The Easter cactus was bred between two species of the genus Hatiora. Hatiora gaertneri and Hatiora rosea served as parent plants for this popular ornamental plant with the Latin name Hatiora x graeseri.
- What is the ideal location for the Easter cactus?
- Is the Easter Cactus Poisonous?
- Help, my Easter cactus is losing leaves!
Both species originally come from Brazil, where they can be found in Paraná, Santa Catarina and Rio Grande do Sul. The cactus plants thrive at altitudes between 350 and 2,000 meters. They shape the vegetation of the cloud forest. Hatiora gaertneri is often cultivated in one species and is also offered as an Easter cactus by many specialist dealers.
Easter cacti develop several upright to pendulous main shoots that branch out richly. This growth creates a bush-like shape. The shoots are made up of numerous links that appear flat or three to six-sided in cross-section. Fresh limbs are initially colored red. They turn dark green with age. The shoot segments grow between two and seven centimeters long. Its edge is notched.
Hatiora x graeseri develops wide, funnel-shaped or bell-shaped single flowers that are between three and five centimeters long. Their petals are fused into a short tube in the lower part and spread out in a star shape at the top. The flowers arise at the tips of the individual shoot segments and sit together individually or in groups in small groups.
The flowers open during the day to attract insects with their bright colors. The color palette ranges from red to pink to orange, yellow and white. The red tones are pronounced in all conceivable nuances from dark to light. The focus of breeding is on color and abundance of flowers. There are varieties with strikingly large flowers or lush flowers.
The cactus plants orient their flower development to environmental influences. A resting phase is necessary so that the plants are stimulated to bloom. While rainy and dry seasons influence the growing season in natural habitats, you can orientate yourself to the seasons when cultivating at home.
In the winter months, fertilizers and watering units are stopped so that the plant slows down its metabolism. In the next spring, the plants are encouraged to grow and bloom by more frequent watering and nutrients.
After the resting phase, the plants orient themselves to the available daylight before they bloom. The short-day plants develop flower buds if the amount of light does not exceed ten hours per day. Plants offered in stores are cared for accordingly so that they bloom in time for Easter.
After the flowers have wilted, Easter cacti develop yellowish or red fruits. They appear elongated or spherical and can be flattened. The bare fruit shell encloses several black to brownish seeds.
From an evolutionary point of view, the Easter cactus is special because it does not develop typical leaves. Its foliage is strongly reduced and no longer visible. The plants have continuously minimized the leaf size in order to reduce the evaporation area. This adaptation was necessary so that the cacti could enjoy a growth advantage in their habitats. You lose less water in dry periods.
Easter cacti form so-called areoles. They are remodeled and strongly compressed short shoots that appear as felt-like cushions. These structures arise instead of the leaves in the leaf axils. They sit along the segment edges and at the tip of the shoot and are covered with fine yellowish-brown bristles. New segments or flowers develop from the areoles at the tip of older shoots, because they have a divisible tissue.
Function of the areoles:
- Thorns protect against predators
- Leafless shoots evaporate less water
- sleeping buds
Easter cacti are grown as indoor plants. They decorate standing buckets or hanging pots in living rooms. In the bedroom, the cacti not only take on optical functions. Its air-purifying properties have a positive effect on the indoor climate. The characteristic shape is an eye-catcher in every room. The exotic plant feels at home in the bathroom, because there is high humidity here.
The plant thrives in greenhouses and winter gardens. During the summer months, the Easter cactus likes to spend its time outdoors in a sheltered and sunny location. In this way, the plant decorates balconies, terraces and house entrances.
Is Easter Cactus Poisonous?
The plants of the genus Hatiora including the Easter cactus are not poisonous. Therefore, the plant is particularly suitable for the children's room or households in which pets live. There is no risk of poisoning for birds, dogs, cats or rabbits. You should note that budgies or cockatiels can quickly destroy the flowers of the Easter cactus if they inspect the plants out of their curiosity.
Which location is suitable?
Hatiora hybrids prefer a partially shaded location with bright conditions between May and October. The plants like a place where the sun shines in the morning and in the evening. The cactus plant can withstand full sun, provided the pot is not directly behind the window pane. If your Easter cactus grows on the south window, there should be at least 50 centimeters between the disc and the plant. The shoots turn red in the sun.
The Easter cactus can be put outside from spring to autumn. Place the plant in a protected spot in partial shade. As soon as the temperatures drop below ten degrees Celsius at night, you should bring the cactus in.
What soil does the plant need?
The plants need a well-drained substrate with a pH value below seven. You can put together a mixture yourself and create a coarse-grained soil in this way. Commercially available flower or cactus soil is suitable as a base. Alternatively, you can use peat-free tomato soil. Sand, perlite, clay granules or kieselguhr are used for greater permeability.
The perfect mix:
- two to three parts of earth
- part of sand
- a part of clay granules
When your Easter cactus blooms, you can use a brush to pollinate the blooms. Wipe off the stamens with a fine brush and spread the pollen on a stigma. Self-pollination within a flower is possible. Ideally, the genome of the seeds comes from two different plants. It can take up to six months before the fruit is ripe and ready to be harvested.
Remove the seeds from the fruit and let them air dry for a few days. Scatter the seeds on a moist growing substrate (9.05 € at Amazon *) and cover the planter with a transparent foil. This ensures a constant temperature and high humidity. Place the vessel in a bright place where the temperature is between 22 and 26 degrees Celsius. After three weeks the seeds will germinate. If the young plants are two to three centimeters high, they should be slowly accustomed to room temperature.
Cuttings allow the Easter cacti to multiply successfully and easily. Cut shoots from a fully grown specimen. The cutting should be between ten and six inches long and have three to four limbs. Make sure that the conductor tracks in the segments are not crushed. With a sharp knife you can achieve a clean cut.
Allow the cut to air dry for three to four days before sticking the cutting in substrate. Use a sandy-humic substrate consisting of two parts of potting soil and one part of sand. Keep the substrate evenly moist. Place the cutting in a bright place without direct sunlight. At temperatures between 22 and 25 degrees Celsius, it takes four to five weeks for the first roots to emerge.
Alternatively, you can place the cutting in a water-filled glass vessel with a water level between three and four centimeters. To prevent rot, the water should be changed regularly.
In the greenhouse
A heated greenhouse provides optimal conditions for the Easter cactus. You can adjust the temperature at any time to suit the needs of the plant. A high level of humidity is guaranteed in the greenhouse so that the number of casting units is reduced. A space-saving cold frame is an alternative. Milk discs ensure diffuse lighting conditions and protect against the sun. The box should still not be in the blazing sun.
Watering the Easter cactus
Outside of the resting phase, the Easter cactus needs an evenly moist substrate. The sensitive roots do not tolerate waterlogging. Make sure that no excess water remains in the coaster after the casting units. The upper layer of soil is allowed to dry out between watering.
How often you need to water the Easter cactus depends on the temperature, the age of the plant and the size of the container. In midsummer you should check the substrate more often so that the root ball does not dry out completely. Adult specimens have a higher water requirement than young plants. The moisture is used up faster in smaller pots than in large pots.
Cut the Easter cactus correctly
Regular pruning is not necessary to maintain the vitality of the plant. You can trim the Easter cactus if its shoots grow too long. Pruning measures should be carried out after the flowering period. Otherwise there is a risk that the plant will shed flowers and buds. Use a clean and sharp knife to avoid damaging the links. Cut off shoots can be used for rejuvenation.
Fertilize the Easter cactus properly
If you let your Easter cactus rest during the winter months, fertilization will start from April. Give the plant some liquid fertilizer over the irrigation water every month. If you bought the cactus or repotted it, it will not need fertilization in the same year.
The Easter cactus can be planted in a larger container every two to three years. If the ornamental plant is not to get any bigger, you can do without a larger tub and just change the substrate. Make sure that the pot has a drain hole. Pottery shards or stones are spread on the bottom of the pot as drainage. Since the shoot segments break off easily, you should handle the plant at the base.
The Easter cactus hibernates from November in a bright place where the temperature is ten degrees Celsius. Slightly higher temperatures don't cause him any problems. During this time, limit the amount of water you give. The nutrient supply is stopped. The winter dormancy ends with the bud formation. At this point the Easter cactus is slowly getting used to higher temperatures.
The most common pests on Easter cacti include scale insects, spider mites and mealybugs. They prefer to reproduce on plants that are above the heater during the winter months. A change of location is the first measure. Remove the pests with the help of a sharp jet of water or by carefully wiping them with a cloth. The shoots can be sprayed with oil-based agents so that lice and mites are killed by the fine oil film.
If the roots rot in too wet a substrate, fungi can spread. The spores colonize rotten plant parts and encourage further putrefaction processes. As a result, the nutrient and water balance of the plant is imbalanced, so that flowers and buds fall off or shoots wither. They shrink and turn yellow.
As a preventive measure, you should make sure that the substrate does not get too wet. Root rot is common during overwintering. As soon as damage appears, you should check the plant for root damage and place it in dry substrate.
Easter cactus does not bloom
After you've bought yourself a flowering Easter cactus in spring, care is important to maintain the special flowering time. You can influence the flower development yourself by checking the amount of light around two to three months before the desired flowering time. Make sure that the plant does not get more than ten hours of light per day during this time. Put a box over the plant when the number of hours has been reached. The next morning the box is removed for the next ten hours.
If the cactus is to bloom in time for Easter, the months between late autumn and the end of winter are recommended as a resting phase. The break should last six to eight weeks. Maintenance measures are reduced during this time. The Easter cactus spends time in a cool and bright place with a temperature of ten degrees Celsius.
As soon as the first buds appear, the location must not be changed, otherwise the Easter cactus will shed its flowers. During the opening of the flowers, the temperature should not rise above 23 degrees Celsius. The ornamental plant is given a second resting period immediately after flowering.
Each plant prefers a different direction. With the Easter cactus you can decorate window sills facing east or west. Spurge plants are suitable for windows facing south and the African dragon tree feels particularly at home on the north window.
- Hatiora salicornioides: sparsely branched shrub with rounded shoot segments, woody. Flowers yellow. Up to 100 centimeters high.
- Hatiora epiphylloides: epiphytic growing species with sulfur-yellow flowers. Shoot segments short, up to three centimeters.
- Hatiora herminiae: forked, branched habit. Flowers pink to magenta in color. Growth height up to 30 centimeters.