Christmas Cactus Hybridizing

mike5210December 10, 2006

Hello All,

I need some help! Although I have been very successful in hybridizing many different types of plants, including orchids, I have failed miserably at attempting to do Christmas Cactus...Could someone please tell me what the secret is? I've pollinated several flowers but have had no success. I have tried different times of the day also. What gives?


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Do you know the parts of the reproductive organs of the flowers? You use a brush or a cats whisker to hold the pollen, and remove some pollen from one plant and move it to the stigma of the other. It may be self fertile, so you will need another unrelated plant for the father. You should find the pollen on fresh anthers. This is a very simple explanation. Most of these plants are self fertile or complete some are self sterile. Norma

    Bookmark   December 10, 2006 at 12:26PM
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Although I'm very familiar with the reproductive parts of a flower, I didn't know about the Self Sterile traits of the christmas cactus. Thanks to your suggestion, I have now tried to cross two different plants. Thanks so much for your reply.. I'll let you know if it works.


    Bookmark   December 10, 2006 at 2:04PM
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You can just set the two plants close together and smoosh two flowers together. You will soon know if the pollination took, the base of the flower will quickly swell. It takes a long time for the seed to ripen.

    Bookmark   December 10, 2006 at 8:39PM
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Schlumbergera are not self-fertile, so the attempt with two plants should be much more fruitful.

    Bookmark   December 18, 2006 at 7:12AM
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junezn7(Oklahoma City)

Hi Mike,

Some hybridizers have altered the chromesomes in their newer hybrids so that they either don't set seed or the seeds are sterile and will not germinate. Follow the previous suggestions and keep trying with other schlumbergera combinations.


    Bookmark   May 28, 2007 at 3:21PM
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It appears that the end of the stigma "splits" as the flower ages. At what stage is it most receptive? Is it best to apply pollen while the stigma ends are still clumped, or wait until they separate? I am trying both, but figure there is a "best" way.


    Bookmark   December 6, 2007 at 10:36AM
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I don't know the terms but I circled it in the image below:

I was told that when it (the circled area) opens into a "five point star", the ovaries are receptive and you dust pollen onto it.

I attempted it last year with a pink thanksgiving cactus and a yellow thanksgiving cactus. The pink resulted in nothing but the yellow ended up having three fruits. Two of them fell off earlier on and one continued to plump up for months until it fell off. I opened the fruit, saved the seeds, and... lost them. I'm still peeved about that but all I can really do is try again.

I was told that you can't fertilize the plant with itself. You have to do it with a plant that is of a different color.

    Bookmark   December 6, 2007 at 5:59PM
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Thank you very much for the information. I think I applied the pollen a bit too early, as most of them had not opened into a star shape. However, I did use pollen from different plants.
Thanks again,

    Bookmark   December 6, 2007 at 6:44PM
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Hi cactus growers!

Since this is my question too, I thought I would resurrect this thread. I've been trying to cross pollinate several of my Shlumbergera varieties. None seem to take. There is definitely pollen being transferred, I can see it. The stigmas dont seem to open into the star shape - Im wondering if special growth conditions are needed to make that happen, or if opening it mechanically is successful?

Currently I have white, red, salmon, and pink, all in bloom at the same time. It would be interesting if at least one combination resulted in success!

    Bookmark   December 28, 2008 at 12:45AM
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eukofios: "open into the star shape"? The stigmata of Schlumbergera do not open up as they do in many other cacti (Astrophytum capricorne, for example), if that is what you mean. It is not necessary, I have just transferred some pollen with a brush to the outside of the stigma, and that's it. I cannot say exactly what went wrong with your attempts, of course. Do the flowers just dry up and fall off?

    Bookmark   December 29, 2008 at 8:36AM
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yes, they just dry up and fall off. I recently tried applying more pollen on stigmata of current flowers. We'll see what happens.

    Bookmark   January 3, 2009 at 9:48PM
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Success! This time there are fruits. I pollinated about 10 flowers on 3 different plants, each with pollen from a different color pollen parent.

Now about half of those have small fruits starting to form.

I think now it's a matter of waiting quite a long time until the fruits enlarge and ripen -

White variety (with green fruit)

red variety (with red fruit)

pink variety (fruit color intermediate)

Interesting how that worked out with the fruit color.

    Bookmark   January 15, 2009 at 7:34PM
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I have been hybridizing christmas cacti for over 10 years now and have had good success. One thing that I have noticed is that some colors seem to be sterile as far as nothing will pollinate them I have one white variety that nothing will pollinate it. It is however able to pollinate other plants. Also I have an orange colored flower that seems to pollinate but the fruit aborts. Anyhow here are some pictures of offspring from my crosses.

note that my phylloclades are smoother in the margins than most. One of the original plants in my breeding was a christmas cacti the others have been crab or thanksgiving cacti.

    Bookmark   January 17, 2009 at 8:53AM
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Beautiful! THe orange one is especially cool. I've never seen that color in a holiday cactus before!

How long does it take for the fruit to ripen, and are there any special methods needed for sprouting the seeds?

    Bookmark   January 17, 2009 at 4:14PM
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Usually I let the fruit sit on the plants until June or July. I slice the fruit out and scrape the small black seeds out onto a paper towel to dry for a few days. I then scrape them off and put them in storage for a while. Then usually in the fall or winter I start up a batch from one of the previous years in a small 4" pot. I use potting soil that I get moist prior to putting the seeds in. I then sprinkle the seeds on the surface and then I usually sprinkle some fine peat moss or light material in a thin layer over the seeds then I cover them with saran wrap and place them on my seed starting pad with flourescent lights lights over them. This is a picture of my set up.

This is a picture of some seedlings from 05's crosses started in 06 but the picture is actually spring of 07. I did both easter and christmas cacti that year from seed

    Bookmark   January 18, 2009 at 12:28AM
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Cool setup - If mine make it to ripening, I plan to try the same thing. Thanks for sharing. Yours are especially interesting in that you have hybrids between xmas and thanksgiving species. I also use yogurt cups for seedlings and cuttings.

I found an article online about Schlumbergera from seed, link below.

This is fun. I also did the same thing starting a clivia hybrid, but that is a different forum, and they take much longer to mature.

Here is a link that might be useful: Schlumbergera from seed

    Bookmark   January 18, 2009 at 3:04PM
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