Photo by Melody

Will the Real Christmas Cactus Please Stand Up

By Tina Bolin (tmbolinDecember 7, 2012
bookmark

I have a Christmas cactus that a friend gave me in 2005. The plant was an offshoot of her grandmotherís which was over 40 years old! Wow, a plant older than me. To see this baby in full bloom in December warms my heart. This article is aimed to show the reader the difference in a true Christmas cactus and other holiday cacti. Also I will cover how to grow and care for your cactus so that you too can have a piece of flowering history.

Gardening picture

 

(Editor's Note: This article was originally published on December 19 2007.  Your comments are welcome, but please be aware that authors of previously published articles may not be able to promptly respond to new questions or comments.)  

 

Image

 There are three main types of holiday cactus; Easter (Hatiora gaertneri), Thanksgiving (Schlunbergera truncata), and Christmas (Schlumbergera x buckleyi). Now a lot of folks believe that Schlumbergera bridgesii is the original Christmas cactus but after a ton of research, I must agree with Paul Brunelle. Mr. Brunelle, a highly respected cacti and succulent horticulturist, states: 

"The true "Christmas Cactus" is Schlumbergera x buckleyi, a hybrid between S. russelliana and S. truncata produced in the late 1840s by William Buckley at the Rollisson Nurseries in England. There are possibly two, perhaps three slightly different surviving clones (vegetative descendants created through layering or cuttings) of three hybrids of this cross, named S. x buckleyi 'Buckleyi ' , S. x buckleyi 'Rollissonii', and possibly S. x buckley 'Snowii'. 'Rollissonii', has flowers magenta in colour, 'Buckleyi', with white tube shading to magenta petals, and 'Snowii', with smaller magenta flowers and stem segments. The name Schlumbergera bridgesii, still seen occasionally, was mistakenly published for it very early, and only in 1964 was the plant's proper history and correct designation traced and reestablished by Will Tjaden, a member of the Epiphytic Plant Study Group in England.[1]

In the late 1840s, William Buckley decided to cross hybrid S. x russelliana and S. truncata to become the first true Christmas cactus. However, the Schlumbergera were first introduced in 1818 in England.

 

ImageImageImage

 

To be able to differentiate between these cacti, you must look at their leaves or stem segments called phylloclades. The Christmas cactus has a rounded lobe on the edge of the leaf. Nothing pointed on this one. The phylloclades also arch downward. The Thanksgiving cactus leaves have soft points on the margins. The leaves are also very erect and tend to spread out more than the others. The Easter cactus is very easy to spot. The flowers are very different for starters. The stem segments are thick and the edges are slightly serrated but rounded. The one also only blooms once per year around Easter whereas the other two bloom twice.

 

The piece I was given had been propagated in a glass of water. But leave the section only long enough to see roots start. Then I planted it in a 12-inch pot with a soil mixture of vermiculite, potting soil and a little sand. Schlumbergera really prefer to be kept in a cool environment so mine sits on my kitchen counter. It receives indirect sunlight and bright indoor light. DO NOT let your holiday cactus get direct sunlight! They don’t respond well at all. You can shape your plant by pinching off stem segments. (Use these as gifts!) My plant is very lopsided because I did not groom it well but it’s happy so who cares! Some people complain that their cactus never blooms. So here is the recipe for a beautiful flowering show. Around 4 to 5 weeks before buds should start to show I cover the plant with a paper bag at night and leave it for 10 to12 hours. You can move your plant to a closet or dark room but these guys are a little fussy about being moved around. It makes them lose their buds so I personally do not move mine during this time. The temperature should be around 60 to 65 degrees. Now on this point I like my house cool so it wasn’t a problem. Maybe you could place your plant in an out of the way corner far from any heating vents.

 

Once your cactus does bloom you will forget all about the pains you took to get it there! Kind of like having a baby. HA. The blooms are diurnal so they close a night. I have seen plants with at least 300 blooms! I’ve read about one that is 4 feet in diameter and sports around 800 blooms! Color of bloom can range from light pink to magenta, white to yellow. All are spectacular. Let me urge you to go online and check out the amazing collection of cacti and succulents at Dalhousie University. Most of these were donated by Paul Brielle.

 

I hope I have persuaded you to try a Christmas cactus of your own. They truly are worth it!

[1] Paul J. Brunelle, Paul’s Notes
20 Dec. 2001

 

ImageImageImage

 

Thanks once again to my DG friends for the photos on this article.

 


  About Tina Bolin  
I am a farm girl born and raised! I have lived in rural Tennessee all my life and can't imagine living anywhere else! Well...maybe some beautiful, exotic island with white sand, azure waters....Oh my! I live with my 2 children Zeth 12 and Maison 8, a randy young tomcat named Gizmo and a whole bushel of forest critters that call our yard and porch home away from home. I love the beauty of gardening and the serenity it brings to my life. Being able to plant, grow and nurture something of beauty is truely one of God's greats gifts.

  Helpful links  
Share on Facebook Share on Stumbleupon

[ Mail this article | Print this article ]

» Read articles about: Houseplants, Cactus And Succulents, Christmas Cactus, Schlumbergera

» Read more articles written by Tina Bolin

« Check out our past articles!



Discussion about this article:
SubjectTopic StarterRepliesViewsLast Post
Help Identifying amosjsoma 0 0 Dec 6, 2014 8:01 AM
S. bridgesii MacGuffin 0 6 Dec 19, 2012 6:15 AM
Going to look for one -or two- CLScott 0 25 Dec 7, 2012 12:29 AM
I have one older DaBenDan 3 103 Dec 9, 2011 7:17 AM
Cool temps also will cause budding tommyr2006 9 148 May 4, 2011 6:24 PM
holiday cactus = family tradition Kerni 0 24 Dec 1, 2010 8:37 AM
No Fuss for Me Sadaajit 1 26 Nov 30, 2010 1:13 PM
Schlumbergera PlantFile Error? clareb 0 44 Nov 29, 2010 3:40 PM
Grans Plant WeeDave 2 81 Nov 29, 2010 3:38 PM
Updated links to Dalhousie University PGriffith 0 43 Nov 29, 2010 3:23 PM
holiday cactus burien_gardener 1 50 Nov 29, 2010 5:39 AM
christmas cacti flyngangel 0 48 Dec 18, 2009 1:52 AM
I want one! KyWoods 6 128 Apr 8, 2008 3:11 PM
Great article roadrunner 6 88 Apr 8, 2008 3:06 PM
Thank so much doccat5 1 50 Dec 19, 2007 2:49 PM
You cannot post until you login.


We recommend Firefox
Overwhelmed? There's a lot to see here. Try starting at our homepage.

[ Home | About | Advertise | Media Kit | Mission | Featured Companies | Submit an Article | Terms of Use | Tour | Rules | Privacy Policy | Contact Us ]

Back to the top

Copyright © 2000-2014 Dave's Garden, an Internet Brands company. All Rights Reserved.
 

Hope for America