Winter Cactus | Christmas Cactus | Easter Cactus
Winter cacti are popular houseplants known for their vibrant flowers and easy-care requirements. Native to the rainforests of Brazil, they belong to the Schlumbergera genus and are commonly known as Thanksgiving cactus, Christmas cactus, or Easter cactus, depending on their bloom time. In this blog post, we will discuss the origin and habitat of winter cacti, as well as popular cultivars and their care requirements.
Origin and Habitat:
Winter cacti are native to the coastal mountains of southeastern Brazil, where they grow in the shady understory of rainforests. They are epiphytes, meaning they grow on other plants, such as trees, but do not take nutrients from them. Instead, they absorb nutrients and moisture from the air and rain.
Habit: Slow growing, small cacti producing semi-erect to arching flat, broad, slightly toothed stem segments that act as leaves as the plants do not produce any actual leaves. Flowers are produced in the axils of the toothed sections of the outer stem segments in colours of pink, red, orange, lavender-purple and white.
Temperature: Plants grow best between 20 to 27ᐤ C during the growing season and temperatures between 10 to 15ᐤ C during the cold dormant season.
Light Exposure: Plants do best in bright, indirect light to thrive and grow well. They can withstand lower light situations but will not grow very strongly, will appear stretched (etiolated) and will tend to be more susceptible to pests and diseases. Plants exposed to direct sunlight will develop scorched and burnt leaves reducing the beauty of the plant.
Watering: Water your cactus when the top inch of soil feels dry to the touch. Be sure to water thoroughly, allowing the excess water to drain out of the bottom of the pot. Avoid letting the cactus sit in standing water, as this can lead to root rot. Given that the plants are potted in a very free draining medium, they can be watered once a week during the rainy season, once every two or three weeks in the cold dry season and once to twice during the hot dry season.
Humidity: Winter cacti prefer moderate to high humidity. If your home is dry, mist your cactus occasionally with a spray bottle or place a tray of water near it to increase humidity.
Fertilising: Winter Cacti need to be fertilised with a well balanced fertiliser at half strength only once per month. Plants can be damaged by over fertilizing so one must be careful.
Pruning/Repotting: Winter cacti prefer to be slightly root-bound, so only repot them every few years. When you do repot, use a well-draining soil mix, such as cactus potting mix. Choose a pot that is slightly larger than the current one. Pruning is mainly only needed to help shape the plant and repotting is usually necessary only when a plant outgrows its pot or to refresh the media when repotting into the same sized pot.
Pest Control: Common pests that can affect winter cacti include spider mites and mealybugs. If you notice tiny webs or cottony masses on your cactus, these may be signs of an infestation. Treat pests with an insecticidal soap or neem oil spray.