here. My friend Boon Kiat got and planted some cuttings of these but they just melted away.
This cactus is considered as a medicinal herb here. The useful part of this plant is the flowers. The flowers open near midnight and they fade once dawn arrives. After they fade, the flowers are picked and dried. When they are used, the flowers are actually used to treat several ailments like inflammations, phlegm, pharyngitis, etc (from PROSEA vol 12(3)). I do have neighbours who came knocking on my door before to ask to safe-keep the faded flowers before.
During my recent trip to HortPark (33, Hyderabad Road), I saw a very nice way of potting up this epiphyllum. In the medicinal plants plot, a pot of this epiphyllum was placed inside a wooden cart, as shown in the picture below. Very sweet, isn’t it?