Friday, November 27, 2009

Brave New World of Schlumbergera

For someone who has overwintered 175+ plants in her house, you'd think one of them would be a Christmas Cactus. But as you wade through the jungle of Brugmansias, Begonias, Kalanchoes, and Hibiscus, there's nary a Schlumbergera to be found.

Until now.

I've never been a big fan of these succulents, which probably explains why I've been able to pass them by multiple times whenever I've seen them in the garden centers and grocery stores. But I never used to eat broccoli either.

We spent Thanksgiving at our younger daughter and son-in-law's house yesterday. I went up the night before to help out, and had to stop at Meijer to pick up a couple of things we needed. There they were again - those colorful Christmas cacti - in all sizes and colors. And they actually looked

These are technically not Christmas cacti, but Thanksgiving cacti, as Elizabeth Licata brought to my attention. She provided a great link to a blog post that explains the difference: Thanksgiving Cactus vs. Christmas Cactus by Troy Marden. (Thanks, Elizabeth!)

In the past, my objections to Schlumbergeras was that no matter how pretty the flowers were, the foliage looked ugly. Most of the time it was damaged or droopy. These were neither. The other thing that turned me off was that most of them were either pink or something like it. I'm kind of fussy about pink flowers in that I don't like some varieties in pink, and this was one of those.

Meijer had healthy-looking plants in shades of pink, but also the purest white and a lovely shade of red. It was the red ones that caught my eye. There were three different sizes and for a moment, I considered just sticking my toes into the world of Schlumbergeras by purchasing a small one for $3.49. But when I saw the lush larger ones, loaded with buds, for $13.99, I decided to jump in all the way.

So now I have a beauty called 'Caribbean Dancer' sitting on the coffee table in my family room. I've had to do some research on how to care for it, since I'm new to this one. Here's what I learned:

  • Schlumbergeras are an epiphytic cactus, growing on trees in their native Brazil.
  • They are thermo-photoperiodic, meaning they are sensitive to both temperature and light in regards to producing blooms. As the days shorten and temperatures drop, they are stimulated to flower.
  • They don't have high light requirements, which is why they make good houseplants.
  • Keep the soil moist, but don't overwater. Don't let it dry out either.
  • Fertilize them four times a year and prune them after they finish blooming.
  • Propagate them by taking the pruned sections and lay them on potting medium after allowing them to form a callous on the pruned end. You can put them in the potting medium a little ways too, if you'd like.
  • Keep them in temperatures above 40 degrees F. They don't like it colder than that. (Zone 10b-11 suits them best for growing outdoors.)


Robin's Nesting Place said...

Wow, I can see why you didn't pass it up this time! It's beautiful! Thanks for the care instructions. I probably need to just throw my pathetic little one away and start over. It has no chance of blooming anyway.

Diana @ Sweet Fields of Green said...

Oh you did find a beauty! I hope you'll like it. I've been so pleased with mine that I've been considering getting a red one for a little contrast. Beautiful pictures of your new baby! Thanks for sharing.

Kylee Baumle said...

Robin ~ We'll see how I do with this. Supposedly, they're fairly easy, but it seems I have a hard time sometimes with the easy ones!

Diana ~ I hope I like it, too! I'm liking it a lot while it's showing so much color. ;-)

EAL said...

I like my 3 of these a lot, especially the one I have had since 1987. I have also heard them called zygocactus, and found an interesting post on the here:

Shady Gardener said...

Way to go, Kylee! It would have been very hard to resist that beautiful plant!! I know you'll do well with this... you have a Very Green Thumb! :-)

Kylee Baumle said...

Shady Gardener ~ Well, time will tell!

EAL ~ You know, I did notice that Dave's Garden Plant Files called it a Thanksgiving Cactus, with no mention of Christmas Cactus, but I just figured they were the same, since it's sort of the same time of year. I should have investigated further!
Thanks for this information and I will change it in my blog post, since I don't want to give erroneous information here, if I can help it.

Lisa at Greenbow said...

THey certainly are easy to grow Kylee. You will just love this beautiful character you brought into the melee.

CanadianGardenJoy said...

Kylee girl .. I have two flowering cacti but I have no idea what "holiday" they are dedicated too or .. and this is embarrassing .. they are not flowering .. eeekkk ! what have I done ? .. probably that thing about feeding them escaped me ..
Now I have to find one more for Xmas that will have some flowers ?

Janet, The Queen of Seaford said...

Love the red blooms! I have one that is a red color, though a baby...only about three stems. Love having something blooming at this time of year.

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