How to propagate Schlumbergera at home

The hard-to-pronounce word "Schlumbergera" may be known to few, but in fact this houseplant is very common and loved. They grow it mainly for the sake of decorative flowers, but it is far from always possible to achieve their appearance. But the Schlumbergera propagates quite simply, for this you need to know only a few basic rules, which will be discussed in this review.

Plant description

Schlumbergera is a special genus of cacti that grows in the tropical forests of South America. It was introduced to Europe at the beginning of the 19th century and has since been successfully used as a decorative indoor plant.

In countries located on the territory of the former USSR, this flower is also known under the names "Decembrist", "Decembrine", "Christmas tree", "Christmas cactus" and "zygocactus".

Did you know? Federic Schlumberger is a well-known cactus collector who lived in Normandy in the 19th century. His name was given to a beautifully blooming succulent in 1858 by another Frenchman - Charles Lemer, a botanist and writer who had been preparing materials for a large-scale book about cacti all his life, but had never realized the plan for its publication due to poverty and lack of sponsor.

Zygocactus is an epiphyte plant. This means that the root system of this succulent is very weak and superficial, therefore the flower receives all the main nutrients and energy through aerial roots and photosynthesis, using moisture in the air.

In thickened tropics, this ability allows the cactus to withstand competition with other, more powerful plants and, using them as a support, stretch closer to the light.

Decembrists, like other cacti, have no leaves. Their function is performed by numerous bright green stems that form in the form of a lush bush and are long and flat drooping chains, as if assembled from several successively connected fragments of cells measuring approximately 2 × 3 cm with jagged edges.

Wild zigocactus species have spines, but most houseplant hybrids lack such an “ornament”.

At home, zigocactus can grow up to 40 cm in height, and decoratively flowering stems allow you to grow a flower not only on window sills, but also in hanging planters (ampelous method).

Flowers at the Christmas tree bloom in several tiers at the top of the stems, 1-3 on each. The shape is a slightly curved tube with wide petals and far protruding pestles.

Learn more about how to properly plant and care for Decembrist at home.

The sizes of the flowers are quite large, and the color may be different: the natural shades for zigocactus are red and white, but among the hybrids bred by the breeders there are plants with pink, yellow, orange and purple flowers.

Schlumberger received her folk names thanks to the most characteristic flowering time for her. If in Brazil this process occurs in the summer, then in the northern hemisphere a cactus usually begins to bloom in the winter months.

However, experienced gardeners argue that with good care, a plant can please the appearance of flowers at any time, sometimes twice, or even thrice a year.

Terms and optimal breeding conditions

Since Schlumbergera use several different methods for breeding, it would be wrong to talk about uniform rules regarding the most suitable dates for this.

Specialists recommend cutting the Decembrist immediately after trimming, since it is at this moment that it is easiest to get the planting material necessary for reproduction without damage to the mother bush.

Traditionally, succulent is pruned immediately after flowering, but if the plant does not bloom, it is advised to carry out such a procedure in late spring or early summer. In this case, the bush receives an additional incentive for development, and by Christmas you can count on the appearance of flowers.

Important! Experts say that Schlumbergera cuttings, which are cut from the mother plant during the first month of spring, are best rooted. At the same time, there is another opinion, according to which the ideal time for rooting the cuttings is summer.

Like any inhabitant of the tropics, Christmas is very demanding on humidity. And although an adult plant can adapt to the dry air of urban apartments no worse than ordinary cacti, characterized by increased drought tolerance, a young Schlumberger in such conditions can be quite difficult to develop.

For this reason, choosing the time for plant propagation, it is better to focus on the period when centralized heating in the house is either turned off or minimized.

Christmas seeds are usually recommended to be sown in spring. The same applies to vaccination, although, as in the case of cuttings, gardeners do not have unity on this issue: some cactus growers advise budding in mid-April, arguing that in this case the young plant can bloom next winter.

Preparatory work

Since this is an epiphyte, the choice of a pot for such a succulent is of no fundamental importance. However, deep capacity in this case is an unfortunate choice, since the space free from the root system of the plant is always associated with the additional risk of developing various pathogenic microflora.

For the same reasons, zigocactus is not suitable for heavy soil. The substrate should be loose and light, with good permeability of moisture and air. Preferred is a low acidity of the soil (pH in the range of 5 to 6).

For beginners, it is best to purchase ready-made soil marked "for cacti" or "for succulents." However, this mixture needs to be improved a bit.

So that the soil is as close as possible to the natural features of Schlumbergera, the purchased substrate must be diluted in a 2: 1 ratio with a specially prepared composition:

  • peat - 2 parts;
  • crushed moss sphagnum - 1 part;
  • broken expanded clay - 1 part;
  • sand - 1 part.

More experienced growers can prepare the substrate for planting zigocactus on their own by mixing:

  • sheet earth - 6 parts;
  • turf land - 1 part;
  • humus - 4 parts;
  • peat - 2 parts;
  • coarse river sand - 2 parts.

All components used to prepare the soil mixture, except those purchased in specialized flower shops, must be decontaminated before use.

The easiest way to do this is by placing the material overnight in the freezer (or putting it on the balcony if the night temperature on the street drops to at least –10 ° C), then withstand 12 hours and heat and freeze again.

You can also warm the substrate for several hours in an oven heated to + 70 ° C (useful soil bacteria die at a higher temperature, which depletes the earth), or simply pour plenty of water with a saturated pink solution of potassium permanganate.

Did you know? A rather unusual, but well-established method of preparing soil for zygocactus is to use a substrate for orchids as the basis. Since such a mixture does not contain soil at all and it contains only dried fern roots, sphagnum, tree bark and charcoal, it is mixed in equal parts with deciduous humus.

Finally, to plant Schlumbergera, you will need expanded clay, fine gravel or other material that will provide a reliable drainage layer in the pot. This is necessary to prevent stagnation of water in the soil, which zigocactus, like any other succulent, does not tolerate at all.

How to propagate Decembrist at home

There are several ways that zigocactus can be planted. The most common is the vegetative one - by cuttings or, a little more difficult, by a “leaf” (in this case, a shortened stalk consisting of only one “cell” is used). In addition, you can grow a young plant from seeds or plant its process on another cactus.


As already mentioned, it is easiest to take the shoot for cuttings from a freshly trimmed zygocactus bush. But you can not combine these two procedures.

When choosing a stalk, you should be guided by the following rules:

  • strong and healthy shoots with aerial roots are best suited for rooting;
  • you can grow full-fledged plants from single "cells", but it is safer to use a fragment consisting of 2 or 3 links;
  • it is preferable to cut off those branches that are on the most overgrown sides of the bush.

Important! Separate the zygocactus cuttings for planting from the general branch only by hand using the twisting method. The use of cutting objects, pinching or tearing robs the process of vitality.

Schlumberger can be cut with both preliminary rooting in water and by direct landing in the ground. The first method is longer.

The sequence of actions in this case looks like this:

  1. Wash and disinfect thoroughly (potassium permanganate, alcohol or hydrogen peroxide) a small glass.
  2. Fill a cup with purified non-chlorinated water at ambient temperature.
  3. Submerge the process separated from the mother plant in water so that the liquid reaches the middle of the stem.
  4. Leave the plant to root, making sure that the water level in the glass remains the same (usually this process does not last long, for a maximum of 2 weeks).

When planting cuttings without roots in the ground, the preparatory work consists in drying the freshly cut process in the open air and dusting it with a preparation to stimulate rooting (Epin, Kornevin, etc.).

In the future, the cuttings are carried out according to the same scheme for both of the described methods:

  • Clean and disinfect the prepared container for planting.
  • Fill the pot with ½ expanded clay or other drainage material.
  • Add soil mixture to the tank so that about 1 cm remains to the edges of the pot.
  • Water the soil with settled, soft and slightly warmed water.
  • To deepen the stalk into the soil vertically at half its height (if the process already has roots, you must first make a deepening in the soil and place the plant in it, trying not to damage the roots).
  • Cover the pot with a jar or a cut plastic bottle to create a constant microclimate and high humidity.
  • Put the container in a warm and slightly shaded place.

Did you know? Among cacti, there are real long-livers: for example, cereus lives for 200 years, and some plant instances live up to 400 and even longer. Ferocactus, aztecium and astrophytum can live more than 100 years. However, the life expectancy of most members of the family, including Schlumbergera, is about 20–25 years.

Until the young plant is finally rooted (this moment can be determined by the presence of new shoots from the base of the stem), care for it consists of regular ventilation and gentle irrigation: the soil should be moist, but not wet.

As the Christmas tree grows, the shelter should be removed, but it must be done gradually in order to accustom the young succulent to new conditions.


Vaccination is a rather difficult way to get a new Schlumbergera, but as a result, an incredibly beautiful standard hybrid can grow, growing in the form of a lush tree on a thin stalk, and especially effective during flowering.

Another advantage of budding is the quick result: since the plant "sits" on the prepared root system of a more stable and hardy appearance, zigocactus can be almost fully formed literally within a year, while when grafting and, moreover, sowing seeds, this process is delayed by some years.

Unpretentious plants of the Cactus family are usually used as a stock for ovulation of Schlumbergera.

Better than others for this purpose are:

  • prickly prickly;
  • prickly pear;
  • Cereus cylindrical.

Important! When choosing a stock, it is worth considering that sometimes the cost of such a “base” can significantly exceed the price of an adult Schlumbergera hybrid.

The procedure for vaccination is as follows:

  1. Prepare a Decembrist stalk, following the standard rules for cuttings.
  2. Cut the lower part of the process in the form of a pointed wedge.
  3. Using a sharp and sterile knife, cut off the top of the cactus selected as rootstock.
  4. Perform a vertical incision on the prepared “hemp” and slightly part its edges to the side.
  5. Insert the schlumberger stalk into the resulting opening.
  6. Fasten the stock and scion with a thin needle or thorn (spike) of a cactus.
  7. Wrap the vaccination site using a thin, soft thread, braid or patch.
  8. Leave the plant without shelter in a warm place (optimal temperature - + 18 ... + 20 ° C).

If the budding is successful, approximately 2 weeks after the Schlumbergera vaccine begins to grow. At this point, the patch or bandage should be removed, the thorns and leaves removed at the rootstock, leaving a bare stalk, and then take care of the plant as an ordinary zigocactus.

The only additional condition that needs to be remembered is that the standard specimens of the Christmas tree need to be tied to a support, because as the formation of a lush crown, a plant on a thin leg can break.

Despite the attractiveness of vaccination, this method of propagation of zigocactus has certain disadvantages. Such plants, due to unnaturally fast growth, require especially careful formation of the crown - without this they rapidly lose their shape.

In addition, vaccinated Schlumbergera are more susceptible to fungal and bacterial infections, have a rather weak immunity and do not live very long.

It will also be useful for you to learn how to feed and how to properly water the Decembrist at home.

Is seed propagation possible?

This method is theoretically possible, but they resort to it so rarely that even among very experienced cactus growers there is a belief that zigocactuses reproduce only vegetatively.

The pollination procedure for the Christmas tree should be carried out at a strictly defined time: it should be the 2nd or 3rd day after the flower is opened.

Important! To obtain seeds, you must first artificially pollinate 2 flowering plants. Moreover, it is very important that they are not grown from a common mother bush (not be “relatives”).

Some experts even collect pollen from a flowering plant and store it in a paper bag until the second flower "arrives" (the pollen's suitability lasts only a few weeks, so this method cannot be considered universal).

Since it is already a great success to achieve the flowering of the Decembrist, it is really quite difficult to create the necessary conditions for collecting seed material suitable for planting. If desired, in specialized stores you can find seeds ready for planting, although such a product is not very common.

Christmas seeds can be stored for several years, but they demonstrate the best germination in the 2nd year after harvest.

Before planting, the material must be soaked in a 3% solution of potassium permanganate for 10-15 minutes, and then kept for 2 more days in a very warm place (for example, on a battery), placing them in a glass with 1% sodium humate or another stimulant growth.

Sowing zigocactus is best in spring. Seeds just need to be spread on the surface of the soil and not sprinkled on top. As a substrate, it is best to use soil for succulents mixed in equal parts with sand, although you can try to plant succulent in clean sand.

Decembrist seeds germinate approximately 20 days after planting, provided that they are kept warm and in good humidity.

Plant Care

In order for the young Schlumbergera to grow rapidly, develop, and, most importantly, delight the owner with its flowering in due time, the tropical plant needs to create conditions as close to natural as possible.

To do this, it is necessary to achieve the following requirements:

The optimum temperature of growing during the growing season+ 18 ... + 25 ° С
Optimum resting temperature+ 10 ... + 15 ° C
Optimum temperature during buds+ 11 ... + 12 ° C
LightingBright but scattered. The best place for a plant is windows facing the east side.
Air humidityMaximum high (not less than 70%)
WateringRegular, root and surface (during the heating season, in the absence of a humidifier, spraying should be daily). Use soft and slightly warmed water. During active vegetation and flowering, plants are watered once every 3-5 days, during dormancy - once every 2-3 weeks.
VentilationThe circulation of indoor air is necessary for the normal development of the Christmas tree. In summer, the plant can be taken out to the open balcony.
Top dressingDuring the growing season - 2 times a month. A complex fertilizer is used for cacti and succulents in the amount of ½ dose indicated on the package. The optimal ratio of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium in the preparation is 3: 6: 8. The first top dressing is carried out no earlier than six months after planting.
Special conditions
  1. Отсутствие сквозняков и резких перепадов температуры.
  2. Минимизация перестановок вазона с места на место и даже поворачивание его вокруг своей оси, особенно в период закладки бутонов.
  3. Чередование фазы активного роста и периода покоя (стимулирует активное цветение).
TransferДо полного взросления (первые 3–4 года) каждый год, сразу после цветения, либо, если его не было, — в феврале или марте.

What difficulties may arise

Благодаря слабой корневой системе и меньшей, по сравнению с другими растениями, зависимости от почвы шлюмбергера относительно редко подвергается наиболее характерным для комнатных цветов болезням и атакам вредителей.

Однако такие проблемы всё же возможны, особенно если для зигокактуса не созданы подходящие условия.

Did you know? Самый крупный в мире кактус — цереус гигантский, известный также как калифорнийский исполин. Его вес может достигать 10 тонн, а рост — 25 м. При этом активно расти чудо-суккулент начинает на 30-м году жизни, а цвести — и вовсе не раньше, чем в полувековом возрасте.

Среди трудностей, с которыми сталкиваются владельцы рождественника, следует назвать такие:

  1. Pest damage. Серьёзный вред зигокактусу могут принести щитовки, белокрылки, мучнистые червецы, паутинные клещи, тля. При обнаружении первых признаков поражения растение нужно обработать мыльным или спиртовым раствором. Среди эффективных народных средств можно также упомянуть чесночный или луковый настой, отвар хвоща, полыни и др. Если решить проблему таким способом не удаётся, применяются химические препараты — инсектициды или акарициды.
  2. Грибковые инфекции, в частности, фитофтороз и фузариоз. Причиной заболевания в подавляющем большинстве случаев является повышенная влажность или застой воды в почве. Поскольку бороться с болезнью довольно сложно, лучше его не допускать, обеспечивая зигокактусу надёжный дренаж, грамотный режим полива и подходящий микроклимат. Если растение вянет, становится блёклым, а на стеблях появляются характерные участки поражения грибком, необходимо провести обработку цветка системным фунгицидом, а в отдельных случаях — пересадить, полностью заменив землю на свежую.
  3. Lack of flowering. Стимулировать этот процесс можно при помощи создания цветку выраженного периода покоя, сопровождающегося снижением температуры, ограничением полива и прекращением подкормок. Если зигокактус не цветёт и после проведения такого мероприятия, это означает, что растению не подходят общие условия содержания — влажность, температура, полив, освещение, вентиляция, состав почвы, размер горшка и т. п.
  4. Leaf fall. Таким способом шлюмбергера также реагирует на ошибки цветовода, однако в этом случае можно говорить о том, что цветок находится в условиях, близких к критическим. Необходимо срочно проанализировать причины возникновения проблемы, чтобы принять меры к их устранению. Единственная оговорка: сбрасывание листьев и цветов может быть реакцией на резкую смену условий содержания. Например, это может случиться вскоре после пересадки зигокактуса, перемещения его на новое место, включения (выключения) централизованного отопления и т. п. В этом случае паниковать не стоит — через некоторое время цветок адаптируется и восстановит потерю зелёной массы.

Размножение шлюмбергеры — процесс творческий и очень увлекательный.

Получить молодое растение при помощи укоренения черенков может даже начинающий любитель кактусов, а вот более опытные цветоводы могут попробовать свои силы в освоении таких нестандартных методов выращивания новых экземпляров декабриста, как прививка на штамб менее прихотливого суккулента или даже выведение нового гибрида путем искусственного опыления и последующего сбора семян для посадки.

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