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Plant of the Month

March 2015

Schlumbergera opuntioides

Schlumbergera opuntioides comes from the mountains around Rio de Janeiro, in the Atlantic temperate rainforest area of Brazil. It grows as a series of flat, branching stem segments. In the wild, the older stems thicken, and the plant grows as a small shrub. In cultivation the stems thicken less, and tend to hang down as the plant gets older. Consequently the plant is often grown in a hanging basket.

Unlike most other Schlumbergera species, the stem segments in S. opuntioides have areoles over the whole surface. Indeed, the specific name – 'opuntioides' – means 'opuntia-like', due to the resemblance of the plant, when not in flower, to an Opuntia.

Flowers are produced over a period, with a peak around March and April in the UK. The buds can develop from any of the areoles but grow most commonly near the tips of the branches. The flowers are similar in shape to those of the more common S. truncata, though the petals are a little shorter. (See Plant of the Month, November 2012)

A number of Schlumbergera species grow as epiphytes (ie growing in trees, rooted in moss and debris in clefts of the trunks). S. opuntioides however grows on the ground. Accordingly, in cultivation, the plant appreciates a more 'solid' compost, such as a 50:50 mixture of organic compost and John Innes. It also grows best with rather more light, and less water, than the epiphytic species. S. opuntioides grows naturally at high altitudes, and accordingly is very tolerant of cold in winter. However, it seems not to like getting too hot – so in greenhouse cultivation full sun is best avoided.

To propagate the plant twist (or cut) sections of stem of 2–3 segments and treat these as cuttings. Roots develop around the base of each segment. Putting the cuttings in a plastic bag can help to keep the humidity high, without overwatering, until the roots are sufficiently developed. New plants can also be grown from seed.

Mark Preston

Copyright 2015 Mark Preston

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