Zygocactus or 'Schlumbergera truncata'
If you are looking for a fantastic flowering cactus, that does not grow like most cactus, then a Zygocactus or Zygo could be the right plant. They are a winter flowering epiphytes and the correct name is 'Schlumbergera truncata'. Lots of different varieties or cultivars available. In the Northern Hemisphere they are also known as the 'Christmas Cactus' and in the USA 'Thanksgiving Cactus'.
These very popular plants have been highly hybridized by both enthusiast and commercial growers. The common pink flowers (see picture right) are lovely, but now we have white, red, yellow and even violet and these are all 'Schlumbergera truncata' Hybrids.
So where can we grow them.
In Australia they are a really adaptable plant, originally they seemed confined to hanging baskets on patios, my Aunt had a few that she kept propagating and giving away. They thrive if grown in a free draining potting mix, think orchid potting mix. Filtered light is best. We have some growing outside attached to a fence in filtered light, they seem to love it.
Care and growing conditions
Being epiphytes Zygocactus care is easy provided a well drained growing medium and indirect or filtered light. Keep well watered when they are flowering and in active growth, allow to dry out a little when dormant. So water in winter and dry in summer (but not bone dry), this is the same with many plants, water when in active growth and then cut back the water when dormancy begins. The flowering is triggered by shorter daylight hours, so keep them away from night lights. As mentioned they epiphytic in the natural habitat, growing on tree trunks and similar they can easily be grown outside if you replicate the natural environment.
Problems and pruning
You can pinch then back to make a more compact plant, or allow them to trail down as they would naturally, and with the bits you remove, grow some more.... see below.
Fairly easy from cuttings, break of a piece, let it sit in a well ventilated shaded spot until it starts to show signs of root growth, and then plant it. Remember that pot size is important, not to big to start with, and a free draining potting mix, we like to water with a seaweed based liquid fertilizer at this stage, seems to work well. Plants and cuttings are readily available for sale online and from retail nurseries, most nurseries still call them Zygocactus.
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A similar plant to Schlumbergera truncata is Rhipsalidopsis gaertneri, this is called the 'Easter Cactus' as it flowers in April to May (spring) in the Northern Hemisphere, and then we have Rhipsalidopsis rosea which looks entirely different, but is attractive as well.
These two have also been renamed as Rhipsalis or Hatiora, depending on what you are reading. We will try to redefine these names. But again they are native to the rainforests of Brazil where they are called 'Flor de Maio'.
And as for the naming of others, to cut it short, from what we can work out it seems that plants previously known as Epiphyllanthus, Opuntiopsis, Zygocactus, Zygocereus, and Epiphyllum have mainly been moved to the genus Schlumbergera..... but what's in a name.
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