THE CHRISTMAS CACTUS AND ITS LITTLE SECRET ABOUT FLOWERING

It’s a Schlumbergera party! And it seems that I have been focusing on inviting only the newer varieties ( most in the S. truncata group). I love these new colors, many in rich tones of red and peach, and some bicolored or fringed flowered forms – these are not my mothers Christmas Cactus ( of which, I still adore). Native to Brazil, (generally) these tropical cacti from the jungle make terrific house plants, with the only problem being trying to get the to bloom ‘on-time’ meaning, for Christmas – but these delightful plants do keep a secret deep inside their DNA – as they are daylight sensitive. Also, preferring days which are warmer than the night by nearly 20º. Together, this is what they need in order to set flower buds. Not a dry period, not locked in the cellar for a month.  I was so surprised to see that within one year of being set out into my greenhouse, the all bloom together now, and they always bloom the week before Christmas. How perfect is that?

S. ‘Thor Carmen’
A small plant family, with only 6 full species, the clans of Schlumbergera all have numerous named selections, which more coming each and every year now. Over my lifetime of about 50 years ( yikes!), I’ve seen the plant evolve into what was just a parlor plant of smooth leaves and pads, and pink, slender flower beloved by grandmothers and greater grandmothers, into what today is a more color palette and trendy selection with some being highly collectible – fringed or variegated flowers and leaves.  Schlumbera is setting it self up for collectability, and in a significant way with all sorts of mutations, variegations and color forms becoming available.

SCHLUMBERGERA ‘DARK MARIE’ IS A NEW SELECTION THAT I HAVE ADDED TO THE FAMILY THIS YEAR.
I LIKE IT’S BICOLORED FLOWER>

 Truly ‘old-fashioned’ windowsill plants, most of our grand and great grand parents kept a few plants of these Schlumbergera on a windowsill as they are easy to grow, enjoying the low light conditions indoors and even some neglect. But out ancestors would be hard pressed to recognize these newer hybrids and crosses from thier more simple minded Schlumbera species from another time – most likely Buckleyi group. My mothers old, if not ancient Christmas cactus – many dating back now to the 1970s and 1960s still live in a neighbors house across the street. I really need to visit my Godmother who lives there to get some more cuttings from these massive plants, some of which are 4 feet in diameter with woody truncated stems. I miss the simply, sharp pink blossoms every christmas, for these lobster claw forms just feel too modern, even to me – as I feel that they look like plant that I stated to see around the 1980’s.

The foliage on my S. truncata plants is in rather poor condition, as my greenhouse is too bright and sunny, but my reward for all of these light candles is loads of buds. Yellowish red foliage but more buds. A happy medium could be found if I decided to fuss more with my plants, but to be honest, I just about forget about them between the months of February until October, and the tend to end up in strange places in the greenhouse – frankly, I am surprised that they survive this abuse – just look at the weeds growing in this one!

White Christmas Cactus
I still am looking for the perfectly white Christmas Cactus, but this one above happens to be the ‘it’ Christmas Cactus of the moment – ‘White Aspen’ is a fringed selection, which will appear more white if allowed to mature its floral buds indoors, or in poor light, so that pink tints wont develop ( this is a trait which the yellow selections share – if you want Christmas Cactus that are more yellow and less orange, keep them in poor light when they are maturing their flower buds.

Schlumbergera ‘Christmas Fantasy’ in real light. Some images on-line will show this plant completely lemon yellow, but that would only happen if I kept my plant in a dark parlor for a month or two before blooming.

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