The Christmas cactus is an epiphytic cactus that is native to Brazil. It is a popular houseplant that has jointed flat segments and rose purple flowers, which bloom in winter. In the wild, Christmas cacti can be found growing in the forks of tree limbs, where they feed off the decayed leaves.
The correct botanical name for Christmas cacti is Schlumbergera. It is a hybrid of the Schlumbergera truncata and Schlumbergera russelliana. This type of cactus has been a holiday houseplant since the 1800s. It is a tropical cactus plant that requires care that is completely different than that of a regular cactus.
Christmas cacti are given their name because, when properly cared for, they are in full bloom during the holiday months. During the fall months, maintaining the correct temperature is crucial. It is important to keep the temperature in the house around 50° Fahrenheit (10° Celsius). The Christmas cactus should be kept away from heat vents and doors that open to the outside of the house. Areas of extreme heat or cold must be avoided or the plant will not bloom.
Proper light is crucial to getting the Christmas cactus to bloom during the holidays. The cactus should be placed in an area that receives indirect bright light during the day. At night, the cactus needs complete darkness. This means that the room must not have any light at all, including lamps, night lights or television.
When watering a Christmas cactus, the same guidelines for watering any other tropical plant should be followed. The cactus should be watered thoroughly and the soil allowed to dry. When the top 1 inch (2.54 cm) of soil is dry, it can be watered again. During the fall and winter, it should be watered less frequently.
In order to keep the Christmas cactus alive, the humidity in the room in which it is kept should be maintained around 50 to 60 percent. This can be done by keeping a small bowl of water near the plant. As it evaporates, the air will stay humid. The plant can also be placed on a saucer filled with pebbles. Water can be added halfway up the pebbles to provide a continuous source of humidity for the cactus plant.
The Christmas cactus should be fertilized with a liquid fertilizer in late October to early November. The nitrogen ratio of the fertilizer should be no higher than 10 percent. There are three numbers on the fertilizer container; the first one is the percentage of nitrogen it contains.
With proper care, this plant can be passed down from generation to generation. It is a long-lived, easy plant to grow. When properly cared for, it will flower several times throughout the year.