Schlumbergera x buckleyi - Christmas Cactus


This most striking flowering gift plant is actually a member of the Cactus family. A curious plant, it grows on the trees in the tropical rain forest. It is well loved for its stunning display of brightly colored flowers that appear during the Christmas season. Schlumbergera can be distinguished from the other epiphytic cacti; S. gaertneri and Zygocactus truncatus in that its stem segments have scalloped margins and the blooms form only at the stem tips.

CULTURAL REQUIREMENTS

Light: Christmas Cactus prefer to grow in very bright light conditions with at least two hours of winter sunlight, but no direct sun in summer.

Watering: Water thoroughly when the top few inches of soil feels completely dry. After 15 minutes remove all excess water from the holding saucer.

Temperature: Low night temperatures are preferable in growing Christmas cactus. To encourage Christmas cactus to set buds in autumn, keep the night temperature between 45° and 55°F. If the night temperature can be kept consistently low, flower buds will be produced regardless of day length provided.

To prevent bud drop, avoid drafts and large temperature fluctuations, keep humidity high and water correctly. Avoid moving plants from one site to another.

Humidity: Unlike desert cacti, the jungle cacti thrive when extra humidity is provided. To achieve more moisture, stand the plants on a tray of pebbles that are kept moistened and/or use a humidifier.

Feeding: During the growing season, between March and September, Christmas cactus benefits from weekly feedings of a dilute soluble fertilizer high in potassium. When flower buds have formed, discontinue fertilizing.

Transplanting: Christmas cactus grows best in clay pots. Re-pot only when necessary into a pot that is 1-1½" larger in diameter. The best soil mix is one part shredded peat moss, one part sterilized houseplant potting soil, and one part sand.

Propagation: Take 3-4" stem cuttings in spring or summer. Remove the cuttings from the tips down and allow them to harden off for a few days. Dip the hardened-off cuttings into rooting hormone and plant into a moistened light soil mix. After cuttings develop 1-2" roots pot them individually into 3" pots.

Maintenance: Remove the dead flowers after flowering and the stem tips to encourage branching and more flowers to develop at the ends of each stem.

Special Note: Since flowering is related to day length and night temperature, the Christmas cactus can be coaxed into bloom. If the plant is kept outdoors for the summer, the cool night temperatures (50-55°F) of early fall will usually force buds to set before you bring it indoors. On those plants kept indoors, flower buds will form if the night temperature is maintained at 50-55°F. If the temperature is between 55 and 70°F, 13 hours of uninterrupted darkness will produce buds. In order to accomplish the dark periods; cover the plants with a black cloth during the night from 6pm to 7am daily. Placing the plant in a totally dark closet is another possibility but the temperature may be over 70°F. In order to induce flowering, the darkness must be maintained for 6-9 weeks.


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