Schlumbergera x buckleyi (Christmas Cactus) is an ornamental, flowering cactus. It has fleshy stems that are divided into flattened leaf-like segments with scalloped margins. They do not have spines and they do not have true leaves. The stems start out growing upwards, then drop down as they lengthen. Trumpet-shaped flowers with narrow petals develop on the ends of the stems. The bright flashy flowers are bilaterally symmetrical and up to 3 inches long. Extensive hybridization and selection have resulted in more than 200 named cultivars, differing mainly in flower color, which ranges from white through pink to fire engine red, and even peach, yellow and orange. Most cultivars bloom around Christmas time, but some bloom earlier or later than Christmas.
Scientific Name: Schlumbergera x buckleyi
Synonyms: Epiphyllum x buckleyi, Zygocactus x buckleyi, Schlumbergera bridgesii.
Common Names: Christmas Cactus, True Christmas Cactus, Holiday Cactus.
How to grow and maintain Schlumbergera x buckleyi (Christmas Cactus):
It thrives best in the bright, but indirect light. Direct sunlight should be avoided, as it can cause brown spots.
It prefers to grow in neutral, Well-drained soil. Use a mixture of 1 part potting soil and 1 part fine-grade fir bark.
To set flower buds, the plant needs cool 60-65°F/16-18°C days and 45°F-55°F/7-13°C nights. Once buds set, 70°F-75°F/21-24°C days and 60°F-70°F/16-21°C nights. Plant death can occur at below 50°F (10°C).
Water regularly, keep the soil evenly moist but not soggy. After flowering, water sparingly until new growth begins in spring.
Fertilize every two weeks with a balanced liquid fertilizer diluted by half. After blooms have dropped, stop fertilizing for a month.
It can be easily propagated by stem cuttings. Take stem cuttings from one to four segments. Allow the cut ends to dry for 24 hours before placing upright in moist perlite. Rooting occurs between 3-4 weeks. It is rarely propagated by seed, sow seeds in the spring.
Re-pot every year or every 2 years in the mid-summer. Never re-pot during the bloom or following resting period. Re-pot by removing only the loose soil around the roots. Transfer immediately to a wider pot.
Pests and Diseases:
It has no serious pest or disease problems. Watch for spider mites, mealybugs, and fungus. Add an insecticide to the water 2 to 3 times a year to combat pests as well as a systemic fungicide to prevent the orange and brown spotting that sometimes affects them.