By Gail Maifeld, MG
There are two recognized cacti that have become know as the Christmas cactus. Cacti species Schlumbergera Bidgesii is the plant that has gained the title Christmas cactus because pink to dark red blooms appear in December. Schlumbergera truncata, commonly referred to as a Thanksgiving cactus or the claw, lobster, or crab cactus due to the horns that appear at the edges of leaf segments, blooms during Thanksgiving time.
Hybrids of the houseplant Christmas cactus are not the true species. Native to the rainforests, the species inhabits moist tropical forests, and grows in pockets of leaf debris that have accumulated on trees. The densely branching plant will grow to a height of 12” with pendent flat green sections of 1-1 ½ “. Terminal areoles produce single or double blooms, for a long flowering period near Thanksgiving or Christmas.
Both the Christmas cactus and Thanksgiving cactus are easily grown indoors but do ask for special treatment to guarantee bloom. Cooler night temperatures and shorter days cause the plant to bloom. In early fall (October) plant growth will slow. This signals a move to a low light location and given no water for a month. Return the plant to normal light and water regularly.
Just as short winter days begin, the plant will reward the grower with a mass of bright pink to dark red blooms. For more details on growing and caring for holiday cacti, visit the UMN Extension site.
Better Homes and Gardens; HOUSE PLANTS. Meredith Publishing.
Success with House Plants. The Reader’s Digest Association, Inc.