With a botanical name as unattractive as Schlumbergera it’s not surprising that we prefer to call this lovely plant a Christmas Cactus. Originating from the coastal mountains of Brazil the Christmas cactus is epiphytic meaning that as well as growing amongst rocks it also grows on trees. What a beautiful sight that must be when the plants are in full bloom.
Thought to have evolved 30 to 40 million years ago the Christmas Cactus differs from other cactus in that it has no spines – another reason why it makes such a good houseplant! In place of spines the cactus has flattened leaf-like segments known as cladodes. The lovely flowers come in many colours and are tubular to allow for pollination by hummingbirds in its native home. Another beautiful sight no doubt.
An easy plant to look after the Christmas Cactus needs well-draining soil and to be kept not too wet but also not too dry. Just allow the surface of the soil to dry out between waterings. The only tricky thing about the Christmas Cactus is finding the right place for it in the house. It likes a well-lit spot in bright but indirect light. Get it wrong and the plant may scorch or the buds may drop before opening.
Once the cactus has flowered stop watering for about 6 weeks to give it chance to rest. When you see new growth appearing then start watering again. The plant will benefit from being re-potted once a year and fed every other week with a mild houseplant feed.
As with many houseplants the Christmas Cactus can be planted or just placed outside during the summer months. This will actually help to strengthen the plant and to encourage flowering. Just watch out for slugs and remember to bring the cactus back indoors around September time and it should flower again in time for next Christmas.