Anita Morton - Growing Gardens

Winter beauties

Schlumbergera is the ugly name for a family of beautiful winter-flowering plants from the jungles of Brazil, where they grow as epiphytes in the crooks of trees. They are members of the cactus family, with the fleshy modified stems and bright flowers common to the genus. They come in shades of white, pink, red, purple and orange.

Schlumbergeras start to form their flower buds once the autumn equinox has passed and the nights have become longer than the days. The buds commonly burst into bloom late in May and in June, and will mostly be over by now. That means that this is the perfect time to propagate new plants. Schlumbergeras are very easy to grow from cuttings, so if you dont have much experience or confidence in this technique they are the ideal starter plant.

Once flowering is over, gently pull and twist mature leaf segments away from the parent plant. Let them dry off for a week, and then bury each segment to half its length in a mixture of equal parts potting mix and coarse sand. Put the pot in a warm, brightly lit but not sunny spot, and mist it with water every now and then. Once you see new leaves beginning to form you will be able to separate the young plants and pot them up individually in a mixture of half potting mix and half orchid mix.

Schlumbergeras make great hanging-basket plants, and will also do well under a tree in the garden, provided you dont get frosts. If your garden is too cold, keep them indoors. They will still flower for you, provided they are in a bright room. Dont expose them to artificial light in the autumn, or the flower buds wont form. And dont keep them in the living room where the light will be on all evening.


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