Easy to grow and with attractive flowers from winter through spring, Zygocactus as we commonly call them are more correctly, Schlumbergera species.
With only half a dozen species in the genus, the Schlumbergera varieties offered for sale owe a lot to intensive hybridisation. Commonly called the ‘Christmas Cactus’, ‘Holiday Cactus’ and ‘Crabs Claw Cactus’ we do prefer the botanical name, its not that difficult to pronounce.
Grown for the brilliant flowers these epiphytic plants these cactus come from the rain forests of Brazil where they grow on the trunks of other plants. They love a little humidity and make great plants for growing in hanging baskets.
Flower colour varies from white through to the brilliant luminescent pinks and purples, and as they flower in winter they add great colour to a patio or warm sheltered position while many other plants are dormant. The ‘Christmas Cactus’ name is from the Northern Hemisphere as this is when most species bloom, however, some will flower 2 months earlier than this.
Zygocactus Growing conditions
We think the best way to grow these plants is in a hanging basket, where they great specimens and grow well in a position where they get warmth and filtered light. Schlumbergera are a succulent plant that are actually a cactus, sometimes referred to as ‘Crabs Claw Cactus’ they are actually epiphytes and require similar care to many orchids.
How often should you water Christmas Cactus ?
- It depend on the climate and the soil. A general guideline is when the soil drys on the top.
- Assuming you are growing the plants under cover :
In warm climates, outdoors, every 3 – 5 days in summer, every 2 weeks in winter.
- Indoors, one watering a week, checking the soil before watering.
- Not Flowering.
Usually to much light, place the plant in a well lit, however shaded area out of direct sun.
- Foliage going limp or wilting.
This can be caused by to much direct light, under watering as well as over watering. Leaves shrivelling are also a sign founder watering.
- Foliage turning grey, yellow or brown is usually a sign of root problems due to over watering. Hold back on water and consider repotting the plant into a new potting mix which is free draining.
- Leaves falling off.
This is another problem caused mainly by under watering, and sometimes by over watering.
- Schlumbergera truncata is the most commonly grown species, however it is the hybrids thats we see more widely for sale.
- Cultivars such as schlumbergera truncata madame butterfly pictured right are available for sale from specialist nurseries and plant fairs.
- Schlumbergera bridgesii is another popular species.
Propagation of Zygocactus
- Flowers and all buds need to be removed from cuttings so as not to have them taking energy from the cutting.
- Normal potting mix with 30% fine pine bark in a 10 cm (4 inches) deep pot is suited for propagation
- Cuttings or leaf segments need to be around 6 – 7 cm long (2.5 inches)
- Around 3 cm of the cutting should be in the soil, the rest above the soil
- You will fit 4 -5 cuttings in a 10 cm pot.
- After planting you need to water well water in well
- Place the container in a cool dry position, frost free is essential.
- Label and date your cuttings so you know what you have planted and how long you have had it planted.
- Do not let the cutting dry out. – However do not over water.
- You can mist spray each week in cool weather, more often in warmer periods.
- In around 6 months the plants should be ready to pot up into a hanging basket.