What Kind Of Cacti?!

"Christmas" cactus

While we’re keeping on an “early holiday plant” theme, another holiday plant some have trouble with is the poorly named Christmas Cactus. For one thing, the genus schlumbergera is neither a cactus nor does it naturally bloom at Christmas. It is a succulent, which means it needs a little more water than a cactus. They are native to Brazil, and there, they grow in humid, shady regions in the trees. This means they are epiphytic, like many orchids. Hard to think of the so-called “holiday” cacti as needing conditions similar to orchids, isn’t it?

But if you’ve ever had a plant lose some or all of its buds after you purchased it, suddenly it becomes a little easier to understand. Our homes are nothing like their shady humid rainforest homes–or the humid greenhouses where you purchased them.

Once home, however, they are easy to care for if we remember two things: plants should not dry out completely (they are not cacti); and they should be kept in a fairly shady window.

They can be very long-lived–some folks have them for decades. And in the following years, they set their buds in relation to day length and temperature so again, a darker, cooler window is better if you want them to bloom earlier, or a brighter, (but not sunny) warmer one is better if you want them to bloom later.

The photo about was taken October 30 and the first blossom opened on Halloween. I’ve often talked about how cool my house is so this lends credence to the “cooler temperature leads to earlier bloom” theory.

But I can’t say I’ve ever had one of these plants bloom on Halloween before!

2 thoughts on “What Kind Of Cacti?!

  1. Anne Wilson November 12, 2013 / 8:50 am

    My first Christmas cacti stared blooming the middle of Oct, it is in the sunroom which gets quite hot during the day. The three others that I have are only just showing buds they are on the kitchen window ledge, no direct sun light, maybe the lack of direct light is what has held them back. I find them a very easy plant to propagate,and very forgiving if I neglect them, often forgetting to water until the leaves start to shrivel,as soon as they get a drink off they go again.

    • gardendaze November 12, 2013 / 9:33 am

      Hi Anne,
      Thanks for reading and commenting. Glad to hear your plants are doing so well. They are easy, aren’t they?

      Perhaps the reason the one in the sunroom is blooming early is that the room gets cool at night? Or perhaps its your latitude. Remember, they bloom in relationship to temperature and length of day.

      In any event, whatever it is, I’m glad they are working out for you!


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