Too much information

It’s a plant

Indoor cactus

I love searching online for information. Not just for the information itself, but sometimes for the entertainment value of discovery.
To accompany today’s photo I wanted to check on the correct name of the plant. I know it’s a cactus, but whether Christmas or Easter is another matter as it blooms over quite a long period. I also wanted to find out the Latin name as it is strange for a common plant to be named after specifically Christians festivals. I found so much information from Iowa State University, the Royal Horticultural Society, commercial plant sites, and gardening blogs. Not all was easy to follow, and there were contradictions. Basically, there was too much information.


  • ‘holiday cactus, ‘short-day cactus’, or ‘jungle cactus’
  • cactus, succulent, or epiphyte
  • Schlumbergera, Rhipsalidopsis, or Zygocactus
  • Christmas, Easter, or Thanksgiving cactus
    in the UK, Schlumbergera truncata and S. × buckleyi are both Christmas varieties, with no Thanksgiving cactus

Identification and habitat:

  • by the shape of the nodes on the edges of the leaves: very pointed projections (Thanksgiving, Schlumgera truncata); scalloped nodes (Christmas, Schlumgera bridgesti) ; rounded nodes (Easter, Rhipsalidopsis gaertnerrii)
    plants have fleshy segmented stems devoid of leaves; the buds and flowers emerge from the arching stems
  • Natural habitat: ‘attached to trees in jungle-type woodlands’
    ‘rainforests of Brazil’

Blooming season and demands:

  • plant needs a period of cool days with 12-24 hours of darkness, so the shortening days and cooler temperature from mid-September kick-starts the growing season; Christmas and Thanksgiving cactus require 6 weeks of short days, Easter cactus requires 8-12 weeks
  • once the buds have formed they need a temperature of 18-20°C (65-69°F) and regular watering; after flowering the plant needs to rest for a second time with only occasional watering and temperatures of 12-15°C (55-59°F)
    exact temperatures are not critical to promote flowering provided there are two resting periods with a reduction in watering and temperature
  • plants enjoy bright light but not direct sunlight
    prefer a semi-shade situation.
  • keep out of drafts, do not give too much water, do not keep too warm
  • do not fertilize or repot while blooming
    repot at the beginning of the growing season at the end of March
    repot in spring or early summer when actively growing
  • repot once a year (or at least every two years) to maintain healthy growth
    repot every 3 years to keep them healthy and happy
  • plants do best when root bound
    choose only a slightly larger container as they like to be snug in a small pot
    don’t mind being slightly root bound, but they do need room for their roots to grow

The take-away:

I cannot recall how many years I’ve had my Schlumgera truncata. I know the genus because of the leaf shape, but it is a ‘Christmas’ rather than a ‘Thanksgiving’ cactus which underlines just how arbitrary these names are. It flowers when it decides to, and at the moment the bloom I photographed is fading while another is now ready to face the world with a dozen or so to follow. It lives and thrives on a South facing window ledge along with two lemon plants, in temperatures that fluctuate according to the thermostat setting and time of day. It is now February in the Northern Hemisphere, the days are lengthening and the sun is becoming stronger each day. The emerging buds respond to the light, so I turn the pot regularly to make sure each receives a good share.
I wasn’t aware that it didn’t like full sun, needed regulated temperatures, and was desperate for a rest. And I don’t think the plant was either. But what do we know?
It really does not have leaves and each new stem segment produces fine ‘hairs’ that grow into roots when poked into soil. Even with a clueless ‘owner’ this amazing individual grows and blossoms, and generally takes care it itself. I check on it, have a chat, read the signs as it communicates need. Often intuition is way more effective than expert advice, just as understanding and passion are more important than knowledge and diligence. Together, we have survived.
Marilyn, X