The unusual stems and timely blossoms of these commonly grown house plants are both delightful and fascinating. Christmas cacti are an old favorite. They have striking, bright green arched branches made up of flat, scalloped 11/2 inch long joints. The branches droop, especially when in bloom. Their multi-trumpeted, 3-inch long, rosy red flowers, plus other colors, appear at Christmas time.
Schlumbergeras are native to the tropical forests of South America, where they grow on trees. They require rich, porous soil. Keep soil most but not soggy, and fertilize weekly when the plant is growing. They do well in front of a cool, bright window. During the summer you can move them outdoors into partial shade. Budding is brought on by the short days of October and November or by a cold shock. To promote flowering, place plants outdoors for a time during the fall.
LIGHT: Place in a bright but indirectly lit south, east or west window.
WATER: Keep very moist during growth and flowering. At other times, allow to dry between waterings.
HUMIDITY: Average indoor humidity levels.
TEMPERATURES: 40°F. to 45°F. at night; 60°F. to 65°F. during the day to set flower buds; 50°F. to 55°F. at night, 65°F. to 70°F. during the day at other times.
FERTILIZATION: Fertilize only when plant is actively growing or flowering.
PROPAGATION: Take cuttings from recently matured stems or shoots when plant is not in flower.
GROOMING: Prune after flowering if necessary.
RE-POTTING: Infrequent potting is best.
PROBLEMS: Dry soil or high soluble salts may damage roots, causing dieback.