Pixie and the Christmas Cactus

At this time of year, when the garden is asleep, I feed my need for green with indoor plants. This Christmas cactus is a great favourite and as it is now in full flower I have put it in pride of place in the kitchen, where Pixie does her best to rub the flower buds off by marking it with her furry face.

Christmas cactus gets it name from its flowering time, however my cactus thinks it is American as it is flowering on Thanksgiving thus demonstrating its alternative name – Thanksgiving cactus.

The cactus part of the name is a misnomer too. It isn’t a cactus from a dry place, but an epiphyte from the Brazilian costal highlands of S. E. Brazil ( Sao Paulo and Rio states) where it hangs from trees in cool, moist forests and is pollenated by brilliant, flashing humming birds. Brazilians call it the Flor de Mai, as in its natural habitat the perfect day and night time length stimulates it to flower in May.

In northern climes schlumbergera will only flower if it gets long dark nights. So in order to encourage it to flower it needs to be kept in a cool room which does not get any artifical light at night.  My mother in law had a wonderful plant in the downstairs loo.  The brief visits with the light switched on were fine; but as most of the time it was in darkness at night, the plant flowered prolifically.

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I keep mine in my office, where I am pleased to boast, I do no work at all in the evening and so the cacus buds can form and and start to flower in peace before I bring it downstairs to amuse the cat and to brighten up dull November with promises of once familiar faraway tropical forests and humming birds.

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