Christmas Cactus - November 2021
In addition to the five Amaryllis bulbs that we bought and planted last week, we also came home with a Christmas Cactus. This was picked out and planted by the KotBTs - as he has a love of cactus (thanks, Preston Playz). We haven't had one of these before, but have come across them just about every holiday season. But, is it a cactus? The answer is *kinda*. At least according to the Farmer's Almanac:
Unlike other cacti, the Christmas cactus (Schlumbergera x buckleyi) and its relatives don't live in hot, arid environments such as deserts or plains. In fact, these epiphytic succulents are native to the tropical rainforests of southern Brazil, where they grow on tree branches and soak up the high humidity, dappled sunlight, and warm temperatures.Going a little further, the extension office of the University of Georgia says that they're NOT cacti, but *are* succulents. It also says: they're a little like turtles in that they might outlive you.
The bottom line: Don't treat a Christmas cactus like it's a run-of-the-mill cactus or succulent. They can't take the same sort of sunny, dry conditions that other cacti can. It's important to water these cacti more regularly than most succulents, but to also be cautious of keeping them too wet.
The plant is not a true cactus and is not quite as drought tolerant as the name infers. However, it is a succulent plant and can store a reasonable quantity of water in the leaves.
Christmas cacti are not only popular holiday gift plants, but they are also the subject of frequent debate among gardeners. Properly cared for, they can and do thrive for many years. It is not unusual for 40- or 50-year old plants to outlive their owners.
Your Christmas cactus won't need to be re-potted for a few years because they actually bloom better when "pot bound." When you do replant, choose a pot that's only a tiny bit larger than the last one (maybe an inch or two more in diameter). Use well-draining soil, and make sure the pot has drainage holes.