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Holiday Cactus

Depending on when they bloom, members of the Schlumbergera genus are called either Thanksgiving or Christmas cactuses.

Many of us have houseplants with jagged leaf segments that we call cactuses. They have blooms that hang down and provide exuberant indoor color during the colder months.

All are members of the Schlumbergera genus, and depending when they bloom, we call them either our Thanksgiving or Christmas cactuses. But they are not hot desert plants at all, as they hail from the humid jungles on the coast of Brazil.

They like to be in a cool spot at night when they are setting their buds in the fall and also when they are flowering. I keep mine in the basement at about 60 degrees fahrenheit at night, as hot dry air can damage the buds, but I bring them upstairs once they begin blooming.

The species that blooms around Thanksgiving is Schlumbergera truncate, and in the 1800s it was crossed with Schlumbergera russelliana. The cross resulted in Schlumbergera buchleyi, which blooms around Christmas.

The hybridizers have been busy with this genus, and now there are in excess of 200 named cultivars with a range of bloom times from November into January.

It is easy to propagate these plants from cuttings but they cannot be divided. Just twist off, rather than cut, pieces about three segments long and plant the pieces so that they stand erect in a pot with good drainage in filtered light. Water sparingly, and to be on the safe side, just refer to them all as “holiday” cactuses.

Moya Andrews

, originally from Queensland, Australia, served as Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and Dean of the Faculties at Indiana University until 2004. In the same year, Moya began hosting Focus on Flowers for WFIU. In addition, Moya does interviews for Profiles, is a member of the Bloomington Hospital Board, and authored Perennials Short and Tall from Indiana University Press.

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