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The Christmas cactus

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Chicago gardeners, if you’re looking for a spectacular plant to display for the Christmas holiday season and years to come, invest in a showy Christmas cactus. It blooms just in time for Christmas, and its bright red blossoms will amaze and delight you. Visit your local florist shop or nursery for more information.

The plant family CACTACEAE includes the genus Schlumbergera which contains six species. The Christmas cactus (Schlumbergera x buckleyi or S. bridgesii) is a member of this genus. It was developed from S. russelliana and S. trancata. The plant grows to two feet and spreads to three feet. The genus is native to rock-dwelling areas of the tropical rainforests of Southeast Brazil and is cultivated for its blossoms.

The Christmas cactus produces mid-green, fleshy stem-like segments, or leaf-like branches, that are visibly notched. They are narrow, flattened and plentiful. The bristles near the tips of the branch-like segments bear bright red flowers. The trumpet-shaped flowers are three inches long and have narrow petals. The flowers first appear erect but become overhanging.

Display this splendid plant on a tall, plant stand that allows the segments and flowers to tumble over the edges of the stand. Water it lightly, and keep it in a mildly humid house. It requires bright, indirect sunlight. When it’s summertime in Chicago, a Christmas cactus would enjoy living on an enclosed porch.

To reproduce this plant, take cuttings of segments in spring or early summer. Plant these cuttings in cactus potting soil. Protect it from mealy bugs.

Displaying a Christmas cactus during the holidays will delight your family and guests for many years. It’s a special plant just right for the season. You can even grow cuttings for gifts next year.

Live long and well—garden.

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