Plant of the Week: Christmas cactus

They provide a burst of vivid colour to windowsills during the winter, with flowers emerging from their branching and arching stems which are tooth-edged. Every Christmas cactus I've had thrived on relative neglect, so do not overwater. Avoid putting them in draughts, keeping hybrids above 15C (59F) to hold their colour.

The Schlumbergera truncata comes in shades of white, pink, red and purple and is generally bought from garden centres in bud and blooms between mid November and late January.

Water them at the roots by putting water into the base the pot is resting in, letting it soak upwards before draining the base. Water again from below when dry.

For good flowering, provide long nights of uninterrupted darkness – which means no artificial light – in autumn. Just before flowering, the plants should be kept cool and dryish until the flower buds form, and then you can increase water and temperature. They can be placed outside in the summer in a shady spot and should be protected from slugs.

YP MAG 18/12/10