Christmas Cactus, Easter Cactus – Zygocactus truncatus, Shlumbergera Russeliana

These are the easiest to grow of all leafy cacti, and are remarkably floriferous. The leaves form part of a segmented stem. Both these plants come from Brazil. Zygocactus is the true Christmas cactus; Shlumbergera flowers a month or two later and is known as the Easter cactus. They can be obtained with flowers of delicate shades of white, pink, and flamingo reds and oranges. They are highly useful for providing colour in mid-winter and early spring.

Temperatures:

  • Growing season 22-24 °C (72-75 °F)
  • Minimum winter 10 °C (50 °F)

Soil: Soil-less compost to which 10% sand has been added.

Zygocactus

Where to position: It needs plenty of light but should be protected from hot sun. It likes a fairly even temperature.

Watering requirements: Use lukewarm water to keep the soil just moist to thumb pressure until the buds form; then increase the amount slightly as the buds swell, avoiding the leaves. Excessive watering causes buds to drop. Never spray.

General care: Feed very occasionally with liquid fertilizer heavily diluted. It must be kept in the same position and never handled or moved. Carefully twist off dead blooms.

Rest: It rests when flowering is over. Reduce water. After six weeks, re-pot into compost with a little sandy grit added. Do not use too big a pot; this stimulates leaf growth and reduces the flowers.

When it looks sick:

  • The leaves assume a corrugated appearance : This is the effect of under-watering. Water the plant but avoid over-watering.
  • The flower buds drop : This happens if the plant is moved or rotated after the buds have formed. Cease feeding at this point.
  • Pale sickly looking leaves result from over feeding : Stop feed and water with soft water.
  • Mealy bugs : Deal with them.

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