Claw Cactus – Schlumbergera truncata

Claw Cactus is easy to care for and produces profuse blooms from November to January. In the wild the Claw Cactus grows high in the trees of the great tropical forests. In its natural state it is an epiphyte, anchoring itself to tree trunks or branches where it gets all the light it needs to thrive.

This is one of a few Shlumbergeras that have adapted successfully to growing indoors in containers. It is very similar to the Christmas Cactus, Schlumbergera bridgesii. Claw Cactus has a greater flower range than the Christmas Cactus and its stem segment is longer and more deeply incised. This gives it its name, Claw Cactus.

Flowers and flowering With a little detective work you could probably locate specimens in pink, purple, golden yellow, orange, red and even white.

Buds form in September on strong healthy stem sections, so pinch out any weak stems with no buds. The flowers open between November and January, and each lasts for a few days only.

Plants are rarely taller than 30cm (12in) but the spread of a mature plant can be 60-90cm (2-3ft) under ideal conditions.Claw Cactus - Schlumbergera truncata

Propagate by taking stem sections in spring. Root them in a mixture of moist peat and sharp sand or Perlite.

Display

Use the Claw Cactus in a hanging basket or stand several in groups on an east- or west-facing windowsill. A wicker basket makes an attractive container. Don’t move the plant or even turn it around once the flower buds appear. Moving it will inhibit flower production.

Through The Year

December—February As each flower fades, remove it. When flowering is over reduce watering and leave the plant to rest for about 6-8 weeks.

March–May

In spring the plant begins to grow again. Increase watering and add a little liquid fertilizer at monthly intervals. Repot if necessary, using an open peat-based mixture with a little added Perlite.

June–July

After the first spurt of growth, the plant should be watered sparingly. Don’t feed it, and don’t let the potting mixture dry out between waterings.

August–September

Start watering more generously again. As the flower buds begin to form add a liquid fertilizer at fortnightly intervals. Keep potting mixture just moist. Avoid sudden changes in light and keep the plant out of draughts. Pinch out weak shoots with no buds.

Pests And Diseases

Stem may shrivel during rest period if the plant gets too little water. Treatment: Give the plant a little water and it will recover quickly.

Root rot will set in if plant is left standing in water.

Prevention: Drain off excess water and provide a free-draining compost to prevent waterlogging.

Leaf fall is probably caused because the plant has been subjected to a sudden change —either in light quality or direction, or because the plant is in a draught.

Prevention: Leave the plant alone and do not move it from once buds have formed until the end of its flowering season.

PLANT CARE

This plant is relatively easy to look after. Give it a rest period after its winter flowering.

  • Potting: To prevent waterlogging use a free-draining peat-based potting mixture. Repot after flowering and move into a larger container when roots have filled the present pot.
  • Water well as often as necessary except during the rest period after flowering in winter. See that the compost is thoroughly moistened, but don’t let the plant get waterlogged. Make sure the potting mixture doesn’t dry out completely at any time and mist the plant when temperatures are high.
  • Feeding: Apply a liquid fertilizer in spring and in autumn.

BEST GROWTH ENVIRONMENT

  • Light: An east- or west-facing window suits this plant well. Avoid placing it in direct sun. It can be put out in the garden or patio during the summer.
  • Temperature: Normal room temperatures will suit it but in winter it prefers temperatures as low as 15°C (60°F).

Buying Tips

  • These plants are available from the middle of October until early winter in supermarkets and garden centres.
  • Make sure the plant you choose has plenty of buds ready to flower, and don’t buy it if it has been standing on a cold pavement.
  • These plants will live for many years and grow fairly large.

This tropical jungle plant, the Claw Cactus, will brighten winter’s darkest days with its cascades of colourful flowers carried at the tips of its claw-like stems.

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