Schlumbergera truncata

Common name: Christmas Cactus, Thanksgiving Cactus, Claw Cactus, Holiday Cactus, Crab Cactus, Zygocactus

Family: Cactaceae

Synonyms: Cactus truncatus
Cereus truncatus
Epiphyllum truncatum
Zygocactus truncatus
Epiphyllum altensteinii
Zygocactus altensteinii
Epiphyllum bridgesii
Epiphyllum delicatum
Zygocactus delicatum
Epiphyllum ruckeri
Epiphyllum ruckerianum

Schlumbergera truncata

Schlumbergera truncata

Distribution and habitat: Schlumbergera truncata is endemic to a small area of the coastal mountains of south-eastern Brazil where its natural habitats are subtropical or tropical moist forests. In its native environment it is an epiphyte (occasionally lithophytic). In other words, these are cacti that grow in trees! They grow their roots into the bark of their host tree. Their only access to moisture and nutrients is from rain and droppings that fall from above. They also always grow under a canopy of trees and are never exposed to the full sun of the desert. The environment that these cacti have adapted to is that of the warm, humid jungle with sunlight filtered through the canopy of the forest. The shape of the flowers suggests humming bird pollination and red is attractive to birds. The berry is mostly red attracting other birds to spread the seed to other areas.

Description: Schlumbergera truncata have flattened, spineless, pendulous branches with prominent notches at the margins. The flat stem segments are long and narrow and connected by a mid-rib. The flowers are asymmetrical in shape and appear at the stem tips. Flower colours range from pink, lavenders and reds through to oranges, yellows and whites. Schlumbergera truncata blooms through autumn and winter.

Some plants  have rounded stem segments, other have more pointed type. The flowers also differ considerably in shape and colour.

Houseplant care: To obtain a fuller plant, prune the Schlumbergera truncata cactus. Cutting it back in spring will encourage the plant to branch out where the stem was cut. Flowers emerge from the ends of the stems so the plant will promote more blooms. Spring is the best time to prune it back, when it begins actively growing again. Cut the stem off between segments (the place where they’re joined together by midrib). Use sharp, clean pruning shears to prevent tearing the stems.

Give it a rest period after its winter flowering.

Flower buds are likely to drop off if the plant is moved or suddenly exposed to temperature changes.

Light: Schlumbergera truncata (as a jungle cactus) should never be exposed to full summer sunlight. Medium light at a partly shaded window is the best  throughout spring summer and autumn. The less powerful winter sun is not likely to harm these plants. Flower buds normally start to form in early autumn and full flowering is initiated by the restricted light of shortening days. Once these cacti have begun to bud, it is important do not keep them in a living room where artificial lights may be burning virtually all evening every day.

Position to an east- or west-facing window suits this plant well. Avoid placing it in direct sun. It can be put out in the garden or patio during the summer in a shaded place.

Temperature: Room temperature is suitable for Schlumbergera truncata all year round. Schlumbergera truncata needs to set flower buds cool temperature of 16-18°C (60-65°F) during the day and 7-13°C (45-55°F) during the night. Once buds set, 21-24°C (70-75°F) on day time and 16-21°C (60-70°F) on night time.

Schlumbergera truncata will benefit from being placed in a shady place outdoor during late spring and summer, but move them back indoors before the start of cold weather.

Water: Schlumbergera truncata are generally winter-flowering plants, their stem grow most actively during the months from spring to early autumn. During the entire year except for a brief period following the end of the flowering period, water plentifully as often as necessary to keep the poting mixture throughly moist, but do not allow pots to stand in water.

When flowering ceases (problably in late winter), reduce amounts and water only moderately – enough to moisten the mixture at each watering, but allowing the top centimeter (0.4 inch) or so of the mixture to dry out before watering again. Resume plentiful waterings as soon as new stem growth starts to appear in spring.

For increased humidity mist spray the plants, especially in spring and summer. Because Schlumbergera truncata dislike the hard water (water with high calcium content), use rainwater if at all possible for watering proposes. Remember never to permit the potting mixture to dry completely.

Fertiliser: Feed every two weeks with liquid fertilizer diluted by half. After blooms have dropped, stop fertilizing until new growth begins in spring.

Potting and repotting: To prevent waterlogging use a free-draining peat-based potting mixture which has been made more porous by the addition of one part of coarse sand to every three parts of the standard mixture. Grow the Schlumbergera truncata in ordinary pots or hanging basket. Repot every year after flowering and move into a larger container  only when roots have filled the current pot. Otherwise, shake off the spent potting mixture, replace the plant in its container which has been cleaned and add fresh mixture as necessary. Schlumbergera truncata do not have large root system and a specimen 30cm (12 inch) accross can be grown in a 10-13cm (4-5 inch) pot or basket.

Propagation: Most popular way of propagation of the Schlumbergera truncata is through cuttings. Just twists off part of the plant: they naturally come apart at the joints between stem segments. Segments that have fallen off on their own can sometimes also be propagated. Let the cuttings dry out for 2-7 days, then plant in or lay them on top of the potting mixture. For best results, take multiple cuttings from the same plant and plant them together (this will give a fuller-looking plant sooner). Rooting has started to happen when new growth appear at the tips of the old stems.

Uses: Schlumbergera truncata can be used as indoor plants, patio or conservatory plants in hanging baskets or tall pots flowers.
In its native area, Schlumbergera truncata is grown outdoors as an epiphyte or in rock gardens. In cooler climates, this plant can be grown in baskets or pots for brightly-lit window sills. It is sold primarily around the holiday season as a gift or decorative item.

Schlumbergera truncata can be used in a hanging basket or stand several in groups on an east- or west-facing windowsill. A wicker basket makes an attractive container. Do not move the plant or even turn it around once the flower buds appear. Moving it will inhibit flower production.

Stem may shrivel during rest period if the plant gets too little water.
Treatment: Give the plant a little water and it will recover quickly.

Root rot will set in if plant is left standing in water.
Prevention: Drain off excess water and provide a free-draining compost to prevent waterlogging.

Leaf fall is probably caused because the plant has been subjected to a sudden change —either in light quality or direction, or because the plant is in a draught.
Prevention: Leave the plant alone and do not move it from once buds have formed until the end of its flowering season.

Availability: Schlumbergera truncata is available from fall to winter, period when the plant is blooming. These plants will live for many years and grow fairly large.


Foliage – green
Features – flowers
Shape – weeping plant
Height: 30-60 cm (12-24 inch)

Watering in rest period – moderately
Watering in active growth period – plentifully
Light – medium
Temperature in rest period – min 16°C max 24°C (61-75°F)
Temperature in active growth period – min 16°C max 24°C (61-75°F)
Humidity – low

Hardiness zone: 10b-12

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