Succulent Gardening: The Art of Nature

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Schlumbergera mauve - aka Christmas Cactus

The cacti typically sold as "Christmas Cacti" or "Zygocacti" are actually hybrids of Schlumbergera bridgesii and Schlumbergera truncata. These epiphytic cacti are native to rain forests of Brazil, where they hang from tall trees or cliffs like long spider forms in the shadows of the rainforest. Stems are comprised of short, flattened segments that grow upright at first, but then begin to drape gracefully. As a result of much hybridization, Zygocacti flowers occur in colors that include electric fuchsias or reds with white throats, metallic roses and purples; or pastels, such as apricot, gold, delicate rose, lavender or even a very frilly-edged pure white. To grow the Schlumbergera well, it is essential that to understand the original habitat. As the altitude of the rainforest is between 3000 and 5000 feet, the climate is cool and refreshing, and the inhabitants never experience frosts or exceedingly high temperatures. Schlumbergeras require filtered light and prefer slightly soils that are slighty acidic and include additives such as extra humus or peat to emulate the decomposing bark that forms their "soil" in habitat. As epiphytes, these plants enjoy perfect drainage in habitat. In cultivation, the soil mix must be very porous to allow for rapid draining of the water. Water thoroughly when soil is dry on surface, but it is preferable if the entire root ball is not allowed dry out completely. Prefers nighttime temperatures no cooler than 50 degrees Fahrenheit, especially in the winter, and daytime temperatures to 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Protect from frost.

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