Guest Author - Lisa Beth Voldeck
Though often thought to be the same plant as the Christmas Cactus, the Easter or Spring Cactus is actually a different plant all-together…or rather, two plants. Rhipsalidopsis gaertneri and Rhipsalidopsis rosea resemble the Schlumbergera very closely; in fact, they are often considered to be just different words for the same plant. Easter Cactus has flowers that are more brightly colored and open more fully, similar to a daisy…just the ticket for a big spring splash!
Easter Cactus is one of those wonderful flowering houseplants that doesn’t need that full sun that is so difficult to get. Protect your Easter Cactus from direct sun at midday and in the early evening with a sheer curtain or by placing it near another plant that will break the light up somewhat. Full morning or late-day sun is great. The more hours of sun throughout the day you can provide the better your plant will perform. If it is difficult to get your Easter Cactus into sun try instead to give it plenty of bright diffuse light. This can be done by keeping the plant on a windowsill facing north for those in the United States and Europe: a southern windowsill will provide the same effect for Easter Cacti in Australia.
Just like Schlumbergera, Rhipsalidopsis are epiphytic. If you are not familiar with the term “epiphyte”, it simply means that the plant grows up in a tree instead of in the soil. Pretty wild, isn’t it? It is important to understand how these plants grow as epiphytes in order to provide them with the conditions they are best suited to in your home.
Like most epiphytes, Easter Cacti are accustomed to getting lots of moisture…but that moisture really can’t stay long. Using a ready-made cactus potting mix is incredibly helpful. You’ll want to make sure that your plant is getting moisture constantly but that it’s never sitting in water. Watering when the mix feels dry to about an inch down should be very safe.
While your Easter Cactus is in bloom it will not require any fertilization. However, to keep your plant healthy through the rest of the year, you should begin a regular fertilization regimen when the flowers begin to fade. A water soluble fertilizer works best and should be used at every other watering.
The Easter Cactus is very easy to propagate; simply take a segment of the plant and place it in the medium you wish to grow it in. Keep the humidity high until you see new growth appear.