Easter cactus (Hatiora gaertneri) is an ornamental, flowering, succulent, jointed, spine-free cactus. The stems are made up of segments, most of which are flattened and which are the photosynthetic organs of the plant. Younger segments are dullish green, 2 – 4 inches long and 2 – 2.5 cm wide, with small notches on the margins. Structures characteristic of cacti, called areoles, form in these notches. The blossoms have an angled ovary, are funnel-shaped, stellate, symmetric, 4 to 5 cm long and 5 to 7 broad, in a number of 1-3 of a scarlet-red color. They are produced in profusion, from one to three, at the apex of the terminal segments, by early spring, roughly, therefore, in the Eastern period in the northern hemisphere, from which do come many common names, they last, each one, 4-5 days, but the plant goes on blooming for some weeks. The fruits are 1,5 cm oblong, of a reddish brown colour and contain brown seeds of about 1 mm of diameter, but for the fructification the presence of another plant is needed, not obtained by division of the same, which has to furnish the pollen, as a matter of fact, the flowers, even if they are hermaphrodite, are self-incompatible.
Scientific Name: Hatiora gaertneri
Synonyms: Epiphyllum russellianum var. gaertneri Regel, Epiphyllum gaertneri, Schlumbergera gaertneri, Rhipsalis gaertneri, Epiphyllopsis gaertneri, Rhipsalidopsis gaertneri.
Common Name: Easter cactus or Whitsun cactus.
How to grow and maintain Easter cactus:
It thrives best in the bright, but indirect light. Direct sunlight should be avoided, as it can cause brown spots.
It prefers to grow in neutral, Well-drained soil. Use a mixture of 1 part potting soil and 1 part fine-grade fir bark.
It requires spring, summer, and fall temperatures around 75 – 80 degrees Fahrenheit / 24-27°C. Winter temperatures should be between 45 – 65 degrees Fahrenheit / 7 – 18 degrees Celsius.
Water regularly, keep the soil evenly moist but never allow your plant to sit in water. Allow the topsoil to become slightly dry between each watering.
Fertilize every 2 weeks after the bloom period with a balanced 10-10-10 fertilizer, and dilute to half strength.
Easter cactus can be easily propagated by stem cuttings. Take stem cuttings from one to four segments. Allow the cut ends to dry for 24 hours before placing upright in moist perlite. Rooting occurs between 3-4 weeks. It is rarely propagated by seed, sow seeds in the spring.
Re-pot every year or every 2 years in the mid-summer. Never re-pot during the bloom or following resting period. Re-pot by removing only the loose soil around the roots. Transfer immediately to a wider pot.
Pests and Diseases:
There is no serious pest or disease problems. Watch for spider mites, mealybugs, and fungus.