We were greeted last week to our
first bloom from our Schlumbergera in our kitchen. This plant was given to us as a holiday gift years
ago, and continues to bring us joy now.
How many parents can say that about gifts they have given their
children? In this tough economy, perhaps
a plant is on your planning lists.
One popular plant during this season
is the Schlumbergera. This plant is
probably better known as the Holiday or Christmas Cactus. This plant is popular because it is a short
day length blooming cactus. It is not
unusual for this plant to initiate blooming around Thanksgiving, finishing after
the New Year celebrations.
Schlumbergeras are native to the tropical
forests of South America, where they grow on trees. Their stems are unique, leaves colorful, and
timely blossoms make this an attractive addition to indoor plant
collections. The stems of Christmas
cactus’ (S. buckleyi) are spineless, but produce tubular flowers in a
variety of colors at Christmas time.
A close cousin of the Christmas
Cactus is the Thanksgiving Cactus (S. truncata), which is similar to the
Christmas Cactus, but tends to bloom earlier in the winter. Its stem joints are longer and narrower than
its Christmas cousin. Blooms are
generally red or white and can be up to 3 inches long.
Another schlumbergera that you may
want to add to your collection is the Easter cactus (S. gaertneri). It is often confused with the Christmas
cactus, but blooms around Easter and sometimes in the early fall as well. Blooms can be different shades of red or
pink, depending on the cultivar.
For springtime blooms, consider the
Orchid Cactus. This cactus also works
well in hanging baskets, with branches originating from a central crown. It also has showy blooms, which appear
throughout the spring into early summer.
Varieties are available with yellow, red, orange and white blooms.
Proper care of any of these cactus
plants will have the best blooms. These
plants enjoy humus-rich soils that are kept moist during their growing
periods. Following flowering, allow the
soils to dry out between watering.
Overwatering any cactus plant can promote root rot, poor growth, and
poor flowering. These plants enjoy
bright, indirect light from east, south or west windows. Direct sunlight can be harmful to
Avoid drafty places when placing
these plants. Ideal temperatures for bud
set are 40-45° F at night, with daytime temperatures in the 60-65° F
range. The remainder of the year, these
plants prefer temperatures ranging from 50-55° F at night and 65-70° F during
the day. These plants don’t require much
pruning and should be replanted infrequently.