Monday, October 26, 2009

Random plant event: Schlumbergera flower buds

This isn't really a random plant event, I suppose, since this supposed to happen at this time of year. I kind of knew this, but I also had thought that one had to do specific inconvenient things to the plants to get them to set buds. Like, at the very least, you needed to have them outside so they could be exposed to some cold (but not too cold!) at the right time of year, or start fertilizing (or was it stop fertilizing?) at some critical moment, or whatever.

My point being that they've always sounded kind of intimidatingly complex, and whenever somebody's asked about them on Garden Web or something they always get several pages of detailed instructions back, which I try to follow and commit to memory but it's hard. I can't keep straight all the things that are supposed to be wet and dry and fertilized and not fertilized before and after they bloom, and which things need short days and long days and cold and heat and so forth. (UPDATE: The results of my research into the whole wet/dry/fed/starved/long-day/short-day thing can now be found at the Schlumbergera truncata cvv. profile, here.)

And none of this is even that important to me in the first place! I like the flowers, but I wasn't about to make a big deal out of trying to get mine to bloom, because I like the overall shape of the plants just fine when they're not blooming. Two of the three of these are just cuttings (one via Garden Web trade, the other just scavenging some segments that got knocked off some plants at work last year) in the first place, and have no business wasting their time on blooming anyway. But here they go anyway, buds all over, even on plants that were just cuttings less than a year ago, without even trying.

The new plant room may have something to do with this: it gets only natural light (for the time being), and it's cooler than the rest of the house, so temperature and day length are sort of covered for me automatically, and maybe that's why it worked out so well this year and it didn't work very consistently in the apartment.

This might also be a good occasion to publicly give up on trying to determine whether Schlumbergera or Zygocactus is the correct genus for this plant. Everybody seems to have a theory on the nomenclature that they're really, really, dedicated to, the four leading theories being:

  • They're all Schlumbergera.
  • They're all Zygocactus.
  • Some are Schlumbergera and others are Zygocactus, and you can tell which is which according to the shape of the stem segments. (Zygocactus segments are sharp and angular, and Schlumbergera segments have rounded, scalloped edges.)
  • Some are Schlumbergera and others are Zygocactus, and you can tell which is which according to when they flower. (Schlumbergera flower around Christmas; Zygocactus flower around [U.S.] Thanksgiving.)

After being a member of the first three camps, at various points, I've decided to go with the first group and call them all Schlumbergera. Not because I have any principled reason for doing so: it's more that I'm tired of reading conflicting stuff about which is correct so I just want to pick one and be done with it. Also I want to call them all the same name whether they are or not, because otherwise I might not even be able to talk about them until I've seen them bloom, which would be massively inconvenient for me. Finally, given a choice between the two words, I go with Schlumbergera, because Schlumbergera is a more amusing word to me than Zygocactus.

So that's my decision on the matter. If everybody else manages to reach a consensus on this sometime, let me know and I'll be happy to change.


James said...

I've one of these plants (not even going to go near the naming debate) that's managed to stay in my family for several generations as pieces get broken off and rooted, and potted.

Congratulations on your effortless flowering, flowers looks like they'll be gorgeous when they open. And thanks for letting me know there's a whole regime to follow to encourage blooming. Since it's the only plant I've got in my apartment right now, I have plenty of time to lavish lots of attention on it.

Ivynettle said...

I never know how to get them to flower, either - keep them cool, keep them dry, short days, every source says something different. I've decided to just give up trying to get them to flower for now, because I have no place that's cooler than my room, and no place that doesn't have artificial light for half the night (unless I lock it in my wardrobe every evening).

The Dictionary of Plant Names says Zygocactus is obsolete, and Schlumbergera is the correct name, so I'm with you in the naming debate.

lynn'sgarden said...

Awesome to have buds on your young plants~especially without trying!

I too have trouble with the light/water requirements so only keep small manageable 4" pots that I can move about though no buds yet.
A friend who has a 10-yr old dark, dark red schlumbergera~amazing!

our friend Ben said...

Mine all bloom without any help from me, too, Mr. S. I agree (under the circumstances) that it must be daylength-related and perhaps temp-related, too, since we keep a cool house in fall and winter of necessity, but even the plants in the greenhouse set buds and flower religiously, and it still heats up during the day even if it drops to 50-55 at night. So nice when any plant does what it's meant to do without additional effort! Btw, I always liked the name Zygocactus, but agree that Schlumbergera seems to be holding sway. At least for now...

CelticRose said...

There are always continuing debates about the proper nomenclature for various cacti. As long as everybody understands which plant you're talking about, don't sweat it too much.

One thing I've always heard about these plants is that once they've got flower buds you mustn't move them, otherwise they'll drop all the buds.

Looking forward to the pictures of the flowers. :-)

Diane said...

Mine blooms every year without me doing a thing to it, too. It lives in an eastern window and our house is pretty drafty so if there's a day length or temp. trigger, Junior is receiving it. I meant to transplant it this summer and forgot, and now I have to wait until it's finished blooming.

Susan Tomlinson said...

I think Zygocactus is a funnier name--for some reason it seems more science-fictiony to me. Reminds me of something that might show up on the old Doctor Who series.

Strange how our brains make weird connections...