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The Christmas Cactus Businessby Mary Jasch
Have any luck finding hot new Christmas cactus just off the breeding assembly line?
But some companies are secretive about what’s new, exactly what and how many they grow – and even deny they are experts. "It’s because they don’t want the whole world growing Schlumergera," chuckles Peckett. “But don’t worry. The whole world ain’t growing them because they take too long, there’s too much labor and most of the people that are growing spring crops and other things up north don’t want to grow Christmas cactus. There must be 10,000% more poinsettias grown that Christmas cactus. It’s just a small, little, niche market and not that many people want to mess with it, so it’s good for us.”
In Florida, Peckett tells people that after blooming, put the plant out under a shade tree “and never even look at it again until next December. Don’t even water it. It’ll wilt and it’ll turn purple and when it rains it’ll get better again and the next thing people go out there and go, ‘Golly, the crazy thing is starting to flower’ and they get very excited, which is great. I wish we could get more people excited about gardening in general.”
So what is the Schlumbergera forecast?
“It’s never going to be a huge, huge thing but it’s got a little place in the marketplace. You have lots of colors. We’re not sophisticated yet enough to say this or that variety (like where you’ve got a little club and last year you had a yellow one and this year you’ll get a pink one). They do that in Europe where you have collectors and oddball things but that’s a hobbyist market. That market’s not as intentionally large as (I don’t like to say) the mass market, but that’s where the market is.”
Anyone seen any upright flowers? They were from Cobia’s collectors series.
What are Peckett’s favorites? If he names a variety, he says it won’t make a difference to me. He’s right. “I like the yellows and some of the new reds. We label them by colors but we don’t label them by variety anymore because it was becoming too much of a headache for people.”
Want to grow Schlumbergera as a house plant year round? Put it outside in the shade after frost and only water if it doesn’t rain for a while. Schlumbergera sets bud at about 40 degrees, so leave it outside until just before frost.
Says Peckett: “Although you won’t see it, feel the bud on the end inside the leaf. If you bring it in in October, it’s already initiated so it’ll continue to grow and bloom. This plant is so durable, you can take a leaf section (that’s how we propagate it) and stick it in the soil in spring and summer. You can twist it off and throw it on the ground and it’ll lay there for months an then it’ll bloom. It’s an extremely interesting plant in that regard.”
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