Christmas and Easter Cactus (Schlumbergera bridgesii; Schlumbergera rhipsalidopsis) AKA Thanksgiving Cactus, Holiday Cactus
Christmas cactus (Schlumbergera spp.) and Easter cactus (Rhipsalidopsis spp.) are both types of cacti that are known for their ability to bloom around the holiday seasons for which they are named.
Christmas cactus is a tropical cactus that typically blooms in late fall or early winter with a range of colors such as pink, red, lavender, and white. They are native to the rainforests of Brazil and typically prefer a humid environment and cooler temperatures. They are often grown as houseplants, and are valued for their long-lasting and colorful blooms. Christmas cactus can be propagated from stem cuttings and need well-draining soil, bright light, and regular watering to bloom.
Easter cactus, also known as Whitsun cactus or Holiday cactus, is a subtropical cactus that blooms in late winter or early spring, typically around the time of the Easter holiday. They have a range of colors including red, pink, orange, and purple. They are native to the coastal mountains of Brazil. Like Christmas cactus, Easter cactus can be propagated from stem cuttings and need well-draining soil, bright light, and regular watering to bloom. They also prefer cooler temperature than other cacti.
- Both types of cactus require a period of darkness to initiate flower buds, so it’s important to provide them with at least 14 hours of darkness per day for at least 6 weeks before the expected bloom time.
- Both Christmas and Easter cactus prefer to be kept slightly on the dry side, so allow the top inch of soil to dry out before watering. Overwatering can lead to root rot, which can be fatal.
- Both types of cactus prefer a slightly cooler temperature, around 60-70°F (15-21°C) during the day and around 50-55°F (10-13°C) at night.
- Christmas cactus prefers moderate humidity, while Easter cactus prefers high humidity.
- To encourage reblooming, after the first blooming period, provide the cactus with a period of darkness for 6-8 weeks.
- Both types of cactus can be fertilized every 4-6 weeks during the growing season with a balanced, water-soluble fertilizer.
- Keep in mind that Christmas and Easter cactus are not true cactus, they are actually tropical epiphytes and they can be propagated by taking stem cuttings, place them in water or in a well-draining soil and keep them in a warm and humid place until they root.
The Christmas and Easter cacti are colourful additions to your holidays and beyond. Well-timed for the holidays, the Christmas Cactus blooms (white, pink, red, purple-red, violet and yellow) in December and lasts for several weeks. During the blooming period, the Christmas Cactus’ branches droop.
The Easter Cactus is similar in appearance to its Christmas counterpart, but the Easter Cactus blooms in the spring and its arched branches do not droop as drastically.
Great Bedroom Plant
Both varieties of cacti have the unusual characteristic of removing carbon dioxide and releasing oxygen into the atmosphere at night (which is the opposite of most plants, except for the Snake Plant).
Next to the Poinsettia, the Christmas Cactus is the second most popular indoor flowering houseplant for the holiday season.
Care and Blooming
Both Christmas and Easter cactus are relatively easy to care for, as long as they are provided with the right growing conditions: bright but indirect light, well-draining soil, and regular watering. They are happy in a pot or terrarium all year round and bring beautiful blooms during the holiday season.
Place them in any well-lit area, away from a draft or heat/cooling source.
To coax your Christmas Cactus to re-bloom indoors, chill it. Do not put your plant outdoors — instead, about 6 to 8 weeks before you want your plant to flower, place it in a cool or unheated area of the house at 55 to 60 F, for two weeks. After two weeks, place your Christmas Cactus in its original well-lit location. In a few weeks, enjoy the blooms.
OR. If you cannot control the temperature in a room in your house, try this method: place your Christmas Cactus in complete darkness (in a cellar or closet) until buds develop. If you are hoping to have a blooming plant by the holiday season, place your plant in darkness in mid-to-late October.
To propagate, simply root the stem cuttings. Easy!
These hardy plants are resistant to pest infestation unless they are stressed or experience a change in environmental conditions, especially during the budding period (buds might drop if stressed).
Water and Fertilizer
Water to moisten the soil and let dry between waterings. Feed with a weak concentration of fertilizer every two weeks in summer. Water sparingly in the winter and stop fertilizing so the leaves will mature (and discontinue feeding while flowering). Mist often. Some thoroughly water their plants once every two weeks, and find that this works well. Experiment to see what works best for you, but do not let its soil become “bone” dry — a Holiday Cactus is not a typical desert cactus.
An ideal planting soil is a mix of 1-part potting soil, 2-parts leaf mold and 1-part perlite.