What to Plant in December

Today is the first day of summer and this is the first planting guide of the season.

The following is a list of vegetables and herbs you can plant in December in Sydney, a temperate zone. Just click on the name for the growing guide for each vegetable or herb:

Plant of the Month – Schlumbergera gaertneri

Schlumbergera gaertneri, formerly Hatiora gaertneri, is a species of epiphytic cactus that is found in southeastern Brazil growing on trees in subtropical rainforests. They belong to the Rhipsalideae within the subfamily Cactoideae of the Cactaceae.

Click on the images below to get more detail.

The stems are made up of flattened segments with smooth rounded edges and bristles at the edges of the segments.

The distinctive bristles at the base of the segments can be seen here.

The flowers are a beautiful scarlet and star shaped in form and are 4-5 cm long. They emerge from notches at the base of the segments called areoles that are characteristic of cacti. When open, the flowers are a funnel shape that is a maximum of 4-7.5 cm.  The structure of the flower differs from other Schlumbergera species, which have a short floral tube at the base of the flower formed by fused petals, and stamens arranged in two distinct series, whereas S. gaertneri has separate petals and a single series of stamens.

In the Southern Hemisphere they bloom around November and the flowers last well on the plant after an extended period of bloom setting.

Red oblong fruits form after the flowers are fertilized.

A close up of the beautiful flower and its structures.

Schlumbergera gaertneri are considered more difficult to grow than other members of the family but if given the right conditions they flourish. The plant requires a well drained soil and can be grown indoors as well as outside under a dappled tree canopy.

Temperature

Summer temperatures around 25 °C, down to 7–13 °C in the winter to initiate good bud formation.

Light

As epiphytic forest plants, they are not exposed to strong sunlight. Half-shade is recommended and uninterrupted periods of darkness during the shorter nights of winter are needed to promote flowering. Do not place the plant in a deep shade or it won’t flower. Avoid direct sunlight that will cause reddening of the segments.

To promote flowering place the pot in a protected shady place that does not experience light at night. This can be a challenge in our modern suburban settings but if you can do this the plant will reward you with its spectacular blooms

Watering


Schlumbergera gaertneri is sensitive to over or under-watering. It will lose stem segments with either of the these. The pot should be moist but not too damp and not allowed to dry out completely between watering. If grown outside with normal rain fall, their situation under tree canopies will be enough moisture without any additional watering. Just keep an eye by testing the soil in the pot during extended dry periods.

If the site is dry set the pot on a pebble try to recreate the humidity of the rainforest.

Propagation


Stems with 2-3 segments may be removed in late Spring and the cut surface allowed to dry out for a day or so. Then put the lower part of the stem a few centimetres into the slightly moist cacti and succulent potting soil.

Repotting

Schlumbergera gaertneri is a slow growing plant and so only needs repotting if pot bound. Choose to do this after flowering has finished in early summer and use a good quality Cacti and Succulent potting mix that has good drainage.

This beautiful plant can be bought inside to enjoy its spectacular blooms, but it is happiest under the dappled light of a tree canopy that somewhat replicates its natural growing environment.

Two flowers have emerged from the end of one segment.

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