Zygocactus come in many colours and put on one of the most striking floral displays of any plant. Just when you think the gloom of winter is upon you the zygocactus burst into colour to immediately lift everyone's spirits!
Their botanical name is Schlumbergera which is a bit of a mouthful so most people keep it simple and just call them zygos. They originated in the mountains of Brazil where they grow as epiphytes in trees. Because of this they do well in pots and hanging baskets and love cool, humid conditions. Their brilliant flowers come in many shades of pink and lavender but also hot orange, salmon and white. You’ll find the hardest thing about growing zygocactus is choosing which colour!
How To Grow Zygocactus
Zygos are easy to grow plants as long as you get a few things right. As epiphytes they need good drainage and grow better in pots or hanging baskets rather than in the ground. You can often get away with using normal potting mix but ideally a cacti or orchid potting mix is better because they have extra drainage. This is especially important if they'll be outdoors in a region which gets heavy rainfall or you tend to over water things a bit.
Zygos can be grown just about anywhere in Australia in dappled or bright shade. In frosty areas they will need some winter protection eg in a shadehouse, up on the verandah or even indoors. Winter flowering is triggered by shortening daylight hours so indoor plants will need darkness at night to avoid affecting the flowering period.
Zygocactus stems are fairly brittle and easily break off so choose a location that is protected from strong winds or being knocked about by people and pets.
Even though they are a succulent they will grow better if watered more regularly than other succulents. Basically water them as often as your normal pot plants and provided the potting mix has good drainage all will be well. Don’t let them sit in saucers of water.
New plants once potted up should be watered with OCP eco-seaweed to help settle them in.
Plants naturally form a nice shape however in spring you can lightly prune them by pinching off the end segment on each stem. This will encourage the stem to branch and as flowers develop at the ends of branches, you'll end up with more flowers next season.
Propagation of Zygocactus
Zygos are incredibly easy to grow from cuttings which is good news if your plant accidentally gets knocked around. All those pieces which break off will make perfect cuttings!
Ideally your cutting should be about four segments long but smaller pieces will still work. Remove any buds/flowers and leave the cutting to dry out for a few days before potting up. Several cuttings can be potted up in one pot but just make sure the potting mix is free draining. Then apply OCP eco-seaweed every 1-2 weeks to encourage root development.
After a few months you'll see new growth appear which is a sign good roots have formed and your cutting is now a new plant. Cuttings grown together can now be divided and individually potted up.
Pests and Diseases of Zygocactus
Well grown zygos tend to be trouble free. This primarily means giving them good drainage and correct watering. If your plant develops stem/root rot or strange markings/spots on the leaves then it's a clear indication of over watering. Reduce watering and/or repot with a potting mix that has better drainage. Adding OCP eco-seaweed when you water will also strengthen the plant against further rots. Plants with bad root or stem rot may be too far gone to save so instead take healthy cuttings before discarding the main plant.
Scale is another sap sucking pest to look out for on stressed plants. Treat with an organic oil spray.