Bethlehem Lily is known as Nishagandhi and Brahma Kamala in India. The botanical name is Epiphyllum Oxypetalum and belongs to Cactaceae (cactus) family. Nishagandhi is the name given because the flowers bloom only in the night, Oxypetalum infers to the many petals of the flower.
Other common names of this perennial plant are Orchid cactus, Jungle cactus, Night blooming cereus, and Dutchman’s pipe.
Bethlehem Lily is native to Central America and Northern South America.
The plant grows to a height of 10 feet. Main stem of the plant near the ground is rounded and thick and as it branches out, they are flat appear like succulent leaves.
Buds of flowers start to appear on the edges of the leafy stem. It takes almost 20 days for the buds to bloom, but when the bud starts opening in the night, it is a sight to behold! The pinkish brown layer opens slowly and the petals open one by one releasing a lovely fragrance.
As more petals open, the fragrance becomes stronger. The flowers blooms only in the night and are pollinated by bats and large moths. Size of the flower can be 30 cm long and 12–17 cm in diameter.
The center of the flower has many stamens arranged like a bed and the center stylus has a star at the end. The flower looks like a cradle with the star and hence its name “Bethlehem Lily”.
The petals are delicate and soft and the colors can be white, baby pink, light yellow, and dark pink. Lifetime of the flowers ends in the morning.
Propagation of Bethlehem Lily is by stem cuttings. The plant requires support to make it stand upright. Plant needs bright sunlight for at least 4 hours in a day.