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.
Sounds like a challenge.
Our Christmas Cactus (Or...tropical succulent) is in the photo below. You can see that this one is already bud'd-up and will be putting on a small show this season. We replanted it in a slightly bigger pot that you can see below. But....the folks at Country Living caution you on transplanting this up into a larger pot. They say smaller is better:
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.
Here (below) is the current state of ours:
We have a couple of succulents around our house that we've kept over the years. Some doing better than others. The Burros Tail that I kept in the office is now at home and seems to be doing good. I also have this Euphorbia tirucalli Firesticks that I planted back three and a half years ago that is still alive and well. I'm thinking that I can divide that up or transplant to a larger container. The Firesticks pencil cactus has spent the past few Summers outside on the patio - mostly in the shade - but I've brought it back in each Fall. It doesn't appear that I've posted any photos of that succulent since 2018, so I should do an update this week.
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