Schlumbergera, also called Holiday Cactus, is a genus in the family Cactaceae. There are six species in this genus, all native to parts of Brazil. They are popular as houseplants during winter holidays due to their brightly colored flowers which typically appear around the Holidays. Three species are particularly of note, those being the Christmas Cactus, the Thanksgiving Cactus, and Easter Cactus.
Each of these three species bloom around the time of their namesake holiday. Their appearances are quite similar, making differentiating them for each other somewhat difficult. Other than the times of their respective flowering seasons, an easy way to tell them apart is by the shape of their stem segments. These cacti have segmented stems called scallops. The scallops on Christmas Cactus are oblong or teardrop shaped, on Easter Cactus, they are rounded, and on Thanksgiving Cactus they are ridged like a crab.
- Schlumbergera Main Characteristics
- Schlumbergera Care
- Schlumbergera Types
- Propagating Schlumbergera
- Potting and Repotting Schlumbergera
- Common Pests
- Common Problems
- Growing Holiday Cactus (Schlumbergera): Tips and Tricks (Video)
Schlumbergera Main Characteristics
|Common Name||Holiday Cactus|
|Synonym||Epiphyllanthus, Opuntiopsis, Zygocactus, Zygocereus, Epiphyllum|
|Bloom Time||Easter to Christmas|
|Propagation methods||by seeds, by cuttings|
Flowers are formed on the tips or nodes of the stem segments called areoles. In some species, the stems become weighed down by the weight of the flowers resulting in a trailing flower show that looks gorgeous in a hanging basket. Other species are more suited as potted houseplants with their remaining upright and stiff.
Light and Location
All Schlumbergera species like bright light, but too much direct sun can scorch the leaves. A south- or west-facing window is perfect as long as the incoming sunlight is filtered through a curtain. East-facing windows will work if the cactus is placed a few feet away from the window.
Keep the soil evenly moist during the growing season (spring and summer), but allow the top inch of soil to dry out before watering again. The cacti in this genus are greedier than their cousins and need more water than you would expect of a cactus. In winter, when the cactus is dormant, water only enough to keep the soil from drying out completely. This differs from plant to plant so you’ll have to judge your plant’s needs by the soil condition.
Schlumbergera like average temperatures between 65 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit before the buds form. They can survive lower or higher temperatures, but they will not bloom at temperatures outside of this range. After flowering is complete, this plant needs a rest period and cooler temperatures of about 55 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit. Keep the plant safe from cold drafts during this phase as it can easily get stressed.
Holiday Cactus needs a relative humidity of between 50% and 70%. These cacti are native to the tropics of Brazil and thrive in conditions that replicate that environment. If your home’s humidity is low, you can place the cactus on a tray of wet pebbles. This will increase the humidity around the plant without wetting the potting medium.
Schlumbergera don’t need much fertilizing. Feed them with a diluted liquid fertilizer every month before the flowering season. After the blooms form, stop feeding until the next year.
There are a six to nine species in this genus and various cultivars of each one. These are the most famous and widely available types of Schlumbergera you’re likely to encounter on a trip to the nursery. They are often mislabeled so check their identifying marks before making a purchase.
Christmas Cactus (Schlumbergera x buckleyi)
The Christmas Cactus is the most famous among the Schlumbergera species. It is a cross between Schlumbergera truncata and Schlumbergera russelliana. It blooms between November and January. The stem segments resemble teardrops.
Thanksgiving Cactus (Schlumbergera truncata)
The Thanksgiving Cactus blooms between November and December. The stem segments are ridged, like a crab, making identifying them easy.
Easter Cactus (Schlumbergera gaertneri)
The Easter Cactus blooms between March and April. The stem segments are rounded.
Stem cuttings are the easiest way to propagate Schlumbergera.
- Simply take a cutting from a healthy stem. Don’t use a knife for the cut but simply twist off the segment of the stem; it should come right off.
- Give the cutting a few days of rest to allow the cut end to callus then plant in an open potting medium.
- Keep the temperature warm (between 70-80°F) and wait for new growth to emerge.
- After the new growth has rooted, you can transplant the cactus into regular potting soil.
Potting and Repotting Schlumbergera
Holiday Cactus likes to be pot-bound, so it doesn’t need repotting very often. You can repot it every three or four years or when the potting medium starts to break down.
After flowering has ceased and the plant goes into its dormant winter phase, you can repot it into a pot that is slightly larger. Be sure to use a well-draining potting medium like a cactus mix or a sand/perlite combination. Overwatering can be fatal.
Schlumbergera are non-toxic to both humans and pets.
Holiday Cacti are usually pest-free, sometimes surprisingly so. But they can get mealybugs on the roots and aphids on newly formed buds. If you see any of these pests on your plant, treat with a horticultural oil or insecticidal soap.
Holiday cacti are very easy to care for, but they can get stressed in some conditions. Watch for these common problems and take corrective action if necessary.
Bud Drop: This can be caused by overwatering or particularly cold temperatures. Sudden fluctuations in the environment can also sometimes cause the plant to loose flower buds at alarming rates.
Shriveled Stems: This can be caused by a lack of water, over-watering, or high temperatures.
Faded Coloration: If the plant is placed in direct sunlight, the stem becomes discolored and washed out.
Slow Growth: Check if the pot isn’t too large for the root system. If it is, move it to a smaller pot. These plant prefer being rootbound.
Growing Holiday Cactus (Schlumbergera): Tips and Tricks (Video)
How To Propagate Schlumbergera?
It’s easiest to propagate these cacti using stem cuttings. Take a cutting from a healthy stem; twist off the segment of the stem from where its attached to the other segments. Give the cutting a few days of rest to allow the cut end to dry. After it has dried, plant the cutting in a pre-selected potting medium and wait for it to take root.
How To Make Schlumbergera Bloom?
Before the flowering season for your specific species, reduce watering significantly. Only water when the soil becomes dry and flaky. Start giving the plant 10 to 12 hours of complete darkness every day and reduce average temperatures to 50-55 degrees Fahrenheit. Buds should start to form once the season rolls around.
How To Water Schlumbergera?
These plants need to be watered often and thoroughly in their growing season (spring through summer). During their dormant winter phase, only water to prevent the soil from becoming completely dry. Avoid overwatering, especially in winter.