Schlumbergera bridgessii, more commonly known as Thanksgiving or Christmas cacti are easy to care for plants with blooms in bright tropical colors. These relatively inexpensive plants are most frequently seen during the holiday season right alongside the Poinsettias.
Christmas cacti are native to the rain forests of South America where they grow in the crevices of tree trunks and branches. Leaves and other organic material become trapped in these crevices and create the medium in which Christmas cacti thrive.
Cacti Care Tips
To care for the plant, remember less is more. Christmas cacti tend to do better under conditions of benign neglect rather than over attention.
- Sunlight – Optimum conditions are bright light, especially in the winter, but not direct sunlight as that will harm the leaves of the plant. A plant with red leaves indicates too much sun. In the spring and summer months, Christmas cactus do better in indirect or filtered light. To promote blooming, reduce the amount of sunlight in the fall so that the plant has 12 hours of uninterrupted dark.
- Water –Frequent and even watering are required particularly during the active growth period (spring and summer). From the fall through winter allow the soil to dry out between watering. Do not allow the plant to sit in water as that will cause root rot.
- Fertilizer – Fertilize during the growing season using a weak organic fertilizer. It is important not to use too much as that could burn the plant’s root system.
- Temperature – This plant thrives in temperatures between 60 and 70 degrees. It is important to note that Christmas cacti will retain their blooms longer when the temperatures are cooler. In addition, shield the plant from drafts from heating vents and other sources of heat.
- Humidity – Average to high humidity- to create the optimum conditions place the plant on a bed of pebbles in water.
How to Create New Plants
To propagate new plants cut at least two segments from the end of the stem of a healthy plant. Make sure that the cutting is at least two segments long. Let the cutting dry out for a few days. This ensures a callus is formed at the end, which will help prevent root rot. Place the cutting a quarter of an inch deep in sandy soil. Moisten slightly; do not allow the cutting to become too wet. Place it in a sunny spot but not in direct sun.
When the plant has put forth new shoots it can be transplanted into a larger pot (not too large) with soil that allows for good drainage. Optimal potting medium according to the Pennsylvania State Extension Solution Source, consists of one part potting soil, two parts peat moss and one part sharp sand, perlite, or vermiculite.
Christmas cacti are a gift that can last the year round with the right care. When trying to decide how to care for a Christmas cactus, just picture the rain forest – diffuse light, humid conditions, well drained soil and steady temperatures in the 60s.