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Blooming Plants
   Blooming Plant of the Month
            Forest Cacti

otanical 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 their roots.

Originally, these plants produced cherry-red blossoms. Today, holiday cacti are available in hues of pink, red, white, orange and lavender.

consumer life
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 yearly.

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 lavender.

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 Squire
• 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, at  or (415) 239-3140.

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