Landscape Spotlight: Christmas Cactus, ‘Schlumbergera bridgessii’

Posted December 26, 2019 in Plant and Tree

Have you ever seen a Christmas Cactus or been given one and don’t know what to do with it?  Well for most, a Christmas cactus may seem like a highly unusual plant to have hanging around the holiday ham, but it truly is a beautiful addition to the festivities!  So, move those predictable poinsettias over on the mantle and put this colorful cactus on full focal point display!  Let’s take a look at its history, care tips and at what makes this particular plant so darn lovable in this month’s Landscape Spotlight!

Discovered by Charles Lemaire in the mid-1800s, this plant is named after the French cacti collector Frederic Schumberger, hence the Schlumbergera genus.  This plant is almost in a category of its own, only having 6 species in the bunch.  While you would most likely identify a cactus being from the southwest, this lovely is actually native to Brazil!  For a majority of the year, this houseplant will sit on a shelf or in a window almost blending into the paint on the wall, but come the winter holidays it’s time to shine, well, with a little TLC.

·         To ensure your cactus will bloom at the right time, you may need to force it…not like forcing your kids to eat peas…but sending it into dormancy and then coercing it out.  This isn’t difficult to do, just follow these steps:

·         Around mid-October, reduce its watering and only water when the soil feels dry about an inch down.  There is no need to fertilize at this time.

·         Keep the plant in a cool location, 50-55° if possible.

·         In this cool location, also make sure that the light is limited.  Indirect light during the day is just fine, but 12-14 hours of total nocturnal darkness is essential.  This can be accomplished by putting the plant in a dark closet or room that doesn’t get hit by street or night lights.  Continue this daytime/nighttime schedule for about 6-8 weeks.

·         Once you see flower buds form, move your Christmas cactus out of hiding and into a bright window that isn’t affected by cold drafts.  Cold drafts will actually make the buds that you worked so hard for, fall off!

Livening up just in time for the holidays, their “arms” are made up of hanging flat and glossy green leaf segments, which are interesting by themselves, but the flowers are the real gem.  Each flower is about 3 inches long with tiers of petals in either white, yellow, or a vibrant red, pink or purple.  The flowers are a real welcomed sight when everything else in the house is red, silver and gold!  Each flower of the Christmas Cactus will last for several days, but only if the plant is properly taken care of.  Don’t be intimidated, this isn’t a very difficult beauty to take care of…you just need to know what you’re doing.

Just like any other houseplant, there are a few simple tips to keep your plant in top-top shape:

  • Situate your Christmas cactus in a place away from drafty windows or places with sudden drafts.
  • Light pruning after flowering re-energizes the plant, so don’t be afraid to give it a trim.
  • This plant likes to be slightly pot-bound, so don’t oversize its environment too quickly.
  • Just like Pothos plants, the Christmas cactus is easily propagated; don’t be afraid to share the gift!
  • Like other cacti, this landscape spotlight can handle some slight neglect.  However, unlike other cacti, it does not like to dry out.  When you see the plant droop, it is time for a watering!

Following these few steps to force and maintain your blooms isn’t terribly difficult, and your efforts will be rewarded with holiday cheer!  However, please take note that there are several types of holiday cacti out there.  If you find that your Christmas cactus isn’t blooming when it should, perhaps it isn’t a Christmas cactus at all!  You may be caring for an Easter or Thanksgiving cactus.  Each of these cacti will bloom around their respective holiday.  Besides bloom times, here is how you can tell them apart:

  • Christmas cacti have flattened leaves with rounded teeth and tube-like flowers.
  • Thanksgiving cacti are quite similar, but have flattened leaves with pointed teeth!
  • Easter cacti, yes, have flattened leaves, but their flowers resemble a daisy rather than a tube shape.

Now that we are all a little wiser on the appropriate steps to take to ensure Christmas cactus magic, the only thing left to do is go out and find your perfect specimen!  You can find this landscape spotlight at most year-round garden centers and places that sell holiday décor like Home Depot or Lowes.

Being that this is our final blog of 2019, we would like to take a minute to express our sincere gratitude and holiday cheer to our clients that have made the last 365 days of outdoor living design/build adventurous and fun!  Experiencing this journey with you is so amazing for everyone in the MasterPLAN office and we hope that you all loved your experience and your new outdoor living spaces as much as we loved creating them for you!

For those that are exploring their own backyard transformation options, we would also like to extend our warm wishes!  MasterPLAN Outdoor Living loves to partner with our clients to create custom-tailored outdoor living spaces that perfectly fit their family, home and lifestyle.  If you are looking for a team of professionals to help guide you through your own process to uncover the true potential of your space, reach out!  We would love to welcome you into the MasterPLAN family.

Happy holidays and best wishes in the new year!

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