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  HOME AND GARDEN » House Plants  

Plants for your home (By Mary Efanti)

CHRISTMAS CACTUS (Schlumbergera)


There are many hybrids of the Christmas Cactus. And it is, by the way, really a cactus. Plants and flowers can vary in shape and color. Flowers may be white or almost any shade of pink or red.

Some of the hybrids became known as the Christmas Cactus because, with the proper care, they flower during the Christmas season

Like other jungle cacti, Schlumbergera should never be exposed to full summer sunlight. Medium light at a partially shaded window is best through spring, summer and fall. Winter sun, which is less strong, is not as likely to harm these plants.

Flowers buds begin to form in early fall and full flowering is prompted by shorter days. Once the plant has begun to bud, do not keep it in a room where artificial lights may be turned on after natural light has gone outside. Either move the plants at dusk to a dark room and bring them out next morning, or throw a cover over the plants at dusk and remove it next morning. This procedure should be started in early fall and should be continued until you see buds are forming. Begin the short day treatment 6 to 8 weeks before Christmas if you want the best chance of your plant flowering for the Christmas holiday.

If you follow this routine and your plant doesn't flower, it may be because the plant is getting too much shading or the temperature is too high. A cool position is best in the few weeks before flowering time.
When buds have formed, put the plant in a bright position (out of full sun) and leave it there. Do not turn the plant while buds are forming or you run the risk of the buds falling off. This happens because when the buds are small, if you turn the plant you will be turning some of them away from the light. They are likely to try to turn back to face the light and the effort weakens them .. so they fall off.

Other causes of bud drop are: drafts, sudden changes of temperature, dried out or waterlogged roots, excessively dry air and maybe growing a plant in a pot way too big for its needs.

Provide a pot that is comfortable for the size of the plant. Better the plant is a little pot-bound that over-potted.

Normal room temperature all year round is suitable

Soil must be very well draining. Any good houseplant soil is suitable with the addition of coarse sand or grit to aid drainage. A small amount of peat should be added to provide acidity as these plants like the soil to be on the acidic side.

These cacti need some moisture year round. Water thoroughly and remove any excess that runs out into the saucer. Wait until the plant has dried out quite a bit before watering again. If air in the room is excessively dry, provide a container of water nearby to add some humidity to the air.

A high potassium tomato-type fertilizer may be used monthly year round.

Schlumbergeras are easy to propagate from stem cuttings at any time in spring or summer. Remove a section of stem consisting of two or three joined segments, allow to dry for a few hours and push the bottom segment into a 3 inch pot of potting mixture as recommended above. Insert the segment just deep enough to support the cutting. Several cuttings may be inserted around the edge of a larger pot. Treat the cuttings as mature plants. They should start into growth within about four weeks.

Nursery Forced Plants:
Professional nurserymen have perfected the art of forcing these plants in time for the Christmas market. Do not be disappointed if your plants fail to flower by Christmas time next year as many do flower naturally some time after Christmas.

Thanksgiving Cactus:
This plant is similar to the Christmas Cactus but has stem segments with deeply incised notches along the edges and prong-like projections at the ends of the stems which remind us of a crab's claws.


Mary Efanti




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