December 23, 2017
Christmas Cactus, whose botanical name is Schlumbergera, is a small genus of cacti having only six species of plants within its scientific family. Originally found in the tropical rain-forests of southeastern Brazil’s coastal mountains, these cacti grow on trees or rocks in shady areas with high humidity. Found in the same type of environment as Orchids, Christmas Cactus are most often found in the forks of tree limbs where they thrive in decaying leaves. Though they are considered a cactus, Schlumbergera, named after Belgian horticulturist Frederick Schlumbergera, are much different in nearly all aspects from the common desert cactus.
Christmas Cactus (Schlumbergera Bridgesii) have flattened, rounded stem segments (phylloclades) instead of leaves. As such, the plant’s photosynthesis occurs within these phylloclades. They are considered a short-day plant, in that they do not flower until nights are at least fourteen hours long. The blooms of this cactus come in a variety of colors, ranging from red, purple, orange and yellow to pink, cream and white. Each flower has between 20-30 tepals.
When grown indoors, these cacti should be placed into a well-draining container with well-draining soil. They prefer a humus-rich, somewhat acidic soil, though they usually do well in most soil types. They like a bright, but indirect light. When watering, you should thoroughly water the cactus, however for best results you should not over nor under water your plant. You should mist the leaves (i.e., stem segments) when watering the soil. During the fall and winter months, these cacti should be watered less often to encourage the plant to bloom. Schlumbergera can be fertilized monthly between April and October using one-half strength of a 20-20-20 or 20-10-20 soluble fertilizer. Plants can be pruned in early summer to encourage the stem segments to branch out and also to encourage more blooms.
Another similar plant in the Schlumbergera family is the Thanksgiving Cactus (Schlumbergera Truncata). Both plants are very popular fall and winter flowering houseplants, and are sometimes referred to as Holiday Cactus. When grown under normal, length of night conditions, Thanksgiving Cactus bloom about one month earlier than their Christmas cousin, typically around Thanksgiving. To differentiate between the two, look at the plant’s stem segments. On the Thanksgiving Cactus, each stem segment has two-four saw-toothed serrations along its edges, while the stem segments of the Christmas Cactus are more rounded. Another way to distinguish between these two species is to check the color of the plant’s pollen bearing anthers. The anthers of a Christmas Cactus are purple-brown and those of the Thanksgiving Cactus are yellow.
I am no horticulturist, and far from being very knowledgeable regarding plant life, however, though the cactus in these photographs were sold under the label of a Christmas Cactus, to me, this is a Thanksgiving Cactus. Then again, I’m no expert.
If I am fortunate to have you view my photographs and you find the color saturation too much or the color schemes of the mats do not match either themselves or the photograph, please let me know via a comment. Being color-blind, what might look great to me might look like sh*t to everyone else!
Steven H. Spring