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blooming plant of the month                                               
thanksgiving cactus /
christmas cactus
 
 

BOTANICAL NAME
Schlumbergera spp.
  formerly Epiphyllum and Zygocactus
(shlum-BER-ger-uh, shlum-ber-JER-uh)


COMMON NAMES
Christmas cactus (S. x buckleyi)
Thanksgiving cactus, Crab cactus, Claw cactus, Yoke cactus, Link cactus, Linkleaf cactus (S. truncata)


DESCRIPTION
These plants have tubular papery blooms with reflexed petals that occur at the ends of flat segmented (chainlike) succulent stems. When mature, the stems form arching branches. Christmas cacti have smooth stem edges while Thanksgiving cacti have jagged (dentate) stem edges.


COLORS
Depending on species, bloom colors include purple, lavender, red, scarlet, magenta, pink, orange, salmon, peach, yellow, white and bicolors.


DECORATIVE LIFE
In ideal environments and with proper care, these plants can flower for three to seven weeks. Individual blooms typically last five to eight days each and should be removed when they fade.


AVAILABILITY
These “holiday” plants are available from October through December, but some growers offer them as early as September.

 

in-store and consumer care
LIGHT
These cacti need bright but filtered light. Exposure to direct sunlight can cause stem segments to turn reddish (sunburn).

 

WATER
Keep potting medium consistently moist; water when the compost begins to dry out. Avoid underwatering and overwatering (see “Challenges: Diseases”). If water is extremely hard, use rainwater.

 

TEMPERATURE
Cool to average room temperatures—55 F to 70 F— are preferred while plants are in bloom.

 

HUMIDITY
Indoors, these plants like moderately humid environments. Mist stems regularly if plants are in warm, dry rooms, but avoid getting blooms wet.

 

ETHYLENE SENSITIVITY
These plants are sensitive to ethylene gas, but the degree of sensitivity varies by cultivar. Exposure to ethylene can cause buds and blooms to drop.
     Make sure your plants are treated with an ethylene inhibitor at the grower level or during transportation, and keep them away from sources of ethylene (fruit, cigarette smoke, automobile exhaust) in your facilities.

 

FERTILIZER
Feed these cacti monthly while in bloom with a balanced fertilizer or cactus food.

 

GROOMING
Cut off flowers as they fade.

 

REBLOOMING
Getting Thanksgiving and Christmas cacti to rebloom can be done but is a lengthy, involved process. Consult a houseplant or gardening book or website for instructions.

 

CARE EXTRAS
Avoid moving plants often; doing so can cause them to drop their buds and blooms. Leave plants in one location as much as possible, and advise customers to do the same.

challenges

PESTS
Mealybugs, scale insects and aphids commonly attack these plants and their roots. Treat mealybugs by swabbing infested plant parts with cotton swabs dipped in rubbing alcohol, and get rid of scale and aphids by washing or spraying plants with insecticidal soap.

 

DISEASES
Root rot, fungi and mold can occur easily if plants are overwatered.

 

BUD AND BLOOM DROP
Causes include hot, dry air (high temperatures, low humidity); exposure to ethylene gas; and moving the plant(s) frequently.





fun facts
WHAT’S IN A NAME It is generally thought that the genus name Schlumbergera was given in honor of Frédéric Schlumberger (1823–1893), a French horticulturist who collected cacti. Some sources, though, suggest the genus is named after Frederick Schlumberger (1804–1865), a Belgian horticulturist and plant collector.
     The former genus name Zygocactus is often used now as a common name for these plants.
ALL IN THE FAMILY Schlumbergera is a member of the Cactaceae (cactus) family, which includes both forest-type cacti, like these plants, as well as desert-type cacti. Unlike desert cacti, forest cacti are indigenous to woodlands, tropical jungles and rain forests. They are epiphytes (air plants) that grow nonparasitically on other plants or elevated supports, obtaining water and nutrients from the air through their roots.
HOME SWEET HOME These plants are native to the coastal mountain regions of southeastern Brazil.
purchasing advice
WHAT’S IN A NAME It is generally thought that the genus name Schlumbergera was given in honor of Frédéric Schlumberger (1823–1893), a French horticulturist who collected cacti. Some sources, though, suggest the genus is named after Frederick Schlumberger (1804–1865), a Belgian horticulturist and plant collector.
     The former genus name Zygocactus is often used now as a common name for these plants.
ALL IN THE FAMILY Schlumbergera is a member of the Cactaceae (cactus) family, which includes both forest-type cacti, like these plants, as well as desert-type cacti. Unlike desert cacti, forest cacti are indigenous to woodlands, tropical jungles and rain forests. They are epiphytes (air plants) that grow nonparasitically on other plants or elevated supports, obtaining water and nutrients from the air through their roots.
HOME SWEET HOME These plants are native to the coastal mountain regions of southeastern Brazil.





Some information provided by:
Botanica, by R.G. Turner Jr. and Ernie Wasson
Chain of Life Network® , www.chainoflife.org
Complete Guide to Conservatory Plants, The
  by Ann Bonar
Complete Houseplant Survival Manual, The
  by Barbara Pleasant
Dictionary of Plant Names, by Allen J. Coombes
Ecke Ranch; www.ecke.com
Hortus Third, by Liberty Hyde Bailey and Ethel Zoe Bailey
Houseplant Encyclopedia, The
  by Ingrid Jantra and Ursula Krüger
New House Plant Expert, The, by Dr. D.G. Hessayon
SAF Flower & Plant Care
  by Terril A Nell, Ph.D. and Michael S. Reid, Ph.D.
Stearn’s Dictionary of Plant Names for Gardeners
  by William T. Stearn



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