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BONNIE'S GARDEN--Holiday Cactus

One of the plants you’ll see almost everywhere this time of year (besides early poinsettias) are Christmas/Thanksgiving/Holiday cactus.  So here are some interesting facts about these beautiful seasonal bloomers.

Holiday cacti are a small genus of plants called Schlumbergera.  They are members of the cactus family and related to rhipsalis.  They are native to a very small area in south-eastern Brazil where they often grow on trees or moss-covered rocks in lightly-shaded areas with high humidity.  They have flat segmented stems with toothed margins.

There are two types of Holiday cactus—Truncatas, which have stem segments with more pointed teeth and tend to bloom November-ish, and Buckleyi’s which have rounded more symmetrical teeth on the margins and blooms a bit later.

 A Holiday cactus is what is called thermo-photoperiodic—meaning it needs a period of cool temperatures and long dark nights in order to initiate bud set.  In our homes, that’s easy enough to do if you have a room that is very bright during the day, but is between 50 and 60 degrees at night with uninterrupted darkness from sunset until dawn.  Don’t have a spare room that you keep that cool at night? Neither do I.  I simply put mine outside for the summer—moving them outside about the first to the middle of May (depending on temperature) and not bringing them back inside until night temperatures are falling to around forty.  Mine just came inside last week.  Remember, when you put them outside, place them under a tree where they get only a little dappled sunlight

Basic care is simple—even though they are real cacti, their environment is the tropics, not the desert.  I keep mine in an African violet exposure—a couple of hours of good morning sun (before 11:30) or afternoon sun (after 2:30).  I do allow them to dry partly but do not let them go bone dry.  As they are native to areas with lots of humidity, a light misting while inside or setting on pebble trays would make them happiest.  I also give mine a shot occasionally of African violet food from April through August.  Don’t feed after August as this may interfere with bud set.

I prune mine in mid-spring before I put them outside for the summer.  Prune by simple “twisting” off the stems where the segments attach.  The tips can then be placed in a small pot where they will root. Pruning will help your plant to branch.  More branches means more flowers.
Posted: 11/14/2016 by Bonnie Pega | with 2 comment(s)
Comments
Bonnie
Holiday cactus are not known to be toxic to pets. That said, it's still best to keep your pets from nibbling anyway, on the off-chance they have an allergic reaction. A bittering agent found at pet stores will work for that.
12/8/2016 12:54:25 PM

Lori
Are Christmas cacti poisonous to animals. We have dogs and a cat.
11/27/2016 6:24:54 AM

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