Friday, November 18, 2011

Holiday Cactus

 I love this time of year. The holiday season is here, and it's time for the Thanksgiving cactus to bloom. Some of mine are in bloom, but the Christmas cactus are just budding up. What is the difference? Thanksgiving cactus, or Schlumbergera tuncata, is also called claw cactus, because it's stem segments have pointed teeth on them. The Christmas cactus, or Schlumbergera bridgesii, have stem segments that are more rounded. Usually they are just called Christmas cactus or holiday cactus. Whatever you call them, they are beautiful, holiday-time blooming plants.   Most of these pictures are from last year, but they are all in bud, and the peach one is blooming right now. Other than my African violets, I think they are the most beautiful blooming houseplants.

Let's talk about them for a minute. They are cactus, but not the kind you usually think about. They are jungle cactus, growing in the forks of trees in the jungles of South America. They are epiphytic, meaning they live on trees, but are not parasitic, meaning they do not draw nourishment from the plant they are on. Their nourishment comes from the debris that gathers in the forks they are growing on. They grow like orchids and staghorn ferns, just to name a couple.
Because they grow on trees, they would prefer not to be in full sun, even in the house. If taken outside for the summer, place them in a shaded, or filtered sun area. Their biggest requirement is warmth and lots of humidity. They are from the jungle, remember. If they are kept too cold, the yellow and white varieties will have a pink tinge to them. A well-drained soil is a must. Being epiphytic, they do not grow in soil per say, but in the debris that collects in the forks of the trees..
The biggest problem seems to be getting them to re-bloom. The key is too keep them dry in the month of September. Cool night temperatures in the fall help trigger blooming as well. The shorter days and longer nights of fall are also an important factor, and keeping them in the living room where the lights are on all evening can hinder blooming. Many people place them outside for the summer and keep them out until the temperatures are in the 50's and even high 40's. Mine stay inside, so I don't turn the heat on in my sun room until it's quite cold. I've never had my plants not bloom, so I lean toward the cool temps. I'm not always on top of the water, either, so that may also factor in. Following  are a few pictures of my plants in bloom. What's not to like?


November 16, 2011

Many people have a plant that belonged to their grandma, who got it from their grandma, and so on. This is a long lived plant and one that is easily shared. When pruning them in the spring, take the cuttings and root them in soil, and you can share your plants with family and friends. Pruning will increase the blooms next year as well, so its a win, win situation. You increase the blooms of your plant and share a great plant with someone else!

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