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What is a Christmas Cactus?

What is a Christmas Cactus?

Date: December 3, 2019

Christmas cactus is one of three holiday cacti. The other two are Thanksgiving and Easter cactus. During these three holidays, the cactus blooms and why each cactus is named for a holiday.

About the Christmas Cactus

The Christmas cactus, also known asSchlumbergera bridgesti, knows when it's time to bloom just in time for the holidays. The long branches with teardrop leaves will bring forth a rainbow of colors that include pink, purple, white, yellow, and red.

Christmas Cactus Plant

The delicate tubular flowers situated at the end of each branch can grow up to 3 inches in length. The branches, which are a series of short glossy green segments, can grow to a length of 3-feet creating a network resulting in multiple tiers of buds and flowers.

To generate a profusion of flowers, the cactus has a few requirements once new growth begins. These include keeping the plants in a cool environment around 60 degrees. The cactus also needs to receive 10 hours of consistent light followed by 14 hours of darkness alternating between the light/dark environment for up to six weeks. 

When the Christmas cactus buds begin to appear, the plants can be moved to an environment with warmer temperatures. In about six weeks, buds should start to appear.

Once in bloom, the canopy of colorful blossoms can last for more than a few days. With a flowering period that can last several weeks, there will be plenty of Christmas cactus throughout the season.

How to Care for a Christmas Cactus

The Christmas cactus calls the Brazilian rainforest its natural home, which means it is not a drought-tolerant plant. The cactus is also touchy when it comes to changes in the temperature.

If the plants don't receive adequate water, and they're exposed to drastic temperature changes, if can result in newly forming flower buds to fail and fall from the plant.

With this in mind, consider the following tips to keep the plant healthy and in blooming form.

  1. Soil - The soil needs to be a rich blend of humus and nutrients.
  2. Drainage - Christmas cactus do well in containers, but these must provide excellent drainage. Cactus should not be left in standing water. 
  3. Temperature - Maintain a consistent temperature of 65 degrees
  4. Watering - It's important to keep the soil moist versus dried out especially while the cactus is blooming. After the blooming season, watering is minimal until the cactus begins its next growing period. 
  5. Light - The cactus does well when exposed to moderate light and minimal sunlight. 
  6. Fertilization - Once Christmas cactus buds begin to form on the branches, it's important to top off the flowerpot or planter with high-potassium fertilizer. Do this every two weeks. 
  7. Transplantation - After the Christmas cactus has completed the flowering cycle for the season, repot the cactus and repeat each year. 

To enhance your holiday garden next year, just break off a stem or two and plant in a container with drainage and quality potting mix. Follow up with the tips above for another colorful holiday season. 

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