Schlumbergera in the home, propagation

Table of Contents

Decembrist flower - care at home-1 Decembrist is a cactus, but… “wrong”. Think about it: it has no prickles, likes humidity and cannot stand direct sunlight, refuses to bloom in drought … Experienced florists say that caring for the Christmas tree is more similar to caring for its exotic countrywoman – the orchid, than for its prickly cactus counterparts.

In our latitudes, the slumberberry blooms in winter, which is why it got its “winter” names: the Christmas tree, the Decembrist. But with proper care, the Schlumbergera can bloom two, or even three times a year.

  • How to achieve such abundant flowering of the Christmas tree?
  • Why does the Schlumbergera begin to wilt?
  • What to do if the Schlumbergera leaves are falling off?

The answers to these and many other questions on the care of the slumberberry know our experts.

Planting and care of a Schlumbergeraa

  • Flowering: in winter, in December-January.
  • Lighting: bright diffused light or light shade (east or west windows, the southern window should be shaded in the afternoon hours).
  • Temperature: The possible range is 18 to 40 ˚C, but in summer the plant is comfortable at 18-22 ˚C, in winter at 14-16 ˚C.
  • Watering will be moderate, after the substrate has dried to a depth of 1-3 cm.
  • Humidity: high. Regular spraying up to several times a week in summer and 1-2 times a month in winter is recommended.
  • Fertilizing: from March to September 1 time in two weeks by a complex mineral fertilizer for cacti.
  • Dormancy period: October to November.
  • Repotting: young plants are transplanted every 3 years, adults once every 5-6 years.
  • Pruning: the crown is given a shape by plucking off unnecessary segments by hand.
  • Propagation: vegetative (by grafting or cuttings).
  • Pests: scale mites, spider mites, mealybugs.
  • Diseases: phytophthora, phytium, fusarium, damage by Erwinia bacteria.
Read more about growing Decembrist below

It is hard to believe, but in nature there are cacti that love water, are afraid of the sun and do not have prickles, and they are called decacabrists (lat. Schlumbergera), or slumbergers, or zygocactus. They belong to a genus of South American epiphytic cacti that grow in tropical forests on tree branches. Why are they called Decembrists? Because they begin to bloom at the height of the tropical summer – in November and December, and finish in late January. In our latitudes zygocactus was brought collector Allan Cunningham in 1816.

Flower Features

All plants have peculiarities. The main feature of the Decembrist is that it blooms when other flowers are resting. But it also has other qualities that distinguish it from all the other inhabitants of your windowsill.

  • Firstly, Decembrist is uncomfortable on southern and western window sills, because intense light can cause the dying off of the final segments of the plant’s shoots.
  • Secondly, in summertime the Decembrist needs fresh air like no other indoor plant: a shady place on a balcony, loggia or terrace will do.
  • Thirdly, in summer the Decembrist likes to take a shower, but if this is not possible, at least sprinkle it from time to time.
  • Fourthly, with good care Decembrist can congratulate you on New Year’s Day for about 15-20 years.
  • Fifth, Decembrist flower is just those capricious plants, which can not be disturbed at the moment of flowering – move it from place to place and even turn the pot with the plant.
  • Sixthly, it can be grown as a common plant or as an ampelagic plant.

You will gradually learn about the rest of the features in the following sections of the article.

Caring for the Decemberisth at home

Care rules

Agronomy zygocactus Schlumbergeraa is directly opposite to the agronomy of cacti proper, their requirements for the most part coincide with the growing conditions of ordinary, deciduous indoor plants.

If you can forget to water the cactus, and it does not suffer much, then the Decembrist needs regular watering with cooled water and high air humidity, which is achieved by regular sprinkling or placing a pot with Decembrist on the pallet with wet pebbles. Cacti perfectly tolerate the sun, but the Schlumbergera suffers from direct sunlight and requires shading.

As for the air temperature, the Schlumbergera in this matter is not capricious. Since March the Decembrist needs monthly feeding with complex fertilizer for flowers, but the dose should be taken twice less than suggested by manufacturers. In summer, when the intensive growth of the stems, feed the plant twice a month, and from September fertilization to stop. The plant can also benefit from preventive fungicide treatment.

Home Decembrist-3 In the photo: Young Schlumbergera on the windowsill

How to prune

Schlumbergera pruning is made in June, and the excess part of the shoots is not cut off, and twisted by hand, giving the plant a beautiful shape, shortening the shoots that grow incorrectly. Plants shaped in this way have an attractive appearance and bloom more abundantly.

About another winter-flowering flower – Christmas star

How to transplant

Transplanting Schlumbergeraa is done after flowering, at the very end of February. Young plants are transplanted annually, adults – once every 4-5 years. The pot for the plant choose a wide and not high, as the root system in the decembrist superficial. Drainage layer should fill the pot by a third. As for the soil, the store soil for cacti is suitable.

You can make soil yourself: mix one part of sod soil and sand and two parts of leaf soil, for disinfection add crushed charcoal, and for better water permeability – brick crumbs or expanded clay. Soil for Decembrist should be slightly acidic.

Propagation of the Decembrist

The answer to the question “how to propagate a Schlumbergera?” is very simple: vegetatively, by cuttings. From the shoot unscrew 2-3 outermost “links”, dry them a few days, then planted in moist soil and covered with a glass jar or plastic bottle to create a greenhouse effect. The container is placed in the shade and ventilated regularly. The optimum temperature for rooting Schlumbergeraa cuttings is 15-20 ºC. Often propagate Christmas tree at home immediately after its pruning, because as a result of the formation of the bush remains ready material for cuttings.

Propagating the Decembrist at home-5 In the photo: Rooting cuttings of Schlumbergeraa

Pests and diseases

Annoying Schlumbergeraa fungal diseases and insects. Fusarium, phytium and phytophthora – fungal diseases, the causative agents of which penetrate into the plant from infected soil, and first of all, the root neck of the plant suffers from them. As a result, the flower becomes pale, gray, loses segments and withers in moist soil.

Fusarium is treated with fungicides, and phytium and phytophthora – with the preparations Maxim, Topaz, Vitaros.

The decembrist is turning yellow-6

If the plant is covered with a rusty plaque, then, most likely, it was affected by spider mite – small point insects of brown, yellow or reddish color, which appear on the plant in conditions of insufficient air humidity. Aktellik, Fitoverm or Neoron will help to get rid of the mite.

Suddenly appeared between the shoots whitish lumps that look like absorbent cotton – traces of powdery worms, which can be neutralized with Actara.

Why does the Schlumbergera wilt?

Schlumbergera withers, as we have already found out, if it has fallen ill with phytophthora or phytium. Another cause of leaf wilt can be a root disease. If the plant has lost stability and its trunk is swaying, it is possible that the roots of the plant died from overcooling as a result of watering with cold water in a cool room or, conversely, from overheating the vase in the sun.

Could burn the roots of the decembrist and too strong a concentration of fertilizer. In this case, the plant should be immediately transplanted to another substrate, because the old one is impregnated with concentrated fertilizer, which continues to destroy the roots.

Why the Schlumbergera doesn’t bloom

The Schlumbergera should feel when it is time to bloom. To do this, he needs to provide a full dormant period: from late September to late November, reduce watering and stop feeding the plant, placing it in an unheated room.

Now remember how to make the Schlumbergera bloom: move the flower to a bright warm place and start watering, thus helping the Schlumbergera to wake up. Rotate the plant around its axis to get even light on all sides of the flower. As soon as the buds start to form, make sure that the substrate in the pot does not dry out and that no one at home moves or turns your flower anymore, otherwise the plant may panic and drop its buds.

If you follow these rules, your Schlumbergera will surely bloom.

Decembrist does not bloom-7

Why does it fall off?

Sometimes, it would seem, for absolutely no reason, leaves fall off in the decembrist. But nothing just happens. Let’s try to figure it out.

It is known that the cause of “leaf fall” can be a spider mite, and you already know how to get rid of it. If you do not find the pest, the likely cause may be a lack of nutrients (irregular feeding, depleted substrate). Try spraying a solution of epiphytic cactus fertilizer on Schlumbergera once or twice or apply it under the root and you will see how quickly the plant regains its strength. If it doesn’t help, change the soil.

The cause of end segments falling off can be too dry air or stress the plant has undergone – a sudden change in temperature, a change in environment, a draft or a mistimed transplant.

Blooming Decembrist-8 Pictured: Flowering Decembrist

A window decanter after flowering

When the Decembrist blooms, begin to gradually reduce watering, placing the plant in a cool place where it will remain until the end of March, resting after flowering. In late March, the Decembrist begins its growing season, so move the flower to its usual spot, gradually increase watering, and start fertilizing the plant.


Why doesn’t the Schlumbergera bloom?

The reason for the problem may be too large a container, and the plant will not bloom until its roots have mastered the entire space of the pot. Sometimes the Schlumbergera refuses to bloom because the soil is not suitable for it. But usually the lack of flowering means that the plant is not given the right conditions to rest.

In late September, move the Schlumbergera to a cooler room, gradually reduce watering until it stops altogether, and do not apply any fertilizer. In late November, return the plant to its usual location and gradually resume its normal moisture regime.

The pot with the plant should be slightly rotated around its axis every day so that all shoots receive the same amount of light and develop evenly. But as soon as the buds start to form, the plant should not be moved or turned, otherwise the decabrist will drop the buds.

Keep the soil in the pot slightly moist. If you do everything correctly, the Schlumbergera will surely bloom.

What causes white spots on a Schlumbergera?

White spots on the cockles of a decembrist can appear from watering the plant with too cold water. Do not forget that indoor flowers need to be watered with tap water at room temperature, and some plants require even slightly heated water.

White spots can appear on Schlumbergera leaves in winter if you have too thick curtains on the windows, which do not allow room heat to the plant standing on a cold window sill. Move it to a warmer place, water it with a solution of Epin and it will gradually warm up. While the slumberberry is recovering, watering should be sparingly. And so that in the future the Decembrist roots did not freeze, put a circle of Styrofoam under the pot.

For white spots can be mistaken for mealybugs, from which you can get rid of using insecticide, but first you should remove the pests from the leaves with a cotton swab, wash the Schlumbergera with warm water and let it dry.

The Schlumbergera does not grow – why?

The Schlumbergera in general grows for a long time, and if you have created all the necessary conditions for it, and it is in no hurry to develop, you should not worry. Schlumbergera likes cool air, so place it under a window, so that when airing the plant streams fresh air from the street, but there should be no drafts in the room.

Decembrist growth can be stimulated by warm showers: wash the plant with warm, tap water once a week and the result will not be long in coming. Ensure that the plant in the pot does not dry out the soil, and make timely fertilization.

Do not keep Decembrist in the kitchen: the temperature in this room changes frequently, and the plant is badly affected by this instability. And do not forget about regular transplanting: young Decembrists need to change the container and substrate once a year, and adults – once every five years. This plant needs a pot not high, but wide, because its root system is superficial.

How to prune a sprawling Schlumbergera?

To make the Schlumbergera look attractive, it should be trimmed, and this should be done in the first spring month, when the plant enters the period of active growth. It can be done at other times as well, but not earlier than one month after flowering: cutting it during the formation of buds and flowers will lead to the fact that the Decembrist will drop them and will not bloom in the current year.

Pruning not only makes the Decembrist look well-groomed, but also stimulates abundant flowering and prolongs the plant’s life. Actually, this process, even though it is called pruning, is actually done manually: you simply pluck off the segments that seem unnecessary by hand. Using any sharp tool can damage the plant.

Hold down the lower segment with one hand and with the other, turn the upper segment clockwise until it detaches. The segments remaining after pruning can be used for propagation.

How often should I transplant a Schlumbergera?

Transplanting a Schlumbergera is a mandatory procedure that prolongs the plant’s life. Young Decembrists should be transplanted every year, and from the age of four years – once every four years. If the plant is not transplanted in due time, it will start to wither and wither, and as a result it will wither away.

The best time to transplant is in the spring, when the plant is in its active growth phase. Keep an eye on the plant and as soon as the young segments start to appear, you can start transplanting.

The pot for the Decembrist should not be deep, because the roots of this plant are shallow, but the container should be stable and wide enough. Drainage material should occupy at least one third of the volume of the pot. As a substrate, store soil for cacti will do, but you can make a soil mixture of your own hand from equal parts of leaf soil, sand, sod soil, adding to it a quarter of the humus.

Why does the Decembrist drop its buds?

It usually happens if the pot with the flower in the period of bud formation is turned or moved from place to place. Moving the plant at this time is not allowed. But sometimes the loss of buds is caused by the wrong location or improper conditions.

Remember: The best place for a winter cactus is an east window, but if your windows face west or south, make sure to shade the Schlumbergera with a curtain from bright sunlight, because you are dealing with a forest cactus that prefers diffused light.

Do not expose the Schlumbergera to sudden temperature changes and do not keep it in a draught. Let it rest in a cool place at 12-16 ⁰C. During the active growth period the plant is comfortable at 18-24 ⁰C, and when flowering starts it should be lowered to 18-20 ⁰C. Heat is not good for flowering of the Decembrist, so in winter protect it from hot air coming from heaters.

How to water and fertilize the Decembrist to make it bloom?

From November to February the ground should be moistened weekly, so abundantly that the clod soaked through with moisture. Actually, the frequency of watering depends on the keeping conditions: in a warm room watering will be more frequent, and in cool wintering the soil dries out much slower. Watering is carried out when the substrate in the pot dries to two-thirds of the depth, and the shoots of the plant begin to wrinkle. Water should be no colder than room temperature, and stand it for at least one day.

As soon as the buds begin to form, apply fertilizer to the soil at intervals of once every 2-3 weeks, but be careful: it is better not to fertilize the Schlumbergera at all than to overfeed.

For abundant flowering, slumberberries need calcium and phosphorus. The best choice is a fertilizer for flowering plants or a complex for cacti and succulents. Occasionally water the soil with a solution of 1 teaspoon of castor oil in 1 liter of water.

Decembrist has sluggish leaves – what to do?

The reasons for this unpleasant phenomenon can be: the plant is affected by a disease or its roots die for any reason. Of the diseases, the most dangerous are fusariosis, phytophthorosis and phytium. These fungal infections interfere with the supply of moisture to the leaves of the Decembrist, which causes them to become sluggish and soft.

Pay attention to the root neck of the plant and if you find damage, start treatment immediately. If the pathology has not yet had time to affect the roots, the plant can be saved with Fitosporin-M, Maxim, Topaz or Skor. But if the soil is infected with the fungus, the plant will have to be transplanted. When replanting, pay attention to the roots and get rid of rotting areas.

If the wilting of the leaves is caused by the death of the roots, transplanting the plant will not save it. The only thing you can do is to cut the decabrist and grow a new plant from its segments: even sluggish members of slumberers can easily root.

Is it possible to grow a decabrist from a nearly wilted leaf?

Propagation of a Schlumbergeraa by segments is the easiest, therefore the most popular way. Even a wilted stem segment is good for this. There have been cases when successfully rooted a dried up segment stuck in the bag.

Separate the segment for propagation when the decabrist is not flowering, otherwise the plant may behave like in a stressful situation: it will start to drop flowers and buds. Before planting, the cuttings should lie in a dark place for two days.

It is still desirable that the cuttings consist of 2-3 segments: with longer cuttings it is inconvenient to work. Part of the stem is planted in loose peat-based soil, the pH of which should be between 5-6.5 units. As a container, you can use a plastic cup or pot of up to 200 ml. The pot should have drainage holes.

Sprinkle a layer of perlite, expanded clay or other drainage material on the bottom of the cup, fill the container with substrate and stick the cuttings into it.

Is the Schlumbergera dangerous for pets and children?

Schlumbergera is not a poisonous plant, so it is not dangerous for children. But pets who chew on the plant’s leaves can get throat edema or digestive distress, and people with asthma can have trouble breathing.

Neither official nor traditional medicine has found any medicinal properties in the Decembrist, but it cleans the air from harmful chemicals that are emitted by plastic and synthetic interior decoration items and saturates the room with oxygen. In addition, decabrist absorbs electromagnetic radiation.

This plant is just meant for a psychologist’s office: it causes people’s desire to communicate and share secret things. Astrologers say that zygocactus is able to quench aggression and helps to get rid of bad intentions. However, it is not recommended for women to keep this flower in the house, because there is an opinion that it belongs to the category of “muzhegons”.

How to divide the Schlumbergera plant?

Usually, the Schlumbergera multiply by cuttings, but the overgrown bush can be divided into parts and at once get at least two adult plants. The division is carried out simultaneously with transplanting or at any time after the end of the flowering period, but the best season for this procedure – spring.

Remove the Decembrist from the pot, remove old and flabby shoots, carefully untangle the roots, cut the rhizome with a sharp sterile knife, sprinkle the cuts with charcoal powder and plant the dividers in different pots with fresh loose soil.

Sometimes when the rhizome is exposed you will find rotten areas on the rhizome. Carefully cut out the rotten areas, taking in the healthy tissue, treat the wounds with a solution of fungicide or potassium permanganate and only then divide the root and plant the dividers.

It is likely that after this painful procedure, Schlumbergeras will be sick for some time, but eventually they will adapt and begin to develop.

How to recover a frozen Schlumbergera?

The Decembrist is a tropical plant, so prolonged exposure to temperatures of 16 ⁰C and below can lead to irreversible consequences. If the twigs of a frozen Decembrist have not yet become watery, it is possible to save it, but in this case it is very important not to change it too drastically, otherwise you will damage it even more.

Put the Decembrist in a bright room, where the temperature does not rise above 18 ⁰C and avoid drafts. Provide bright, diffused light and spray with a solution of Epin, but do not water the plant under any circumstances. Over time, the Schlumbergera will revive, and fresh segments and then buds will begin to appear on it.

But if the plant’s roots have had time to die from the cold, try to save it by rooting cuttings separated from the stems with a length of 2-3 segments. You can either root the segments in water (they will take two weeks to put down roots) or directly in potting soil for cacti and succulents.


  1. Read about the subject on Wikipedia
  2. Features and other plants of the Cactus family
  3. All Species List at The Plant List
  4. More information at World Flora Online