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The Christmas Cactus, or Schlumbergera × buckleyi, is unlike most other cacti in that it originates from the hot, humid rainforests of Brazil, rather than the typical dry, arid desert environments that most cactus varieties call home. It was first documented in the 1800s.
Their name comes from the fact that they typically bloom with their bright, colorful flowers just in time for the holiday season, making them a great gift or decorative piece for the winter.
They are so called Epiphytes which means that In the wild, they typically grow on the branches of tropical trees. Their flowers can come in a range of colors, including red, pink, purple, yellow or white.
They can live around 30 years as a houseplant (and potentially even much longer with the right care), with repeat flowering cycles - they're a gift that keeps on giving!
As these are technically tropical plants, you shouldn't treat them like you would a typical cactus or succulent. They prefer comparatively cooler temperatures and won't tolerate overly dry and sunny conditions. In their natural environment, they're used to the light being filtered through the canopies of trees, so bear this in mind when deciding where to place yours.
They can adapt well to low light conditions, however, note that if you want yours to bloom it is more likely to do so if it has access to enough light.
After flowering: if possible place it somewhere a bit cooler (50-60 F / 10-15 C) for some time to let it rest. Also, you should never move it with flower buds on.
These plants will also need more water than most cacti, although it's still important to ensure you don't overwater them.
As they like moisture, they can benefit from regular misting. They'll also enjoy being placed in a more high-humidity spot in your home, such as the kitchen or bathroom.
If you're looking for a Christmas gift for a pet-friendly home, then the Christmas Cactus is for you! Unlike the other holiday favorite, the Poinsettia, the Christmas Cactus isn't toxic.
When your Christmas Cactus is flowering it's a good idea to keep it in a room which has the lights turned off at night. That's because they are adapted to start flowering once the days start to get shorter. The flowering is triggered by the longer nights whereas other plants' time of flowering is usually determined by temperature or other factors.
There's a Brazilian legend regarding the Christmas Cactus which has given it its charming reputation as a symbol of 'answered prayers'. The legend details that a young boy living in the jungle would pray to God to show him a sign that Christmas was coming, and he was said to have woken up the next day surrounded by the flowers of the Christmas Cactus.