Christmas Cactus, Easter Cactus & Thanksgiving too; Those gorgeous Holiday Cactus

Everyone at some time or another has had one of these plants – you probably know them as Grandmas Christmas Cactus – and everyone in the family has grown some cuttings from it.


Schlumbergera, the not so pretty name for this lovely group of epiphytes (plants originating from high in the tree tops of tropical jungles) are long lived, and seemingly perfectly adapted to being a house plant.

The succulent crab shaped leaves are very recognizable; so many times you can identify these plants even when not in bloom.

There are several different forms, from those that bloom starting around Thanksgiving (mid October to November), some around Christmas (mid to end of December) and even some that bloom at Easter (late March or April). This gives rise to their other name as a group, Holiday Cactus. There are many hybrids and varieties, mostly differing in the colour of the blooms.


Schlumbergera are not a cactus at all, as they have no spines or other defense other than their flat succulent leaves that store water. They are actually an epiphyte, which evolved to live high up in trees in warm jungle like conditions.

Adapted as they have to living in tree tops, they have the ability to take copious amounts of water such as during a heavy rainfall in the jungle, and make it last a long time.

The bloom cycle is triggered by gradually shortening days, so starting in late summer, this can be artificially produced, or simply as a natural function of approaching fall.

Once the buds are set, it’s advised that you don’t move the plant or turn it, as this can precipitate mass bud loss. It’s disheartening to see all the beautiful buds promising a huge flower display all falling off.

Once the plant finishes its flowering cycle, allow it to go dormant and don’t water much until the summer. This group flourishes if summered outdoors, preferably hung in the lower branches of a deciduous tree for dappled shade, and watered whenever dry.

Some genera that you might find in nurseries and greenhouses (or even in Grandmas house) are Schlumbergera bridgesii – sometimes sold as Zygocactus truncates; Schumberger gaertneri (also known as Ripsalidopsis gaertneri); Schlumbergera truncata, sold as Zygocatus truncatus, the crab cactus.

All require the same care; dappled shade or filtered sun through a sheer curtain or in a lath house, ample water with periodic feeding with a liquid fertilizer, and as they originate in jungle trees, a soil with a high percentage of leaf mold or shredded bark.

Find out more about Schlumbergera, the Christmas Cactus below…

Find out what other visitors have said…


Holiday Cactus

What is this? It’s got green and purple leaves, small spines at tip


Trailing cactus with pink flowers maybe from Philippines

I have seen this beautiful picture of a cactus it trails and has pink flowers on not sure what country it is from maybe Philippines and am looking for …


What is this plant? Vine-like succulent with pink flowers

The plant is green and has many oblong shaped segments end to end to form the vines, which at this point are about 1-1/2 to 2 feet long. Each segment …

A unique thin flowering succulent

We bought this plant up from Kroger or Meijer, I cant remember which one. It flowers pink, and has thin jagged leaves. It is currently growing …


red flower

Chain of leafs rectangular looking Hi Gabby, this is a lovely red species or cultivar of Schlumbergera, Hatiora or Rhipsalis – they are all similar, …


my poor christmas cactus

i was researching the proper care for a christmas cactus because mine became a little purple at the tips and only produced one flower this season. i also …


A succulent plant with long, drooping branches and oddly-shaped leaves

Hello, My mother passed away recently, and we were left with several of her plants. One seems to be a succulent that I am trying to identify so that …


thick flat green succulent leaves and red buds in november

Very hearty plant. Thick flat green pointy leaves. New leaves grow out of existing leaves. Plant layers lie on top of layers behind it, bend backwards. …


my stepmothers old plant

The plant has a number of stems of a medium color, with the stems running through the center of the leaves. Leaves are notched with flat tops, about an …


what is this succulent and is it poisonus?

It is very leafy and has pink almost plasticy looking tips growing out of the top of the flat part of the leaf. It has pointy edges but they are not sharp …

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