One plant that you always see blooming around Easter Time in Fuerteventura is the Sclumbergera Gaertneri or Easter Cactus as it is more commonly known.
Here in the Canary Islands most succulents thrive without any intervention at all. They love the long sunny days and dry, sandy soil and pretty much look after themselves but the Easter Cactus is a little bit different. It is a succulent plant which enjoys the conditions here, although it is not native to the islands and so it needs a little extra care.
If handled correctly, these plants will flower every year during March and April. This timing has earnt them the names Easter or Spring Cactus and because they look so magnificent during flowering time, they are often sold in garden centres, wrapped in decorative paper and sold as Easter gifts. Traditionally the blooms ranged from fuchsia to red but nowadays you can get hybrid versions that range from white and yellow to deep reds and oranges too. The amount of colours and attractive flowers is what makes them so popular as house or patio plants. That, and the fact that they don’t need much soil or water in which to survive.
These plants are native to Brazil, where they grow amongst the trees in tropical rain forests. They are different from many of the cacti you see usually see here as they are what is called epiphytic cacti. This kind of cacti don’t need much soil instead they grow on rocks and other plants and obtain their nutrients from the air and debris that surrounds it. Unlike most cacti these need their roots to breathe and long fibrous roots will extend away from the main plant, attach themselves to trees and rocks and scavenge nutrients and moisture. In our garden, it grows along the top of a wall and grabs hold of other plants and cacti along the way.
Because these plants naturally live in tropical rain forests, they are used to varying temperatures. The ideal place to plant these is in partial sun with their roots in the shade and not in direct sunlight. Somewhere like along a wall which has periods of sun and shade during the day or under a pergola is ideal. They also like to grow in pots, so they will thrive on a covered balcony or in a planter on the patio as long as they aren’t placed in full sun. They also like to live near other plants and will happily grow in the shade of a leafy tree or large shrub and provide extra colour to your flower beds.
Because these plants are native to rain forests, they are used to going through a cooler, winter period before reblooming in the spring. This means that they need to be kept dry during the winter months and only lightly watered between October and March. If they are in the ground they will get what they need from the damp air in the evenings, but if they are in pots, a light spraying of water will keep them healthy while they are dormant. These plants are experts at reading the seasons and as soon as the longer sunny days of spring arrive, they will wake up from their winter doze and start to produce their stunning flowers again. When this happens, you can start watering again. They do like to be watered, after all they are used to living in wet tropical areas, but they also like the pot or soil around them to dry out thoroughly before being watered again. However, take care as if they are left in wet conditions their roots will rot and die.
These plants are stunning when in full bloom and really do add something special to a garden or outside space They are also slow growing and don’t grow very high, which makes them perfect for adding some colour to your patio or brightening up your balcony this Easter