Christmas Cactus: Popular Cactus and Succulents
These rewarding house plants have enjoyed generations
of well-deserved popularity. They are difficult
to forget, for in bloom they are a rainbow of
color, the leaves barely discernible under a
cloud of flowers. Zygocactus, Schlumbergera and
their hybrids do not resemble cactus as we know
them: They have no spines or hooks, and the dark
green flattened stems are somewhat like orchid
cactus which are also from the same tropical
rain forests where they share the trees with
orchids and bromeliads. At one time, the plants
were included in the genus Epiphyllum, but unlike
orchid cactus, flowers appear at the ends of
the stems rather than from the sides and are
smaller but more profuse.
The blooms range from
pea size to 1 inch across in white, cream, shades
of orange, red, and fuchsia. Give plants an equal
mix of fir bark and soil in small containers.
In fall and winter see that they have plenty
of sun; bright light is enough during the rest
of the year. Soil should be kept moderately moist
except in fall when roots need dryness and plants
require coolness (500). Also in the fall, plants
must have at least 12 hours of uninterrupted
darkness daily for about six weeks to encourage
budding. Any light which reaches the plant during
a 12-hour dark period will interrupt or completely
hinder bud formation. Once buds appear, regular
watering may be resumed.
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