How To Pollinate Thanksgiving Cactus
On a gardening forum I recently joined someone asked what gardeners do when there is no gardening to be done. The question seems strange to me because as a gardeners that also has plants indoors in what one could consider an "indoor garden" there really is no time during the year when there isn't any garden to be done. At the moment I am playing the part of pollinator to my Thanksgiving cacti and I'm planting a couple of Amaryllis bulbs and repotting plants and vegetatively propagating a few others.
If you have a Christmas or Thanksgiving cactus and would like to propagate it you have two options that you can easily do in yourself in your home. The first method of propagation that you have available to you is rooting cuttings from your cactus in what is called asexual plant propagation. Asexual plant propagation involves the vegetative parts of the plant and includes the roots, leaves or stems to make a plant reproduce itself. This is the method that is preferred if you would like to make an exact copy of your plant.
The second method you can use to propagating your Holiday cactus is called sexual reproduction. Simply put this involves transferring pollen from a flower onto the stigma. Schlumbergera (Christmas, Thanksgiving, Easter Cactus) are native to the tropical Americas where they grow in tree branches of the tropical rainforests. Take a second look at the Thanksgiving cactus flowers in the photo above. Where these plants grow, the shape and the way the flowers hang from the succulent stems, seem to indicate that the flowers are pollinated by hummingbirds. I've never seen a hummingbird in Chicago and I certainly don't have any in my house so I'll have to play the part of pollinator.
Once you can recognize the two parts, pollinating your flower is a simple process of coating the stigma (the crimson tip) with pollen (yellow clump) on a flower like in the image above. If everything goes well you should have a 1 inch long fruit develop that will remain on your plant for about a year. So next year you'll have the flowers developing alongside the colorful fruit which will make a nice display. Now that you know how to pollinate Thanksgiving cactus flowers you can try it with other plants around your home and garden.
DragonStone reports that the stigma opens after a few days. I didn't observe this in any of my Thanksgiving Cacti but he provides a link to a semi opened stigma in the comments section. Today I noticed that even though none of the stigmas on my flowers opened my pollination must have worked, I have fruits developing on some plants.
I realize that crossing the two Thanksgiving cacti above should result in flowers that are more or less similar to the flower on the right. I'm not really concerned about that or trying to create a different flower, for me the process is about being able to get the plant to fruit and seed.
Thanksgiving cactus red flower
Thanksgiving cactus pink flower
Real Christmas cactus or Thanksgiving cactus?
How to make your Christmas-Thanksgiving Cactus bloom