I enjoy the Christmas cactus, properly known by the Latin name of Schlumbergera. Uniquely, it is really not a cactus as we would expect in the proper sense of the term, but is rather an epiphytic plant when clinging to trees and an epilithic when growing in the nooks of crannies of rocks.
The plant was named byCharles Lemaire (1801-1871) to honor Frederick Schlumberger, (1823-1893) an enthusiastic French clooletor of cacti and other succulent plants.
The Christmas cactus has been a favorite in American's homes since the late 19th century, popularized as either a Thanksgiving cactus or the more popular moniker of a Christmas cactus. Throughout the years, our family has grown many colors ranging from white, to red, purples and even a salmon colored variation of Schlumbergera with many mixed results. Some have survived, some have perished but regardless of the end result of the at times forgetful care of the McNichol Clan, the Christmas cactus has become a perennial favorite in our house.
Sometimes they bloom for a short period in the Summer, perhaps due to a recessive gene that recalls the fact that it is Winter in the Southern Hemisphere. My thoughts are more pragmatic...the plant was lucky enough to survive so it is flourishing a bit of epiphytic bravado to tell us that he has indeed survived despite residence with the McNichol Clan.
The firm Aalsmeer in the Netherlands reportedly imports over 2 million Christmas cactus to the United States each year. Modern methodologies of production has reduced the price for consumers in the United States. In the late 1890's the cactus at times rivaled the cost of a green house propagated orchid, which was also a popular plant for Victorian hobbyists, usually of the British upper class.
Today in the United States the Christmas cactus can be purchased in the range of anywhere from $2.99 in supermarkets, where they are usually even lower with a coupon to $49.00 in high end florist shops. Regardless of where you purchase your Christmas cactus, make one a welcome tradition and addition to your home in the Thanksgiving/Christmas season. The plant adds some much needed color to the indoor environment as the days of Fall wane into the darker days of Winter. Besides that, it gives everyone a project to keep the plant happy until it arrives into the Spring season when it can be placed outdoors and once again if your lucky will flourish a hint of it's colors just to show you, the owner that the Christmas cactus is indeed a survivor and is welcome in all of our homes as a welcome guest.