Blooming Plant of
and common names
Schlumbergera truncata (shlum-BER-ger-uh) (Thanksgiving cactus),
Schlumbergera x buckleyi and S. bridgesii (Christmas cactus),
Hatiora gaertneri (HAT-ee-or-ah), syn. Rhipsalidopsis (Easter
cactus); all are also known as holiday cacti and are
“forest-type” cacti rather than “desert type.”
Holiday cacti are popular for their profuse, colorful flowers.
They have flattened, succulent stem joints that form arching
branches. Their tubular, papery florets bloom at the end of the
stem sections. Holiday cacti are “epiphytic,” or air, plants;
they grow on other plants or on elevated supports, obtaining
water and nutrients from the air through a spongy covering on
Originally, these plants produced cherry-red blossoms. Today,
holiday cacti are available in hues of pink, red, white, orange
Holiday cacti remain in flower for three to five weeks depending
on interior environment and care. Each floret will last several
days and can be removed when it fades. These plants will survive
lack of care in the home or workplace and still produce flowers
The major types of holiday cacti are:
THANKSGIVING CACTI (Schlumbergera
truncata) They have stem segments with toothed or jagged edges.
The flowers appear earlier under natural light conditions than
those on Christmas cacti. They usually have bright orange or red
blossoms. They are night-blooming species, flowering when the
days are short and nights are long.
CHRISTMAS CACTI (Schlumbergera
x buckleyi, S. bridgesii) These plants have small, smooth-edged
stem sections and are usually bright pink, white or red in
color. Like Thanksgiving cacti, they are night blooming.
EASTER CACTI (Hatiora
gaertneri, syn. Rhipsalidopsis) The flowers of these
day-blooming plants appear at the stem joints and at the ends of
the stems. They require the same conditions as other holiday
cacti. They generally rest from December through late March and
bloom from early April until late May. They are popular for the
spring holidays. Their colors are usually light pink, white and
Holiday cacti are brought into bloom and marketed mostly in the
fall, winter and spring during the appropriate holiday.
ETHYLENE SENSITIVITY Holiday
cacti are sensitive to ethylene. Check with your suppliers to
make sure your plants have been treated with an ethylene
inhibitor at the grower level or during transportation.
PESTS Mealy bugs and scales
are the most common problems with these plants. They usually can
be controlled by washing them off or by swabbing the plants with
a cotton applicator dipped in alcohol.
BLOOMS Plants may drop buds
if environmental conditions fluctuate rapidly, if it’s too hot
or if the humidity is too low.
DISEASES Root rot due to
overwatering is the biggest disease problem.
Some information provided by:
• San Diego Epiphyllum Society,
• The Chain of Life Network®,
• Dave’s Garden,
• The Photographic Encyclopedia of Indoor Plants, by David
• SAF’s Flower & Plant Care manual
Some photos courtesy of the Bay City Flower Co., Inc.
Reach “Fresh Flower of the Month” writer Steven W. Brown, AIFD,
or (415) 239-3140.
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