Common Christmas Cactus Myths

A friend stopped by to see me on Wednesday and as we were talking he happened to mention that his wife’s Christmas cactus was in bloom. He then commented something like “it must b be awfully confused.”

So I thought I would do this post because I know that there is a lot of confusion about these plants.

This plant is botanically a schlumbergera. There are 6 different varieties of Schlumberger, technically, and only one is the true Christmas cactus that blooms at Christmas. It is not the one generally sold, but if you have a “hand me down ” plant from a relative, you may have one. Its bracts are more rounded than any you see here.

These commercially sold varieties, also known as zygocactus, are really NOT cactus in any way. So don’t be fooled by the name. While they don’t need a lot of water, they need more water than a cactus. Think of them more like a succulent–but they will still want more water (depending on the temperature of your home) while in bloom.

Now about that bloom time: the blooming is initiated by temperature and daylight. As light falls in autumn and weather cools (at least here in the frozen north) the plants bud and bloom.

But each does it in its own sweet time. I have 17 plants. Generally they begin blooming about mid-October. They will continue through mid-February, with sporadic rebloom on a few plants.

This year the plants began bloom a little later, in early November. With luck, it means I will have blooms into March. I have never had quite so many in bloom at once though, so perhaps not.

But, isn’t that part of the fun of gardening? Every year is a new surprise!

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