Schlumbergera – Your Complete Indoor Care Guide

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Schlumbergera plant is commonly known as Christmas cactus. Schlumbergera is also known as a Thanksgiving cactus, Easter cactus, crab cactus, and holiday cactus. The scientific name for these popular seasonal flowers is Schlumbergera Bridgessii. This well-loved holiday flower gets its name from its flowering seasons. Schlumbergera typically blooms in the winter season, November through January.

Schlumbergera is easy to maintain, makes lovely gifts for holidays and events, and will bloom multiple times a year if receiving proper care. Continue reading to learn all there is to know about these exceptional plants.

Schlumbergera Origination

Schlumbergera Origination

Schlumbergera is found in the jungles and coastal mountains of brazil. They thrive in shady areas on rocks and cliffs. Schlumbergera is epiphytes in their natural habitats. Epiphytes are air plants that grow on other plants and rely on these base plants for physical support.

These cacti plants are from a genus of six to nine species. It is a usual assumption that cacti need intense sunny locations since this plant species, in particular, prefers shady indirect sunlight in high moisture areas compared to their desert-dwelling counterparts that love low moisture and extended sunlight hours.

Since Schlumbergera prefers indirect sunlight and needs extended darkness, they do not tolerate direct sunlight well. Direct sunlight on these flowering plants, especially if during the peak of the day, will cause severe burns and damage your beloved indoor plant. No matter the blooming season, Holiday cacti prefer an average of 14-hour darkness periods per day.

If well cared for and in optimal conditions, Schlumbergera can live as a house plant for 30 or more years with some reports of survival over 100 years, producing new buds time after time again, giving you and your family many years of enjoyment.

How To Determine Which Schlumbergera You Have

How To Determine Which Schlumbergera You Have

Schlumbergera does not have true leaves. Stems are often mistaken for leaves because of their variety of shapes. Flowers that bloom on the Schlumbergera bloom directly from the stems at the nodules. Flowers produced no matter the holiday name they hold can be many different colors: pink, pinky white, purple, orange, red, and yellow.

Most cacti sold in stores as Christmas cactus are unknowingly Thanksgiving cacti.

So how do you tell your cacti apart from the others?

The most obvious sign is your flower’s blooming season. Most Schlumbergera will bloom closest to their seasonal name. For instance, Thanksgiving cacti bloom near Thanksgiving, Christmas cacti bloom right around Christmas festivities, and Easter cacti bloom later in Spring.

Suppose you are a fantastic plant caretaker though most Schlumbergera will bloom more than once per year, making that determination trickier. The only downside ever of having a green thumb.

Take a look at your cacti’s stems, aka leaves, and their flowers.

Easter cactus flowers are daisy-like, and the stems are more rounded.

Thanksgiving and Christmas cactus have tubular flowers.

Thanksgiving cacti, the most popular type, have the pointest leaves, and you will notice a claw-like appearance around the edges.

Christmas cacti are not as pointy as Thanksgiving cacti, and they are more scalloped or tear-shaped in appearance.

How To Care for A Holiday Cactus

How To Care for A Holiday Cactus

A Christmas cactus is known for being tremendously easy-to-care-for succulent.

That is right, a Schulbergera, aka Christmas cactus, is also a type of succulent. A succulent stores water only in the stems and has no too tiny leaves. Other plant types have their water storage in their leaves. Christmas cacti do not have leaves; they have stems mistaken for leaves due to their unique shapes.

Temperature

Plant Temperature

Schlumbergera prefers temperatures between 60 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit or 15 to 21 degrees Celsius but will do fine at night with temperatures as low as 50 degrees Fahrenheit or 10 degrees Celsius.

Humidity

These succulents do well under average home conditions, yet they do need moisture in the air. During the winter seasons, Holiday cacti bloom, so it is essential to keep the moisture levels up indoors since cooler seasons can plummet humidity levels inside. To keep humidity levels up for your succulent, try a humidifier in the room close to your plant or a humidity tray underneath the pot.

A humidity tray is an excellent way to add moisture to an individual plant. Simply take a drip plate; the plastic trays you get from your nursery are perfect. Add rocks into the tray, then cover the stones halfway up with water. Set your plant on top of your humidity tray and let capillarity do the rest of the work for you. 

Sunlight

Schlumbergera on window

Schlumbergera can adapt to low light conditions but will produce blooms more frequently if exposed regularly to sunlight. Indirect light is best for these cacti plants because direct sunlight can quickly burn Christmas cactus stems, causing them to turn dark red.

These indoor flowers like to have indirect sunlight during the day, so placing them in an east-facing window is ideal. However, during blooming, they need 12 to 14 hours of darkness daily. If unable to provide needed darkness periods, consider a light sheet to cover the plant during the hours required.

Watering

Watering

Christmas cactus needs watering every two to three weeks.

Plan to use the soak and dry method. To check if your plant is dry enough for watering, insert your finger two to three inches beneath the surface of the soil. If the soil is dry for those inches, then it is time to water your Schlumbergera.

Place your plant into the shower, sink, or outside on a patio, soak the plant with water letting the water run out of the drainage holes. Once thoroughly wet, let the plant drain for about 15 to 30 minutes before bringing it back inside. When bringing your plant back inside, leave it on a tray or plate to catch any remaining leakage. By watering your plant using the soak and dry method, your plant will be in optimal conditions for the next few weeks waiting for the next watering.

Ensure not to overwater or let your Christmas cactus sit in water for too long. The drainage holes will allow excess water to escape but empty the water that drains into the plate as needed. Allowing your cacti to sit in water will lead your cacti to be susceptible to root rot and mealy bugs.

Soil and Nutrition

soil and fertilizer

Use quality soil and fertilizer full of nutrients and potassium.

Cacti thrive best in light sand-type soil. You can purchase commercial potting soil explicitly made for palms, cacti, and other desert-type plants that allow proper drainage and keep from being oversaturated.

If you decide to make your soil at home, you want to aim for great drainage products. Perlite is an excellent base to incorporate when creating your soil mixture.

Add fresh fertilizer every few weeks during the hotter months to provide your Schlumbergera with the nutrients it needs to keep producing beautiful blooms. Yet, when cooler seasons and optimal blooming periods arise, avoid disturbing the soil unless necessary.

Never repot your Christmas Cactus when actively blooming. Adding fresh soil as needed is fine, but fresh repotting should be done in early Spring or late Summer every three to four years will be sufficient.

Propagating A Schlumbergera

Propagating A Schlumbergera

Propagating a Holiday cactus is an easy task—one of the easiest plants to propagate, actually.

Steps to propagate a Schlumbergera:

  • Do not propagate during blooming season.
  • Cut off a few stems. Stems of the Schlumbergera are made of segments that appear like leaves. When cutting these stems, cut 3 to 4 segments length for each.
  • Do not clean cut-off stems. Twisting or pinching off stems is better for new plants to take root compared to a clean cut. So don’t be afraid if it looks a little messy at this step.
  • Let the stems air out for 2 to 3 days before potting. Set the stems aside and allow them to air out before proceeding with propagation.
  • Like any other plant, when waiting for a new plant to take root, you want to keep temperatures a bit warmer than you usually would. Schlumbergera typically likes 70 degrees Fahrenheit max during daylight hours, but when propagating, rev this temperature up a bit more, too, between 72 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • If you add multiple stems to the same pot, bury them an inch or so apart from one another.
  • Plant your cacti stems in a perlite, sand, and fertilizer mixture. This soil is best for adult plants and new growth as it allows required drainage for these desert-type plants.
  • After your cacti are potted and taking root, care for this succulent just as you would one at peak growth.

Reviving A Neglected Christmas Cactus

Reviving A Neglected Christmas Cactus

Life happens, time slips away, and plant care can fade into the background noise. After a time of unintended neglect, your Christmas cactus may be looking a little gloomy now. Don’t rush it to the trash too quick. There could still be hope to breathe life back into your flowering beauty.

Steps to take when attempting plant revival:

  • Inspect the soil. Does it look old, dry, crunchy, and dull? Feel beneath the top layer, and if down below is just as dim as the top, go ahead and grab some new soil rather than adding soil to the top. Sometimes, starting over fresh is best. Remove your plant from old soil, loosen the roots, and repot in new nutrition-filled dirt.
  • Remove brown, brittle, and broken stems. Grab your sheers and clean-cut off all the dead stems. Don’t worry if your cactus looks a little thin after these steps. Regrowth will happen, and your plant will fill out again. Removing these dead areas will encourage regrowth.
  • Water, water, and more water! After evaluating and tending to the soil and dead areas, it’s time to give your plant a drink. Give your plant plenty of water, let it pour out of the drainage holes, and water some more. After allowing the plant to drain for about 30 minutes, you can place it back on your drainage tray to catch any remaining drips and go ahead and move back into its perfect sunny spot.
  • Find the sunlight. Find the best indirect lighting spot in your home and give your plant the gift of warm, sunny days. Avoid direct sunlight to prevent burning, but indirect sunlight will help your plant thrive, and after the tender love and care just provided to it, your Christmas cactus will be in optimal conditions to flourish again. 

Toxicity

Schlumbergera succulents make great gifts for holidays and special events. Most believe this to be true because of the ease of care needed and their capabilities of long-lasting flourishing lives. Many do not realize; however, these succulents are also perfect gifts for pet owners.

Schlumbergera is non-toxic to humans, cats, and dogs. This does not mean to go and free feed your pet plant stems, but if you have a curious little one, there is no significant need for concern if they manage to grab a taste.

Schlumbergera in mass quantities can cause some stomach upset, including vomiting and diarrhea due to the fibrous plant material, but that is the extent of the concern.

Be cautious of your potting soil and fertilizer though just because the plant itself is not harmful does not mean chemicals or insecticides may not be toxic, especially if ingested.

Conclusion

When purchasing a Schlumbergera, most people do it because it has a pretty appearance. It is a bonus that they are effortless to care for, make great gifts for others, are not toxic to family and pets, and can be kept for years to come. Can you imagine passing a flower down to another family member?

From now on, when you go to a store looking for one of these flowers, pay close attention to the stems and flower shapes to determine if you really do have a Christmas cactus or if it is one of their brothers the Thanksgiving or Easter cacti.

FAQ

Yes, and even more astonishing is, as you know, these are easy to care for plants. They are also one of the easiest to propagate. You can do so by simply twisting off a stem from an existing plant, preferably 3 to 4 segments long, and planting it in its own pot just as you would a full-grown Schlumbergera. The most significant difference here is the temperature for roots to take growth needs to be a bit warmer than one that has already taken root. Optimal temperatures for newly propagated Schlumbergera are between 72 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit.

Christmas cacti are given as gifts all the time for holidays and events. This is for a good reason too. The ease of care among these indoor loving plants is second to none. Christmas cacti are non-toxic, so if your receiver has cats, you do not know about, you can rest easy knowing it will not harm them. Lastly, because they are beautiful flowers that last for years, unlike a lot of one-and-done gifting flowers.

When you purchase a Schlumbergera in stores, it is called a cacti. Commonly known as Christmas, Thanksgiving, and Easter cacti. These cacti flowers are named after the holiday they bloom nearby. Most stores sell Christmas cacti that are Thanksgiving cacti, so knowing how to tell the difference can be helpful even though all produce beautiful flowers.

Stems:

  • Christmas cacti stems are less pointy, and they are more scalloped, or teardrop shaped than their cousins.
  • Easter cacti have more rounded leaves, aka stems.
  • The most popular type, the Thanksgiving cactus, has the pointiest leaves, and their edges are more of a claw shape.

Flowers:

  • Christmas and Thanksgiving cactus produces tubular flowers.
  • Easter cacti have daisy-shaped flowers.

One of the great things about Schlumbergera, they are non-toxic to humans and pets. With that being said, obviously, you should not walk around eating your plant or feeding it to your dog for dinner. But, if there happens to be slight ingestion, there is no cause for concern. If your dog happens to eat the plant in excess, it can cause some stomach upset, but that will likely be the worst of it. Do, however, investigate what is in your potting soil of choice. Just because the Schlumbergera species themselves are non-toxic, you still need to be careful about what is in your soil because that could be.

No, not at all. In fact, it is one of the easiest plants to keep indoors. Get off to a great start by repotting the plant as soon as you bring it home. Buy soil that has a balance of proper drainage and water retention. When you repot your plant, give it a thorough watering and let it drain for a bit. After your plant has drained the excess water, search for the optimal place indoors for sunlight conditions. Schlumbergera requires indirect sunlight and temps between 60 – 70 degrees Fahrenheit but also likes to have more extended periods of darkness during blooming seasons. Continue watering your plant every couple of weeks when dried out. Clip off any dead stems, add soil as necessary, and replace soil every few years. That’s all it takes to keep your Schlumbergera thriving for future generations.

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