Can Christmas cactus take full sun
Schlumbergera truncata and S. × buckleyi are Christmas cacti, epiphytic cacti that bloom from late November to late January, making them perfect for Christmas displays or as ideal gifts.
Botanical name: Schlumbergera truncata and S. × buckleyi
Group: Houseplant, cacti and succulents
Flowering time: Late November to late January
Planting time: Late March
Height and spread: 45cm (18in) by 45cm (18in)
Aspect: Bright but avoiding direct scorching sun light.
Hardiness: Frost tender (min 10°C/50°F)
Schlumbergera thrive in jungle-type woodlands with trees, preferring a semi-shade environment. They thrive in well-lit, indirect sunlight with a humid atmosphere. To maintain humidity, use gravel-filled saucers to place the plants and maintain moisture.
To maintain healthy growth of cactus plants, re-pot them once a year or every two years, starting at the end of March. Use a standard cactus compost or a loam-based compost. Garden compost is a soil improver made from decomposed plant waste, used to improve soil fertility, structure, and water-holding capacity. Seed or potting composts are used for growing seedlings or plants in containers, with commercially produced peat-free composts available. Mix your own compost with leafmould or peat substitute to improve drainage. When potting, choose a slightly larger container as cactus prefer a snug fit in a small pot.
- After flowering a resting period is required. From late January to late March, reduce the watering to only occasionally so that the compost does not completely dry out and reduce the temperature to 12-15°C (55-59°F). This can be done easily by moving to a cooler room
- From April-September, increase watering and start feeding houseplants with liquid feed. Maintain a temperature of 18-20°C (65-69°F) if possible.
- During summer, place plants outside to ripen new growth and encourage flowering. Keep them in a shady spot and protect them from slugs.
- From mid-September, flowering buds develop with shorter days and reduced temperature. Watering and temperature should be reduced with a second resting period. After buds form, increase temperature to 18-20°C and resume regular watering.
- The plant should flower and display beautifully, with precise temperatures not critical, provided two resting periods and reduced watering and temperature.
Pruning and training
Schlumbergera plants require minimal pruning, but can become leggy and congested. To help them grow, remove tips and damaged stems from congested plants. Always remove whole segments of leaf-like stems for a more attractive plant.
Propagating schlumbergera involves growing new plants from existing parts like root, stem, leaf, or bud. When prepared correctly and planted in the right conditions, these plants can produce roots and become independent. Different methods for taking cuttings depend on the plant and time of year, making it easy and enjoyable for children.
- The cuttings are made robust and easy to handle due to their segmented leaf-like stems.
- In May, remove terminal or lower sections of a plant and allow them to dry indoors for a day or two to allow the basal wound to heal.
- To grow seedlings or plants in containers, insert cuttings into a 50:50 mix of seed/cuttings, which can be homemade garden compost or seed/potting compost. Garden compost is a soil improver made from decomposed plant waste, used to improve soil fertility, structure, and water-holding capacity. Seed or potting composts are used for growing seedlings or plants in containers, with commercially produced peat-free composts available. Sharp sand, a washed, gritty sand used in potting compost mixes, is sold for gardening and is not the same as builders’ sharp sand. Push the bottom of the cutting into the compost about 1cm deep to keep them upright.
- Store them in a shaded area out of direct sunlight at 18-24°C (65-69°F), water them sparingly, and mist them occasionally.
- Cuttings take three to 12 weeks to root, and after they are well-rooted, they can be individually potted.
Cacti need to cross pollinate with different species to produce seeds. The botanical term ‘cultivar’ refers to a distinctive plant or plants bred to enhance characteristics such as flower or fruit size, color, flavor, plant size, hardiness, and disease resistance. It also refers to naturally-occurring distinct plants with slight differences in appearance. For example, Malva alcea var. fastigiata has an upright habit. To produce grape-like fruits, use an artist’s brush to transfer pollen from one plant to the stigma of another. It can take 3-4 years for a plant to be raised from the resulting seed. Seedlings are young plants grown from seed, and their color forms may differ from the parent plant.
Specialist cacti nurseries offer named cultivars, but most garden centres only offer them by color, typically red, purple, pink.
Schlumbergera are pest and disease-free, with mealybug being a common pest, but they face physical and cultivation issues.
Stem shriveling can be caused by excessive heat and sunlight, or root deterioration due to over or under-watering.
Scorch cacti, not desert cacti, can discolour and damage their stems in hot, sunny environments, as they naturally grow in woodland in dappled shade.
Non-flowering may occur due to unchanging day length or temperature, such as near artificial light after dark and temperatures not dropping below 18°C, mimicking autumn.
Flower bud dropping is primarily caused by fluctuating temperatures, overwatering, and exposure to cold in florists, garden centers, or cars, as well as extreme weather conditions.
Late-flowering occurs when the temperature remains high into autumn.
Poor growth in plants may indicate overpotting and a pot that is too large for the plant. Remove the pot to check root development and remove excess if no growth is seen. Garden compost, made from decomposed plant waste, is used to improve soil fertility, structure, and water-holding capacity. Seed or potting composts are used for growing seedlings or plants in containers, with commercially produced peat-free composts available. Mixing your own compost with commercially produced peat-free composts can also be done. Place the compost in a smaller pot, aiming to encourage new root growth and recovery.