Learn about this beautiful blooming holiday houseplant and how to tell the difference between the Thanksgiving and the Christmas cactus.
This beauty is not a desert cactus, but originates from South America in the rain forest. It's an epiphyte which means it grows on other plants, in this case trees. It's not a parasite but rather lives on the rainfall and air and other debris that accumulate near it. I'm sure that is why this plant makes a great houseplant. It doesn't require strong light but prefers indirect lighting.
The scientific name for the Christmas cactus is Schlumbergera x buckleyi. Here's the interesting news. When I was looking up the scientific name for this plant I realized that I did not have a Schlumbergera x buckleyi. Instead, I believe this plant is Schlumbergera truncata also known at the Thanksgiving cactus.
Upon further research I found that the majority of plants sold as the Christmas cactus are actually the Thanksgiving cactus. Outside of the fact that the Thanksgiving cactus normally blooms around Thanksgiving, or the third week of November here in the US, there is another key feature that distinguishes the two. The stem or what looks like the leaf segments on the Thanksgiving cactus have distinct pointed edges, while the true Christmas cactus is more scalloped and round as shown below.
So, if you know anyone who has had a "Christmas cactus" and it always blooms too early, you may now know the reason why.
Here it is getting ready to bloom in October. I find that this plant likes cool temps, enjoys being pot bound and indirect light. Also, it should be allowed to dry out between watering. If you are a traditional red lover no worries. This plant comes in red, peach, white, cream and purple.
Lastly, according Birds and Blooms Magazine a properly cared for cactus can live for over 145 years. That's quite a good bang for your buck.