Christmas in July


One of the houseplants that seems to love its new surroundings in Central California is the Christmas cactus seen at left.

At first, I chalked this up to being “back home.” I purchased the plant a few years ago at a grocery store in Carmel Valley, Calif. Just before Christmas, it was the only one left on a big holiday display. It looked sad and droopy, so – with my, ‘I can save this!’ attitude – I bought it for $5.

With a little attention, it’s been a reliable bloomer – but always in the Fall, until now. Since I moved to California in June, this thing has gone nuts! It was time to find out why.

I didn’t know much about the Christmas cactus (official name Schlumbergera x buckleyi), so an article from the Old Farmer’s Almanac has been an eye-opener.

Apparently before the move, the plant had the benefit of short days and cool nights in the Idaho spring, which are necessary to set the buds it would need to bloom.

I've learned there are three types of “holiday cacti” – known as Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas – based on when they usually bloom.

A closer look at the leaves and mine appears to be a Thanksgiving cactus (a Schlumbergera truncata hybrid), a native of Brazil that is pollinated by hummingbirds. Accidentally, I’ve been treating it well! I’ve been too busy to repot it. As it turns out, that’s perfect – since, just like many orchid species, these prefer their roots to be a little pot-bound.

Also like orchids, they prefer bright but indirect light, and don’t appreciate sitting in water, which can rot their roots.

Now that I know a little more about these cacti, I’ll look for other types to add to my plant family. As long as they bloom eventually, they’ll be welcome.