Many of you may be familiar with schumbergera which I'll just call chanukah cactus, as that's the holiday we'll be celebrating soon! My little cactus is in full bloom, giving us so much joy! I bought this plant several weeks ago, and while I could see that it was from last year's left overs, it was full of buds, and I couldn't resist. I'm so happy that I wasn't picky about the condition of the plant, as I'm loving the extra color it brings to our living room, and looking forward to coaxing it to bloom again next year.
And after I finished this starburst crocheted blanket last winter, I never thought I'd have something else that matches, but look, those bright pinks are pretty close!
The other really amazing thing is that this plant has blooms in multiple colors! The first set of blooms, from about two weeks ago were more coral color, as you can see here, and now they're just about as pink as any flower can get. We were so amazed when the flowers opened and revealed this bright pink pistil!
Multiple colors of flowers on a schumbergera is even something you can do at home if you have several plants, by cross polenating them! Simply take that lovely little pink pistil and rub it into the stamen, (the yellow pollen portions of a flower) of a different colored flower. Come next year the new flower will be the color of the pollen that you introduced it to! That simple, really!
Okay, this means that I really must find some more schumbergera to purchase and try it myself, right? Many people love this plant, that is really not a cactus at all, but a hybrid of a plant found in the rain forrests of Brazil, and propogates just like a succulent, meaning you can easily make more plants. Love it! Oh, and when you cut off a stem and root it, that stem can flower just the next year, heaven. And great little gifts, don't you think?
Oh, and before I leave you, here are a few important tips for caring for your schumbergera:
- Water: Keep the soil moist, but not soggy while plant is growing. After flowering, water sparingly until new growth begins in spring.
- Humidity: Moderate -- about 50-60% relative humidity. Stand the pot on a dish of wet pebbles.
- Temperature: To set flower buds, the plant needs cool 60-65°F/16-18°C days and 45-55°F/7-13°C nights. Once buds set, 70-75°F/21-24°C days and 60-70°F/16-21°C nights.
- Rest Period: After your schumbergera stops flowering for the season, it needs about a one-month rest. Water sparingly and stop fertilizing until new growth begins in the spring.
- Pruning: Regular pruning will encourage the plant to branch out where the stem was cut, creating a fuller plant. Spring is the best time to prune, when plant begins actively growing again. Use sharp, clean pruning shears to prevent tearing the stems. Cut a stem off between segments (the place where they're joined together by a midrib). And of course, stick those stems you've pruned into soil, either dipped in rooting hormone, or not, and you'll get some new little plants!
- Fertilizer: Feed every 2 weeks with a balanced liquid fertilizer diluted by half. After blooms have dropped, stop fertilizing for a month.
How to Get "Chanuka Cactua" to Bloom Again:
Shorter, cooler days and nights for about 8-10 weeks are needed for the plant to set buds. It needs at least 12 hours of darkness, so place plant in a room where lights are not turned on at night, or only very little, like a bathroom. (The plant I bought from the nursery had been outdoors.)
You can also move the plant outdoors in fall (or even in the spring, or keep outdoors year round if you live in Florida....) to get this period of darkness, just keep plant out of direct sun, and use above temperature needs as a guide. Bring the plant back inside before the first frost. Keep the soil barely moist, but not too dry. Shriveled, limp stems are a sign that the plant needs more water.
Once it starts budding, it is best to keep the plant in the same location. Changes in light and temperature by moving it around can cause it to drop its buds and flowers. Also keep it away from drafty areas like doorways and heat vents.
Repotting Christmas cactus plant is usually only necessary every 2 to 3 years. It prefers to be slightly pot-bound and blooms best this way. Wait till spring or early summer to repot -- never while it's blooming.