Learn how to grow these beautiful Brazilian rainforest plants. Australian expert Tony Brindley takes you through the history and how scientists keep changing the name. They were known as Zygos or Zygocactus but are now technically known as Schlumbergera although most people do not go by this name.
In the USA they are known as Holiday Cactus or Thanksgiving cactus as they flower around this North American holiday period. In the southern hemisphere these names mean nothing to us. To complicate names just a little further there is also a variety of Zygocactus known as Christmas Cactus as they flower around Christmas. These are actually a cross of Schlumbergera truncata (Thanksgiving cactus) and Schlumbergera russelliana. These have limited colours compared to the other zygocactus varieties (like Thanksgiving cactus).
The biggest cause of problems with zygocactus is that a lot of people tend to over water them. Cut this back and you might just end up with a green thumb or two and impress a neighbour or two at the same time.
At this time of the year in the southern hemisphere plants are starting to send out new growth. These leaves are called phylloclades for zygocactus. It is time to use some slow release fertiliser and apply liquid fertiliser during the growing period to encourage more new growth. Why? Because the more new end phylloclades you have the more buds and flowers you will end up with to create a great show next year.
In the northern hemisphere plants are coming into bud and bloom. Soon there will be masses of blooms on pots everywhere. As it is far colder than in Australia plants are often moved inside to protect from severe cold. A frost can kill them. This inside environment is not without problems from cold drafts around the home. When heating is also involved it is important to keep the humidity levels up which can be done by misting and ensuring the plant is watered enough.
Overall Zygocactus are relatively easy to care for and will delight you with an impressive display of flowers. For the rest of the year they make a great foliage plant that can be grown in a shady spot under a tree in the garden until it starts to turn again and the cycle repeats itself.