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Plant Propagation – How to Pollinate a Christmas Cactus

Written by Mindy on January 21st, 2018

While Christmas cactus propagation more commonly occurs through stem cuttings, propagating this plant through seed is not an unheard of practice. If you only have one Christmas cactus or several the same color, I would stick with the stem cutting approach. On the other hand, if you have at least two Christmas cactuses then you can cross pollinate them to create a “new” type of holiday cactus.

christmas.cactusThe process begins with harvesting the pollen from the anther of one plant’s bloom and depositing it onto the stigma of another plant’s bloom. Not sure which is which?  The anther is a structure that can be seen sticking out of the flower on a stamen. The stigma is a smaller structure that is normally located farther down into the flower.

Now that you know where the breeding structures are located, the next step is to learn how to move the pollen so that fertilization occurs. This can be done in three ways. The first way is to move one plant to another and rub the anther onto the stigma on several plants. Another approach is to collect the pollen on a small paintbrush and “paint” it on the stigma. The last approach is to simply remove a complete flower and spread the pollen that way, which is the same as moving the plant approach with a flower.

When is the right time to do this plant breeding? Well, it is noted that the flower is at its peak when it first opens but the pollen is still viable up to the time the flower becomes spent.

Once you have pollinated your blooms, it is a waiting game. Pollinated and non-pollinated flowers will fade and eventually fall off. The pollinated blooms will leave a “berry” at the end of the stem, which has a strong staying power. Once the seeds have ripened, you can remove the “berry” and harvest the seeds but how do you know if the seeds have ripened? The “berry” will need to remain on the plant for at least a year up to two years. You can easily tell if the seeds have ripened by how easy it is to remove the “berry.”

After you have removed the “berry,” squeeze the fruit until the seeds pop out onto a paper towel. You will want to put the seeds on a paper towel for two reasons. First, they are very tiny and second, you want to remove the pulp. This is easily done by rubbing the seeds and pulp on the paper towel until they become separated.

For the best germination rate, you will need to sow fresh into a shallow pan that has been filled with dampened soil. Once the seeds have been planted, cover the shallow container with clear plastic wrap and place in a warm location. It will take several weeks before the seeds germinate.

Transplant the seedlings into individual pots once they are two inches in height and move to a sunny location.


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