Eating season is here!
Cold weather has come to visit and soon, too, will friends, family and full days dedicated to nothing but cooking and eating. Along with lots of tasty recipes circling around on Pinterest and lots of hungry people around the table, add some fresh blooms that will brighten the room from Turkey Day until the new year with a holiday cactus. Called everything from Thanksgiving cactus to crab cactus, the succulent Schlumbergera truncata and several of its related species are fantastic plants for your own home or that of a hostess during the winter season. Just starting to bloom in late November, these easy to grow houseplants are festive, fun and readily available at your local florists.
The flat, segmented leaf-like stems of the Thanksgiving cactus make an interesting looking houseplant year round. As soon as the nights start to become a little longer than the days, the ends of each branching stem produce a tiny pink, red or white bud. Over the next few weeks, the buds develop into large, showy flowers that can reach 3 to 4 inches long and cover the entire plant. The profuse blooms droop down and last for several weeks, closing up somewhat at night and reopening during the day to add color and pizzazz to a bleak, winter window. With very little care, the Thanksgiving cactus will grow in a pot, re-blooming like clockwork around the same time of year. There are several different species, often distinguished by holiday. The Christmas cactus (Schlumbergera x buckleyi) blooms slightly later in the season and there is also an Easter cactus that blooms in the spring.
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Native to coastal mountains of south-eastern Brazil, the Thanksgiving cactus is actually used to a somewhat tropical environment. Unlike many cactus, which grow in the well-draining soils of more arid environments, this cactus doesn’t mind a more organically rich potting soil mix and a bit of humidity. In the wild, it is found often growing attached to trees as an epiphyte and used to a bit of shade from the overhanging canopy, so no need to put it in a sunny window with other succulents. It can handle a room with indirect sunlight and still produce blooms. Not at all fussy, the holiday cacti can be left in containers without the need for transplanting for a quite a long time. Pinching off the spent blooms after the season, and giving it a bit of fertilizer mid-summer can help keep it going for many seasons to come.