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Why doesn't my Christmas cactus bloom on time?
Why won't my Christmas cactus bloom at Christmas?

 If it's a Christmas cactus, it will herald the holiday season.
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Date published: 12/2/2011

IF YOU HAVE a "Christmas cactus" that never seems to bloom at Christmas, it may not be a Christmas cactus.

The botanical name for the familiar Christmas cactus is Schlumbergera bridgesii. Its genus (Schlumbergera) was named for Frederic Schlumberger, a French cactus collector from the 19th century.

Actually there are six known tree-dwelling cacti in that genus. These are tropical forest epiphytes, growing on tree branches where, despite the high rainfall, water drains off quickly so that "dry" conditions prevail much of the time.

Besides the popular Christmas cactus, this genus also includes the Thanksgiving cactus (Schlumbergera truncate) and the Easter cactus (Schlumbergera gaertneri). Your Christmas cactus may be one of these. When grown under normal night-length conditions, the Thanksgiving cactus normally flowers near Thanksgiving, or about a month before the Christmas cactus. The Easter cactus flowers primarily in the spring and sporadically throughout the year.

The flower of the Christmas and Thanksgiving cacti are tubelike and may be hooded, depending on the hybrid. The Easter cactus has starlike, usually red, flowers. The Thanksgiving cactus has sharp teeth at the margin of the foliar segments, while the Christmas cactus and the Easter cactus have three or four undulations on the foliar segments and no teeth.

Now that I have thoroughly confused you, the main point is the differences of their natural blooming times. If you have not made an effort to "fool" them into blooming, they will naturally bloom at their respective times. So if your "Christmas cactus" never blooms at Christmas, maybe it's one of the other two.

Regardless, all of the holiday cacti have similar cultural requirements. They grow best in light shade. Full sunlight is beneficial in midwinter, but bright sun during the summer can make plants turn pale and yellow. Ideal growth occurs between 70 and 80 degrees during a growing season from April to September. Do not let temperature rise above 90 once the flower buds are set in the fall. Continuous warm temperatures can cause flower buds to drop.

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