The first thing you should know is that your Christmas cactus is not a cactus. It is a succulent. Don’t worry, you are on the right page. This article will help you understand the basic needs of the flowering wonder you took into your care in December.
|Common Name||Christmas Cactus|
|Scientific Name:||Schlumbergera truncata|
|Origin||Southeast coastal Brazil|
|Note:||Typically, a plant marketed as a Christmas Cactus is actually a Thanksgiving Cactus.|
Christmas Cactus Varieties
Here is a fun tip for you: the plant you are researching is probably a Thanksgiving cactus, not a Christmas cactus. The Thanksgiving cactus (schlumbergera truncata) is often marketed at Christmastime as a Christmas Cactus (schlumbergera bridgesii). The good news is, that despite the subtle differences in the plants, both are cared for in a similar way.
Here are a few of the best Christmas Cactus varieties organized by the color of their blooms:
Red is a very popular color of Christmas cactus as red and green are the traditional holiday colors. If you are looking for a red variety, check out the following:
- Kris Kringle – An early bloomer with red flowers
- Dark Marie – While the buds are purple, when they bloom, you’ll be blessed with red and white flowers.
Many orange varieties of the holiday cactus family will bloom in late autumn, the perfect time to showcase the color. Here are three of the nicest varieties:
- Madslome – When bloomed, this variety is a dark orange color with a creamy white center.
- Xmas Fantsy – Has a peach color with a purple hue throughout.
- Peach Parfait – This plant has blooms that are both peach and orange on the plant. They have purple stamens.
If you are looking for a pretty yellow variety, check out the “Gold Charm” which will bloom large gold flowers. This plant will also grow quite quickly.
When looking for a Christmas cactus with pink flowers, check out the following varieties:
- Thor Rit – This variety blooms bright pink flowers does best in hanging baskets as the stems trail.
- Thor Tina – Similar to Thor Rit, but with softer colored blossoms.
For a purple-flowered Christmas cactus, check out one of the following varieties:
- Dark Eva – This variety will start out as dark purple buds, but will bloom in white flowers with a violet-colored tip.
- Nicole – The blooms on this variety are soft purple with a creamy center.
If you want to remember the snow at Christmas-time, you may enjoy Christmas cactus varieties with white flowers, much like the following:
- White Christmas – Produces very small white flowers that are a bit creamy.
- Thor Britt – Not only does this variety have white flowers, but each has a bit of pink in the center as well as pink stamens.
Christmas Cactus Basic Care
Common Problems With Christmas Cactus Plants
Unfortunately, you may encounter a few problems with your Christmas cactus. Here are a few that you should watch out for:
How Do Christmas Cactus Spread?
Many people easily propagate their Christmas cactus every few years in order to create more plants, either for themselves or to give away as gifts. The process is very easy and simply requires you to root cuttings.
When Should You Prune a Christmas Cactus?
The best time to prune a Christmas cactus is in the spring after the plant has finished its bloom cycle. Propagating the plant at this time allows it to settle before its growth season.
Preparing Your Cuttings as Gifts
When you approach the holiday season, decorate the containers with ribbons or bows to give them a festive look. Give them out to your friends, family, neighbors, and co-workers.
Christmas Cactus Companion Plants
The following are a couple of plants that work well as companions for the Christmas cactus:
Orchids are not only delicate, but they are wild and exotic. With so many varieties, people can find a species that they especially love and want to showcase in their homes. The plant has simple leaves that have parallel veins that will vary in size. Stems will bloom several flowers that will vary in size and color depending on the plant. The flowers have two whorls. The outer whorl has three sepals and the inner whorl has three petals that look similar to the sepals. They do need a little extra care in order to thrive in your home.
Bromeliads are tropical plants that will give your home an exotic look. Many varieties are epiphytic, which means they can grow from (and cling to) other plants or structures without being parasitic. The leaves of the plant are long and grow from a rosette at the base of the plant. The leaves are dark green and stand erect. From within the leaves, the bromeliad may produce a flower that will vary in color depending on the variety. The shape of the plant is designed so that it will collect water when it rains.
Similar Plants to a Christmas Cactus
Some similar plants to the Christmas cactus include the following:
Native to South America, a Rhipsalis looks like a cactus with clusters of vine-like branches that hang down. The clusters can be anywhere from three to ten inches long (or longer, depending on the variety). Its habitat is the dry, warm forests of Central America, but it has been naturalized elsewhere. It is an epiphyte, which means that it is capable of growing on another plant. It has small brownish-green flowers that bloom in the spring. It is a great hanging ornament for the home or office. It should be hung in a bright location, but away from strong sunlight.
Orchid Cactus Overview
Orchid cactus is the most popular cactus in the world and has been used in cactus collections for many years. It is a species of epiphytic cacti, which are commonly found in the tropical forests of Central America, mainly in Ecuador, Columbia, Panama, and Brazil. The plant is easily identified by its long, green, serated stems. They can grow up to 20 inches long and remain flat and narrow. Flowers can grow at the end of each stem and will typically be pink, yellow, red, white, purple, or orange.
Rat Tail Cactus Overview
Native to the semi-arid areas of Southern Africa, the rat tail cactus is a succulent, columnar cactus that grows up to about 6 feet in length. It has numerous, spherical to oval, cactus spines that are white to tan in color and measure from ¼ inches to ½ inches (7-13 mm) in length. As its name suggests, the flowers of the rat tail cactus grow on a long stem resembling a rat’s tail. The purplish-pink flowers measure approximately 3 to 4 inches (7.5-10 cm) in length and grow at the top of the plant. The plant is often used as an ornamental plant in the garden.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can a Christmas Cactus Be Moved Outside?
A Christmas cactus can be kept outdoors in late spring through early autumn as long as it is kept in a shady area with no direct sun. Make sure to continually water and fertilize it. Bring it indoors before you start the budding process. If temperatures drop to below 50°F (10°C), bring the plant inside.
What Type of Container Should You Use?
You can use any kind of small container for your Holiday cactus as long as it has proper drainage. The plant is prone to root rot without a proper draining system. Try to keep the containers small, as the plants prefer their roots to be snug.