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Christmas Cactus Schlumbergera truncata

Other plants called Christmas Cactus:

Previously known as:

  • Zygocactus truncatus
Phonetic Spelling
shlum-BER-ger-uh trunk-AH-tuh
Description

This tough epiphytic succulent has showy flowers that bloom in the winter, usually around Thanksgiving, hence the most popular common name Thanksgiving Cactus.  It is also known by many other common names and is sometimes confused with the true Christmas Cactus (Schlumbergera x buckleyi).  You can tell them apart because the Thanksgiving Cactus has claw-like appendages on its flat stems (or cladophylls) that resemble crab claws, hence of of its other common names Crab Cactus.  The blooms on this cactus are erect and do not hang down like the flowers on Schlumbergera x buckleyi.  Though the word "cactus" is in the name, these plants do not do well in hot arid environments like other cactuses preferring the higher humidity climate of its native Brazilan rainforests.  They grow in zones 10-12 and outside of that work best as houseplants.  

Plant it in a good draining succulent potting mix and place it in a warm room (57-72 degrees Fahrenheit) that receives bright light in the winter and high humidity.  In the summer it will need some shade or the leaves will yellow out. Bathrooms are a popular spot.  Do not overwater this plant.  If you are lucky it will bloom a second time as the days lengthen in February.  Or you can force it into blooming by exposure to night temperatures of 40 degrees for several successive nights.

When new growth starts in the spring fertilize lighly monthly, reducing fertilizer in the fall and early winter.  Repot the plant every three years or so, it does well being slightly pot-bound.  

It easily propagates through stem cuttings.  Just remove two or three stem segments with a sharp knife and let it callous over for a few days.  Plant in moist, well-draining potting mix and water when the soil is completely dry.  The stems will take root after a few weeks.   Most of the plants sold in stores today are hybrids of S. russelliana and S. truncata. The hybrid type determines when it will bloom. There are over 200 cultivars of these plants which give a variety of flower colors.  If you purchase a plant that is labeled Christmas Cactus it is very likely not S. x buckleyi.

Insects, Diseases, and Other Plant Problems:  Reduced flowering or dropping of flower buds can be from inadequate dark hours (at least 13 uninterrupted hours), sudden temperature, moisture, or light changes.  Aphids, red spider mites, scale, and mealybugs are common insect pests.  Root rot can be a problem with overwatered plants.

Quick ID

  • Cladophylls with acuminate teeth
  • Flowers elongated tube, zygomorphic
  • Flowers anthocyanin hued, apex strongly oblique
See this plant in the following landscape:
Cultivars / Varieties:
Tags:
#red#white#showy flowers#yellow#white flowers#succulent#easy to grow#pink flowers#red flowers#yellow flowers#fleshy leaves#epiphytic#tough plant#interiorscape#winter interest#thermo-photoperiodic#house plant#easy to propagate#fantz#humidity tolerant#winter flowers#Christmas decorations#seasonal bloomer
 
Cultivars / Varieties:
Tags:
#red#white#showy flowers#yellow#white flowers#succulent#easy to grow#pink flowers#red flowers#yellow flowers#fleshy leaves#epiphytic#tough plant#interiorscape#winter interest#thermo-photoperiodic#house plant#easy to propagate#fantz#humidity tolerant#winter flowers#Christmas decorations#seasonal bloomer
  • Attributes:
    Genus:
    Schlumbergera
    Species:
    truncata
    Family:
    Cactaceae
    Life Cycle:
    Perennial
    Recommended Propagation Strategy:
    Stem Cutting
    Country Or Region Of Origin:
    Brazil's rain forests
    Particularly Resistant To (Insects/Diseases/Other Problems):
    humidity
    Dimensions:
    Height: 0 ft. 6 in. - 1 ft. 0 in.
    Width: 1 ft. 0 in. - 2 ft. 0 in.
  • Whole Plant Traits:
    Plant Type:
    Perennial
    Succulent
    Habit/Form:
    Weeping
    Maintenance:
    Low
  • Cultural Conditions:
    Light:
    Partial Shade (Direct sunlight only part of the day, 2-6 hours)
    Soil Drainage:
    Good Drainage
    Occasionally Dry
    Available Space To Plant:
    Less than 12 inches
    12 inches-3 feet
    USDA Plant Hardiness Zone:
    10b, 10a, 11b, 11a, 12b, 12a
  • Flowers:
    Flower Color:
    Gold/Yellow
    Pink
    Purple/Lavender
    Red/Burgundy
    White
    Flower Value To Gardener:
    Long Bloom Season
    Showy
    Flower Bloom Time:
    Fall
    Winter
    Flower Shape:
    Tubular
    Flower Petals:
    asymmetrical petals
    Flower Description:
    A seasonal bloomer mostly in November-December but can re-bloom in February. Buds form on the terminal end of the stem. Flowers are zygomorphic (meaning if you cut them in half, you get 2 equal parts), showy, colorful, tube-like, perfect (have stamen and pistil), composed of tepals (since it is hard to tell what is a petal or sepal, people tend to say tepals) that form a corolla (just meaning that all the tepals look like one single part instead of separate parts), have pericarpel (the part below the pistil and above the stem), and tend to bloom in early winter (hence, it's name Christmas cactus as it generally blooms around Christmas time). The entire plant's blooming for the year (not individual flowers) only stays about 5 weeks.
  • Leaves:
    Hairs Present:
    Yes
    Leaf Description:
    Technically, this plant does not have true leaves. See stem section.
  • Stem:
    Stem Color:
    Green
    Pink
    Stem Is Aromatic:
    No
    Stem Buds:
    Hairy tips
    Stem Surface:
    Smooth (glabrous)
    Stem Description:
    The "leaves" of a Christmas cactus (Schlumbergera truncata) are technically not leaves: they are cladodes, a type of stem. The whole stem makes a bit of a Y shape. They are sessile (attached to each other, flattened, lobed and truncate, feel smooth, are a bit serrated in their margins, glossy but not glaucous, segmented (those segments are called phylloclades), thick, have hairs coming off of them on the end. On the stem are areoles where hair and flowers emerge.
  • Landscape:
    Landscape Location:
    Container
    Hanging Baskets
    Houseplants
    Landscape Theme:
    Rock Garden
    Winter Garden
    Resistance To Challenges:
    Humidity