Christmas Cactus

Schlumbergera bridgesii. Illustration: UC Cooperative Extension

This seems like an appropriate time of year to consider the Christmas Cactus, Schlumbergera bridgesii. Those of you who own these are seeing them come into bloom right about now. I think they add a flamboyant and tropical touch to the indoor “plantscape.”

This cultivar is actually a hybrid of Sclumbergera truncata and Schlumbergera russiallana, both of which grow as epiphytes in the Brazilian rainforest. S. truncata is sold here as the “Thanksgiving cactus,” and it is easy to confuse the two. The lobes on the leaves of  S. bridgesii are less pronounced, and aside from the different bloom times, that’s about it for visible differences. I have S. truncata, and it is winding down its blooming season now after putting on a commendable show.

Anyway, back to the Christmas variety:

It produces flowers in the usual shades of red, pink and white, and even yellow, which I have yet to see. It likes bright light, cool temperatures, moderate humidity but not too much water, which stands to reason, given that it is a  “cactus” (actually an epiphyte) after all. Once it has finished blooming, it likes a nice month-long rest in a sunny window, and a bit – not to much – water. It likes to be re-potted every two or three years, and you can fertilize it every couple of weeks, once its little rest is over. There are all sorts of “tips” for getting them to come into bloom for Christmas, but I think they usually get the idea as the days get short approaching the winter solstice.

These plants don’t look like much when they aren’t in flower, but for me, that month or so of in-your-face bloom is well worth the wait.


About dirtynailz

Writer for a daily newspaper, gardener, tree hugger, orchid-grower, photographer, animal lover, hiker, wilderness seeker. Proponent of clover in the lawn and a dog on the bed.
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9 Responses to Christmas Cactus

  1. cjwright says:

    A tip I got this year had my Christmas Cactus blooming like crazy!! I learned that they like a certain amount of complete darkness. I’m in the south, so am able to keep my Christmas Cactus on the front porch even in the colder months. I rarely use my front porch light, so the little bugger got a lot of dark. In return, it has put on a splendid display — coming into bloom in the last few days — with about 200 more flowers to join the show!


  2. cjwright says:

    Vibrant fuschia with white at the petal bases. It’s absolutely stunning!!


  3. HerbDoc says:

    I’ve loved this plant since I was a little girl. My grandmother always kept a huge 10 inch potted one in her spare bedroom where it bloomed profusely every year. I keep my much smaller ones in front of a basement window until I notice fats buds and then bring them upstairs for the show. They go back downstairs when the display is over and they seem to love being outdoors during the summer months. And, oh yes, being an avid bargain hunter tempts me to buy more when they go on sale after the holiday! Sometimes they will bloom again around Easter time.


  4. Wendy says:

    OK, now I have no excuse to neglect my plant.


    • dirtynailz says:

      Actually, I think I have seen more of these plants killed by “kindness” than by neglect.


      • cjwright says:

        They don’t seem to mind neglect, at all. Mine has been emaciated in the past, perks up with a little water, and is a survivor through it all.

        I forgot to mention that I gave mine a dose of fish emulsion a few months back. Maybe that, too, has something to do with its spectacular show this year.


      • dirtynailz says:

        Exactly. Some plants thrive on benign neglect.


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