For someone who has overwintered 175+ plants in her house, you'd think one of them would be a Christmas Cactus. But as you wade through the jungle of Brugmansias, Begonias, Kalanchoes, and Hibiscus, there's nary a Schlumbergera to be found.
I've never been a big fan of these succulents, which probably explains why I've been able to pass them by multiple times whenever I've seen them in the garden centers and grocery stores. But I never used to eat broccoli either.
We spent Thanksgiving at our younger daughter and son-in-law's house yesterday. I went up the night before to help out, and had to stop at Meijer to pick up a couple of things we needed. There they were again - those colorful Christmas cacti - in all sizes and colors. And they actually looked good.
These are technically not Christmas cacti, but Thanksgiving cacti, as Elizabeth Licata brought to my attention. She provided a great link to a blog post that explains the difference: Thanksgiving Cactus vs. Christmas Cactus by Troy Marden. (Thanks, Elizabeth!)
In the past, my objections to Schlumbergeras was that no matter how pretty the flowers were, the foliage looked ugly. Most of the time it was damaged or droopy. These were neither. The other thing that turned me off was that most of them were either pink or something like it. I'm kind of fussy about pink flowers in that I don't like some varieties in pink, and this was one of those.
Meijer had healthy-looking plants in shades of pink, but also the purest white and a lovely shade of red. It was the red ones that caught my eye. There were three different sizes and for a moment, I considered just sticking my toes into the world of Schlumbergeras by purchasing a small one for $3.49. But when I saw the lush larger ones, loaded with buds, for $13.99, I decided to jump in all the way.
So now I have a beauty called 'Caribbean Dancer' sitting on the coffee table in my family room. I've had to do some research on how to care for it, since I'm new to this one. Here's what I learned:
- Schlumbergeras are an epiphytic cactus, growing on trees in their native Brazil.
- They are thermo-photoperiodic, meaning they are sensitive to both temperature and light in regards to producing blooms. As the days shorten and temperatures drop, they are stimulated to flower.
- They don't have high light requirements, which is why they make good houseplants.
- Keep the soil moist, but don't overwater. Don't let it dry out either.
- Fertilize them four times a year and prune them after they finish blooming.
- Propagate them by taking the pruned sections and lay them on potting medium after allowing them to form a callous on the pruned end. You can put them in the potting medium a little ways too, if you'd like.
- Keep them in temperatures above 40 degrees F. They don't like it colder than that. (Zone 10b-11 suits them best for growing outdoors.)