The Christmas Cactus

The Christmas cactus is such an interesting little plant. They have flat odd oval shaped leaves.  The stems grow in all directions with no apparent rhyme or reason. In the late fall they develop lovely buds which usually open during the winter holidays when they then  become an amazingly beautiful plant. There are no pricklies as you would find in a more traditional cactus.

The Christmas cactus is officially called Schlumbergera which grows wild in the jungles near Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  As a houseplant, you will often find them growing on a California patio or living room just about anyplace  where they can  thrive with proper care. The key to getting a Christmas cactus to flower during the holiday season  is the correct light exposure and temperatures with limited watering. As with most succulents and cactus, too much watering can make them soggy or even kill them.  In the fall months, the Christmas cactus should receive indirect bright light during the day with total darkness at night.  They often start blooming in late November and may continue on into January. The fiery blooms may be red, white or various shades of pink. The blooms last longer at about 45 to 70 degrees.

My mother in law lives near the Mississippi River and has the most beautiful Christmas cactus you have ever seen. It is always lush and full of green foliage when we visit each year but I have never been around when it blooms.

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I had her send me a picture.

The recent warmer fall  weather in the Midwest may have caused the late blooms this year. She has given me pieces to take home to grow my own cactus but I have had no success in getting one to start. My sister also has a Christmas cactus. Hers bloom magnificently during the holiday season.

This year, however, she has no blooms at all.

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She says it is in mourning because of the loss of our sister. Can plants be intuitive this way?  I have no idea but two years ago it looked like this…

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…and last year like this.

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This year it is simply drooping.

We were all drooping a little this Christmas.

When visiting recently, I asked if I could have a piece of the cactus to take home and try once again to grow one from a cutting. She said she could do even better!  She has a friend whose father starts Christmas cactus all the time and was certain he’d be delighted to give me one. Sure enough, a week later I had my own Christmas cactus.

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Now I would hardly call it a start. I would more call it a young plant and I am thrilled. The trick will be to see if I can keep it alive.  One of my goals this year is to increase the number of houseplants I have. Last year I started with a few small ones…

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and so far so good.

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I love African Violets and I think this one may actually bloom.

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The antique cup with the succulent was a gift.

In the past I have had some moderate success growing houseplants. We have some nosey cats now and I need to be sure the plants are either out of reach or non toxic. The Christmas cactus in non toxic.

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(Delilah, my faithful feline companion)

Houseplants is a newer hobby I am pursuing in my retirement. Not only are indoor plants pleasing to the eye, but during photosynthesis they absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen. They increase humidity in the air around them, help purify the air, and some think even offer other health benefits-even boost healing!

I am going to try to propagate another plant from a cutting but for the moment, I will just enjoy and embrace my beautiful Christmas cactus.

Check back in 6 months and I’ll let you know how I’m doing!

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23 thoughts on “The Christmas Cactus

  1. Going by the old Christmas cactus my son has I’d say the trick is negligence😉. Let it dry out completely between waterings too. Good luck with your new hobby and I do look forward to your report in a few months.

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  2. I have one of those plants Jan – though we don’t call it the Christmas cactus, mine finished flowering just before Christmas this year. Isn’t it lovely that we can share house plants 🙂 I am quite open to the thought that plants can respond to a strong feeling, especially if it is shown by it’s main career – and certainly if it is one of grief, why would they flower? I think it is lovely that you are starting a new hobby of growing plants in doors. I always have done this and passed the love on to my own daughters. I think I was taught by my favourite aunt who grew indoor plants long before it was considered fashionable. I have often thought a house feels a tad sterile if it doesn’t have plants and flowers in it, they bring life as well as cleaning the air; but I have a good friend who says emphatically that plants belong outside and it is wrong to try and tame them indoors. I point out to him that mine aren’t really tamed and many are bursting out in all directions from their confining pots 🙂 I’m sure you will love looking after your plants and seeing the ways in which they respond to your care and attention.
    I shall look forward to the odd post reporting on growth rates and newcomers.

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  3. I love walking into a home with indoor plants. It always makes a cozy feel. Until we had cats I enjoyed some plants but glad I decided to forge ahead anyway now. Time and patience are in abundance these days so I should not have a problem giving them the care and attention they deserve. What do you call your Christmas cactus? It’s nice that you passed that love on to your daughters. My mother had a house full of children and no time for tending plants. In my earlier years I was considered a definite plant killer. I may not have a green thumb but I have a desire so hopefully that will be enough.

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  4. I love houseplants, especially succulents. I hope your Christmas cactus makes it 🙂 It’s so rewarding to learn to care for these little guys – they do so much in return, too.

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  5. Depending on where I was living determined my success with house plants. I have no indoor sunlight here as all windows are covered by the carport or porch or have furniture in front of them. They need light. I’ve had some get gnats around them and had to take them outside. Some places I lived, everything grew wonderfully. Here, very little stays alive inside. My son has orchids in the kitchen but I keep the light on them. I have an African violet there and the tiny bamboo that was in a pot of water is about to take over the space in the kitchen. They do well in low light. Plants do best if you talk to them lovingly and they do grieve. I’ve always told kids that were beating trees and bushes with sticks that plants have feelings too. Just like people. They have proven it scientifically. They respond to prayer too. Kind words make a difference. So does the music you play and your moods. Plants feel them just like your pets do. I wish I could grow more in here. 😦 Have a great weekend.

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  6. Light is an issue in my little house also….except in my marvelous sewing room. It is sunny and bright and quite possibly my most favorite place in our home. It is currently where most of my plants are thriving. I am trying to expand on some of the lower light areas but will see how that goes. If I can only grow them in my room I am ok with that. ♡ I guess I had never thought about plants picking up on our moods or feelings but maybe that is why they do so well in my room. I am happiest when I am sewing, reading, or enjoying the sunset out of my window in there. Have a great weekend! We are having a baby shower here Saturday. ….another great granddaughter coming soon. ♡♡♡♡

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  7. I’ll hold happy thoughts for you tomorrow. Another great granddaughter!! How exciting for you. You don’t look old enough to even have grandchildren. I’m trying to figure out how to get plants in my sewing room without burning them in the window in summer. Time will make it all work.

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  8. Oh! I have this plant. I never knew its name. My stepmom gave it to me as a birthday present about five years ago. It blooms in June here, which is right, as I am a winter solstice Southern Hemisphere belle 😀 Mine is pink. Only problem is, it became so prolific that my husband thought repotting and pruning was called for. Sad, sad poor baby ever since he went at it like a bull in a china shop. He says it will come back . . . Sniff.

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  9. I have a few plants as well here in my home. However, in the southwest I have lost my green thumb. I have a Christmas cactus… but it is looking very sad. Good Luck with your plants… and we shall compare notes in a few months as to how well our cactus plants are doing!

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