Christmas Cactus (Schlumbergera) Guide – Learn About Types, Care, Watering, Propagation and More


Christmas Cactus is one type of a succulent plant which blossoms the most frequently. That is why we love to care for it at our homes, also to give it as a present to our loved ones.

Chrismas Cacti have this popularity for many reasons. These succulents have vibrant, fleshy leaves which make them look so distinctive.

They can adapt the interior settings of houses as well as the moderate outdoors, and they are hardy for the conditions that many other houseplants would not withstand. Plus, it is super easy to propagate Christmas Cacti with the cuttings!

Image from Flickr

In addition to all these advantages, these plants bloom yearly, without requiring a complicated procedure of care. But perhaps the most appealing thing about Christmas Cactus is that the plant can give flowers over and over again. All you need to do is to learn a few tricks to enforce it blooming.

All in all, Schlumbergera is a great choice for the ones that are looking for an eye-catching plant to care without much effort. So I researched and collected details of these succulents to make it much easier for you. Let’s begin!

Identification of the Genus: Schlumbergera

Description

Schlumbergera is a genus of the succulent plants which contains rather fewer species, about 6 or 9, when compared to other genera.

These plants are classified as a cactus, although they do not resemble much of it. Most species of Schlumbergera form a stem that looks like thick leaves put together, one following another. Dark green, shiny leaves with tooth-like edges are where the flowers show up.

Habitat

Schlumbergeras are native to Brazil. They generally grow at the coastal cities like São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Minas Gerais; at the mountains, eighter on top of the trees or the rocks.

Schlumbergeras are adapted to moist forests of the Southern Hemisphere. Yet these species are actually very different from their relative succulent plants that found around desserts.

Despite that they are considered as succulent plants because of their water strong thick and fleshy body, these plants differ in the aspects of the flowering season and water requirements.

Common Names

The genus of Schlumbergera is commonly called as Christmas cactus, Thanksgiving cactus, Holiday cactus or Crab cactus. Flowering season is the main reason for it is known with these names.

However, seasons are changing at the two sides of the globe. For example, this plant is named as Flor de Maio, that means May Flower in Brazil.

The main cultivars are divided into two groups: “The Buckleyi Group” and “The Truncata Group”. The Truncata group of Schlumbergeras blooms a little earlier than the Buckleyi group. So that they are distinguished as Thanksgiving cactus.

How to Care for Christmas Cactus?

Christmas Cactus can adapt to the places we live, if given the proper care. All you need to do is to mimic its original habitat and create a simulation for it. 

I find it easier to maintain Christmas Cacti indoors since it is more convenient for controlling the environmental conditions. Yet also, they live healthy outdoors where the climate is moderate. Just remember to move the plants inside, if you are living in an area where the winters are too cold.

Step by step, I explained for the best care of Christmas Cactus. Here you have every detail of it, also with the flowering tips.

Set Up a Proper Environment

You can’t expect a plant to be healthy and to give flowers without providing it the suitable conditions to live happily. First ensure a good place to sit for them with a proper soil, air and light.

Potting and Soil Type

To start with, if you use a wrong type of soil and pot, succulents are really problematic to keep alive, no matter how they are watered or lightened.

The soil of Christmas Cactus should be porous and well draining. Regular potting or gardening soil can be mixed with some coarse sand. You can also add some moss or compost.

Try to choose a pot with drainage holes for plantation, so the excess water drains out quickly. If you are not sure about what kind of a pot to use with your Christmas Cactus, take a look at previous succulent pots guide.

Temperature and Humidity

Schlumbergera needs about %50-60 relative humidity. Because they used to live in tropical forests, they require a high level of humidity. You can place a water tray nearby the pot if the air moist level of your house is lower than that. Optimal room temperatures will do good for Christmas Cactus, while it will get damaged if the room is too hot or dry.

Lighting

Image from Flickr

Christmas Cacti are able to adapt to lower lighting, cause they are native to shady and misty forests of Brazillian mountains. Anyways, it is safer to provide an adequate sunlight for them. These plants need an indirect, yet bright sunlight. Maybe, a well-lit south or west-facing window is the best for your succulent.

Fertilizing

It is proposed to give fertilizer to a Christmas Cactus twice a year, until the flower buds appear. The fertilizer can be one of the regular fertilizers for the blossoming plants. Nevertheless, succulents do not like very strong fertilizers. Prefer a slow releasing type, and dilute it with water if you think it is necessary.

Set Up a Watering Schedule

Christmas Cactus is a rare type of succulent which is not a desert plant. This succulent kind needs a regular watering, because it does not like the soil to get completely dry. Remember that it is missing the humid air and moist soil of the tropical forests.

That means, watering Christmas Cactus can be a bit tricky. You don’t want to overwater/underwater the plant. Always try to keep the soil evenly moist. You should consider the environment of your cactus as well as the seasonal changes.

Approximately, Christmas Cacti can be watered weekly if cared indoors. Be careful that some effects changing this frequency. The irrigation should be more often if the temperatures are high, air is dry in the summer.

Encourage Blooming

Image from Flickr

Schlumbergera species generally blossom yearly, around the holiday season; Thanksgiving or Christmas. To encourage blooming of them, you should change to less frequent watering, lower temperatures, and longer periods of dark.

In the fall season, start to water your Christmas Cactus less frequent, just to keep the soil moist. Stop watering after it blooms and let it rest for a while. You can continue a regular irrigation when the new growth is seen.

Before the blooming season arrives, provide a cooler environment for Christmas Cactus. Keep the temperatures between 15-20 degrees Celcius. Be aware that the freezing weather will harm your plant.

Still, they will need a bright sunlight during the daytime. But you can create a full darkness during the night, 12 to 14 hours of darkness every night more or less.

Post-Blooming Care

Pruning

After the blooming period, the pretty flowers will fade away, unfortunately. You can pick them up when they are dried out, otherwise, they already fall off. After about a month, you can prune the plant. By this way, it will look fresh and pretty again, while the pruning encourages the next flowering.

Repotting

New growings of the stem.

After a while sitting in the same soil, it is possible the plant will drink up all the nutrition, and the roots will grow too big for the pot. Repotting a Christmas Cactus is a good idea, every 2 or 3 years after it blooms. I would prefer February, March, and April to do this, using fresh soil and a suiting pot.

Propagation of Christmas Cactus

Take cuttings from the stem of your healthy mature cactus and leave them to dry for a week in a cold place. Cutting should be 2 or 3 segments of leaf-like stem. After that place them insid a moist soil, which is a mix of potting soil and grainy sand. The cuttings should grow roots after a while.

Apply the same care for the new cuttings as the mature plant that is not in the flowering period.

Reviving Christmas Cactus

If you have a Christmas Cactus which is limp and wilted, that might be caused by wrong lightning or watering.

Christmas Cactus is not hardy for too much direct sun, especially during the afternoon. Too much direct sun exposure will also show indications like spots and scarrings on the leaves. Use light diffusing semi-sheer curtains at the windows.

Overwatering and underwatering are both not tolerated by Christmas Cactus. The leaves will be wilted and creased if the soil dries out completely. On the other hand, the leaves and flower buds will drop off very easily if the plant is watered too much. Following these signals, you should create a schedule of irrigation for your cactus.

Christmas Cactus is a special type of succulent plants, both in the aspect of its appearance and its maintenance. But like every other succulent, once you get to understand a few easy tricks, they are so simple and beautiful, they worth a try.