Care Guide: Schlumbergera Christmas Cactus
Schlumbergera are a member of the Cactaceae family. They are a particularly popular option at Christmas due to the vibrant pink, white, purple and red blooms they produce over the festive period. Look out for rarely seen varieties with yellow and orange blooms! Their cascading green leaves can be seen growing epiphytically on the trunks of trees in tropical rainforests in South America.
This genus was named after French cactus collector Frédéric Schlumberger in 1858. There are several different varieties of Schlumbergera, commonly known as ‘Christmas Cacti’, ‘Easter Cacti’ and ‘Thanksgiving Cacti’. Each variety is very similar in appearance; however their common names are a clear indicator of their key differences. These names describe the time of year in which each variety flowers. They are also identifiable from slight differences in their leaf and flower shapes.
The Christmas Cactus and Thanksgiving Cactus need darker and cooler conditions to produce blooms and typically flower over the winter from November to January. Their main difference is their leaf shape. All three varieties have rectangular shaped leaves, however the Christmas Cactus has notched, slightly rounded edges, whilst the Thanksgiving Cactus has pointed edges. The Easter Cactus has smoother leaf edges. Christmas and Thanksgiving have almost identical tubular shaped blooms, whilst the Easter Cactus produces star-shaped blooms throughout April and May.
Schlumbergera are an excellent Christmas option to add a touch of vibrancy and growth in the cooler months when other houseplants lay dormant.
General Care for Schlumbergera
Although Schlumbergera are part of the cactus family their care differs from their dessert counterparts. They thrive in bright, indirect light and require watering when the top inch of soil dries out. These plants like humidity and should be frequently misted throughout the week. Alternatively, place them on a pebble tray for those less likely to mist!
Once flowering is complete this genus requires repotting annually with a cactus and succulent compost mix. Avoid using general houseplant composts to ensure the plant has the correct amount of drainage to avoid root rot. Schlumbergera should be fed during the spring and summer with a cacti and succulent feed, or a high-quality feed such as Liquid Gold Leaf.
Tips and Tricks: Caring for Schlumbergera in the UK
Giving these plants a resting period is crucial to ensure a good display of blooms every year.
For Christmas and Thanksgiving cacti, pre-flowering in October and November, these plants should be kept relatively dry and cool until flower buds begin to appear. Then the plant's usual care routine can be resumed. Post flowering, they also require a resting period from when the blooms die back until March. Easter Cacti requires a resting period from October to February.
What to do if your Christmas Cactus doesn't flower?
Even without a resting period Schlumbergera are still capable of producing a couple of blooms over the festive period if their watering is kept on top of during their flowering period.
How to prevent Christmas Cactus blooms dying back too quickly?
This genus will bloom for longer in cooler temperatures and high humidity.
We hope this Christmas Cactus care guide has been useful and we’d like to wish you and your loved ones a Very Merry Christmas!