This seems like an appropriate time of year to consider the Christmas Cactus, Schlumbergera bridgesii. Those of you who own these are seeing them come into bloom right about now. I think they add a flamboyant and tropical touch to the indoor “plantscape.”
This cultivar is actually a hybrid of Sclumbergera truncata and Schlumbergera russiallana, both of which grow as epiphytes in the Brazilian rainforest. S. truncata is sold here as the “Thanksgiving cactus,” and it is easy to confuse the two. The lobes on the leaves of S. bridgesii are less pronounced, and aside from the different bloom times, that’s about it for visible differences. I have S. truncata, and it is winding down its blooming season now after putting on a commendable show.
Anyway, back to the Christmas variety:
It produces flowers in the usual shades of red, pink and white, and even yellow, which I have yet to see. It likes bright light, cool temperatures, moderate humidity but not too much water, which stands to reason, given that it is a “cactus” (actually an epiphyte) after all. Once it has finished blooming, it likes a nice month-long rest in a sunny window, and a bit – not to much – water. It likes to be re-potted every two or three years, and you can fertilize it every couple of weeks, once its little rest is over. There are all sorts of “tips” for getting them to come into bloom for Christmas, but I think they usually get the idea as the days get short approaching the winter solstice.
These plants don’t look like much when they aren’t in flower, but for me, that month or so of in-your-face bloom is well worth the wait.