Christmas cactus, found in the coastal mountains of southeast Brazil, is a small genus of cacti with 6 to 9 species which generally grow on tree branches or rocks. Christmas cactus usually prefer humid climate and shady areas. People also recognize Christmas cactus as Schlumbergera, Thanksgiving cactus, crab cactus, Flor de Maio, and holiday cactus.
Christmas cactus grow on either trees or rocks with height up to 1.2 m (4 feet). Most of the species have flowers in white, pink, yellow, orange, red or purple but the species named holiday cactus has flowers in limited colors like red, orange, pink, and white. The variety of Christmas cactus falls into two main groups Truncata group and Buckleyi group.
- The truncata group includes all variety with features derived mainly from the species. It consists stem with pointed teeth, flowers held more or less horizontally, yellow pollen, and produces flowers earlier than that of Buckleyi group. Thanksgiving cactus, crab cactus or claw cactus falls under this group.
- The Buckleyi group includes at least some features like rounded stem, symmetrical teeth, more or less symmetrical flowers that hang down. It contains pollen which is pink and produces flowers later than that of truncata group. Christmas cactus falls under this group.
How to Grow Christmas Cactus
- You can use the short pieces of stem that are three segments long and twisted off rather than cut.
- Allow the cuttings to dry for 1 to 7 days. Place the callus at the broken end, and root in an open growing medium along with the temperature above 21 degrees Celsius (70 degrees Fahrenheit) and up to 27 degrees C (81 degrees F).
- Propagation is best if it is done 2 or 3 months after flowering.
How to care for Christmas Cactus
- Be cautious in selecting a pot, as these plants need relatively small size pot with proper drainage.
- Keep the plant moist throughout the year but do not over or underwater.
- Provide a small amount of bright light, as exposure to sunlight, can damage the plant. Too much light causes stem to reddish coloration, whereas the deficient light level will prevent flowering.
- These plants require an equal or more extended period of darkness to bloom again. They need 12 to 14 hours of full dark per day but if you want it to blossom back, start the reduction in light approximately eight weeks.
- If the buds are falling off before they open, then it could be because of wetness, temperature fluctuations, too much sun, or too much cold. So you need to be careful about this.
- Since these are tropical cacti, they prefer some humidity and fertilization. Use a balanced liquid houseplant fertilizer in early spring, early summer, and mid-summer. You can apply the fertilizer once in spring, and then again, in summer, they look great.
- These plants are said to be free from pests and diseases, but sometimes aphids may attack young shoots, buds, and flowers. Similarly, mealybugs may attack roots below the soil level.
- Also, fungi and other similar organisms may rot the stems and roots.
- You can treat fungi by the use of insecticides and other chemicals. Aphids, mealybugs, and other pests can spread viruses, so, I recommend to destroy the infected plants.
- Similarly, if your plant spread over time or if you want to propagate it, you can prune it but be sure you cut off the whole leaf sections.
- After 3 to 5 years, depending upon how fast it grows, re-potting can be done. But you should re-pot only after 1-2 months after bloom time.
Benefits of Christmas cactus
- Christmas cactus is a please to our eyes as they are the eye of attraction to our home, office, or garden.
- They absorb carbon dioxide, release oxygen, increase humidity in the air around them, helps to purify the air, and have health benefits too.
- They are non-toxic to both cats and dogs, so your furry pets can enjoy them with no worries.
- If you take proper care of this plant, it can live for 20 to 30 years.
- You can use young leaves of the plant as a nutritious vegetable and green salad dish.
- The plant is also applicable in pharmaceutical industries and associated with stimulating the central nervous system, regulating blood pressure, sleep, hunger, and thirst.