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The Exotic Rainforest

Schlumbergera Lem., containing species formerly the genus Zygocactus (K. Schum.) Moran

The length of the day may not be the only trigger that causes an inflorescence to form!

Schlumbergera subgen. Zygocactus, Christmas cactus, Photo Copyright 2008, Steve Lucas,


Schlumbergera Lem., containing species formerly the genus Zygocactus (K. Schum.) Moran

Common Names:  Christmas Cactus, Zygocactus, Holiday Cactus, Thanksgiving Cactus, Easter Cactus
Available in my hybrid variations and colors

Commonly called Zygocactus, or more commonly Christmas Cactus,
according to Willis’s Dictionary of Flowering plants Zygocactus are now correctly in the genus  Schlumbergera Lem.   There there are two to five found species only only in Brazil Winter is the southern hemisphere is summer in North America while while winter in North America is summer in South America.    The species in this small tropical cacti genus are found naturally only in the southern portions of Brazil.   Collectors assume the species bloom during winter as a result of cooler temperatures which may be incorrect.  In nature some species grow during other seasons as well 
The natural species produce beautiful inflorescences (commonly called "flowers") which can range in color from pink to red.  An inflorescence is a group of "flowers".  The color of the "flower" is often influenced by artificial hybridization due to selective breeding and not by the natural colors found in the rain forest. Hybridized colors often include pink, red, white, lavender, and purple although the natural color in nature appears to be more consistently reddish pink.  The blooming season and length are likely to depending on the care given the specimen.  A specimen may grow to a height of up to 45cm (1.5 feet). 

Schlumbergera subgen. Zygocactus, Christmas Cactus, Photo Copyright 2008, Steve Lucas,
Although Zygocactus appear to respond to shorter daylight durations that may not the total cause.  There may be additional reasons for the time they choose to bloom since scientific observations indicate some wild species do not bloom during the North American Thanksgiving or Christmas season.  A shortened daylight period may not be the only trigger that causes blooming. 
Although the daylight photo period is not equarl in the region of Rio de Janeiro where these species are more common, In the South American rain forest both summer and winter days are relatively of equal length due to their position much nearer the equator than North America or Europe. 
These cacti gain their common name as a result of the season of the year in which they typically bloom which is roughly late November through December in the northern hemisphere.  In Brazil they bloom during the South American winter which corresponds with North America's summer but there is no real difference in Brazil in the length of a summer or a winter day.
Many rain forest species are induced to bloom based on the amount of water given the plant by Mother Nature since both the temperature and the day's length changes less than does the natural rain cycles.  Many inflorescence producing species are triggered to bloom near the beginning of the rainy season while others bloom near the end of the heavy rain.  Since Zygocactus at least appears to bloom at the end of the rainy season the trigger may be also induced due to the amount of water rather than solely the amount of light given the plant by Mother Nature.
Many successful growers have learned to duplicate Nature's methods and water a specimen more heavily in fast draining soil during the heat of the year but slowly begin to reduce the amount of the water given as the annual bloom season approaches.  In our atrium we water quite heavily with an overhead misting system from May through early October but by November drop the daily mist from 8 minutes every other day to only 2 minutes three days per week.  As a result many of our specimens that naturally bloom at the end of the rainy season are triggered to produce their inflorescences just as they would in nature.

In nature Schlumbergera are epiphytic and grow on the branches of trees in relatively bright light  instead of in soil.  Plants that grow upon other plant species are known scientifically as epiphytes (epi-FITES).  Since they are rain forest specimens, Zygocactus species prefer moderately bright indirect light with warm temperatures.  As a result of their native habitat, the ambient temperature should not drop below 12.8C (55F).  A very lose soil that is kept evenly damp during the wet season of the year but drier as winter approaches are more likely to induce Schlumbergera subgenus Zygocactus to prosper and bloom.  Since Schlumbergera normally do not grow in soil, use a cactus soil mix or a soil mixture of fast draining potting media such as Miracle Grow Moisture Control which includes an equal amount of sand.  Add to that mix a large helping of Perlite™, some peat moss, a bag of aquarium charcoal and orchid potting media which includes bark, gravel, and charcoal. 
You can mix your own or begin with a "jungle mix" and add additional orchid potting media.  Your goal is to give the roots something to which they can cling as they do in nature while remaining only damp and never soggy.



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