Christmas, Thanksgiving or Easter Cactus?

480538688fbb07c666b5b2dc1e4172e7Every year about this time, stores of all sorts sell something called “Christmas Cactus”, a showy plant with segmented foliage that arches out over the sides of the pot. The long, tubular flowers, which appear at the ends of the stems, are made up of many slender, pointed petals fused at the bases. Flower colors range from white through shades of peach, orange, purple, rose and red, with bi-colored varieties widely available.

Even reference sources differ on the specifics of holiday cactus nomenclature. The experts at Clemson University identify Thanksgiving Cactus as a single species, Schlumbergera truncata, Christmas Cactus as Schlumbergera bridgesii and the closely related Easter Cactus as Hatiora gaertneri. English botanist Martyn Rix identifies Christmas Cactus as a hybrid, Schlumbergera x buckleyi, originally created in
the 1840’s by a man named Buckley who crossed Schlumbergera truncata with Schlumbergera russelliana to create the progenitors of the modern hybrid Christmas

All holiday cacti are very similar, except for bloom times. They are native to areas of Brazil near Rio de Janeiro, where they live as epiphytes, non-parasitic plants that
flourish in trees, deriving sustenance from air, water and debris that collect around them. This is good news for those of us who love them, as they don’t need the bright
sunlight required by terrestrial cacti. They also do not have the sharp spines of some of their relatives in the true cactus or Cactaceae family.

The vast majority of holiday cacti are sold growing in soil-like potting mix. What they really need is excellent drainage, not to mention caretakers who refrain from flooding them with water every day. Overwatering—which means watering before the soil is dry to the touch—can result in potentially fatal rot. If your holiday cactus is not thriving, cut back on water and repot it in a mixture of about 40 percent perlite—available at garden
centers—and 60 percent fresh potting mix. Those who hate repotting plants can take comfort in the knowledge that holiday cacti bloom best when they are slightly potbound
and only need repotting every three or four years.

All holiday cacti should come in before nighttime temperatures begin falling below 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Sometimes, if the plant undergoes dramatic temperature changes, flower buds will drop off. There is not much to be done, other than avoiding extremes the next time. Fertilize with a balanced, water-soluble houseplant fertilizer diluted to half strength. Stop fertilizing in late summer to encourage flower formation in Christmas and Thanksgiving cacti. Resume about a month after the flowers have bloomed.
Source:,found at This article appeared in the GCN’s December 2018-January 2019 Newsletter.

Green Gathering Party
Date:  Sat Dec 1, 2018 (Snow Date – Sunday, December 2)

Meet at 11 am at library parking lot before proceeding to assigned location.

Holiday Baskets for Norfolk Food Pantry
Date: Thurs Dec 6, 2018
Time:  6:30 pm
Place:  Emmanuel Baptist Church, 63 Rockwood Road, Norfolk, MA

IMG_9957Join our club members as we share in the joy of giving during the holidays. “Holidays by the Sea” will be our theme this year. Suggested items from members’ gardens are pods, twigs, and grasses (natural or sprayed) collected from your garden. Along with the greens that are gathered from the area, the baskets will be extra special for someone. The baskets will be distributed to families served by the Norfolk Food Pantry.

Holidays by the Sea -Holidays Celebration
Date: Wed Dec 12, 2018
Time:  7:00 pm
Place:  Norfolk Public Library

Horticultural Hints for December, by Neal Sanders