Schlumbergera russelliana plants, also known as Christmas cactus, Thanksgiving cactus, holiday cactus, or just russelliana, are often used as ornamental plants during the holiday season in North America. They’re fairly easy to take care of and are ideal houseplants for people who don’t have much time to spend on their plants.
These compact succulents thrive in full sun and well-drained soil and need very little care or attention to look their best throughout the year. If you’re looking for an easy-care houseplant that adds a touch of holiday cheer every winter, you can’t go wrong with this plant.
Schlumbergera russelliana is one of the most popular houseplants around, and with good reason, they are easy to care for, they’re beautiful, and they’re inexpensive to purchase! But just like any other houseplant, these types of Christmas cactus do require some special care in order to keep them alive and thriving all year long.
Origin and distribution
Schlumbergera russelliana is a species of cactus that is native to Brazil. It is named after Charles Russell, who was the first to collect and describe the plant. The plant grows in the mountainous regions of Brazil at elevations of 3,000-6,000 feet.
Schlumbergera russelliana is found in both humid and dry areas and can tolerate a wide range of temperatures. These plants are grown mainly as houseplants, but they do well outdoors in warmer climates or indoor environments with good air circulation.
Brought indoors for the winter months, these plants will need their soil watered every two weeks or so and will benefit from fertilizer during this time as well. You should also place your plant on a window sill where it will get plenty of bright light for six hours per day.
Schlumbergera russelliana propagation
Schlumbergera russelliana can be easily propagated from stem or leaf cuttings. To take a stem cutting, use a sharp knife or pair of scissors to snip a 4-6 inch piece from the end of a healthy stem. Next, remove the bottom leaves so that you are left with two or three leaves at the top of the cutting. Dip the cut end of the stem in rooting hormone and then plant it in moistened potting mix.
Cover the container with plastic wrap and wait for roots to form before transplanting your new plant into a bigger container. If using leaf cuttings, place them on top of moistened potting mix in a small jar or other containers until they develop roots (around 3 weeks).
Once rooted, transplant your plants into pots. These plants require bright indirect light with good air circulation and should never be placed outdoors as they cannot tolerate cold temperatures.
Fertilize every 2 weeks during the growing season (April through October) by misting the foliage with water mixed with fish emulsion fertilizer or another type of fertilizer suitable for houseplants diluted to half strength. Stop fertilizing during the winter months (November through March).
A balanced 10-10-10 liquid fertilizer applied every 2 weeks is also beneficial.
Schlumbergera russelliana flowers best when there is ample humidity, so make sure that the area where you keep these plants has high humidity levels year-round. You can accomplish this by placing your plants near a humidifier or running a humidifier nearby.
Schlumbergera russelliana care information
Schlumbergera russelliana does best in bright, indirect light but can tolerate some direct sun. If the leaves start to yellow or the stems get leggy, that’s a sign that it’s not getting enough light. Move it to a brighter spot. When you move your plant outside during the summer months, you may need to provide some shade as well.
If your plant is spending time outdoors during the summer and/or has been indoors for most of its life, be sure to gradually acclimate it outside by moving it closer and closer over several days so that it doesn’t suddenly experience an extreme change in temperature.
Schlumbergera russelliana grows best in a potting mix that is fast-draining yet still moisture retentive. A cactus potting mix or a mixture of perlite, pumice, and bark will work well.
Always use a well-draining potting mix (e.g., 1 part peat moss to 2 parts perlite)
Allow the soil to dry out between watering. Water thoroughly, then allow the pot to drain. Be sure not to leave your plant sitting in water. Water less frequently in winter or when the plant is not actively growing. If the leaves start to wrinkle, that means it’s time to water.
Fertilizing your Schlumbergera russelliana is important for its health and growth. Use a balanced fertilizer that is low in nitrogen and phosphorus. Apply the fertilizer every two weeks during the growing season. Water the plant before and after applying the fertilizer to avoid burning the roots.
Schlumbergera russelliana are comfortable in temperatures between 65-80 degrees Fahrenheit. They enjoy humidity and will do best in a room with moderate to high humidity. If the air is too dry, the leaves will start to drop. They can tolerate some direct sunlight, but too much sun will scorch their leaves.
Schlumbergera russelliana generally prefers high humidity, around 60-80%. If the air is too dry, the leaves will start to brown and curl. To increase humidity, you can mist the plant daily or set it on a pebble tray. Be sure to not let the plant sit in water, as this will cause root rot.
Schlumbergera russelliana is a cactus, and as such, does not require much in the way of pruning. If you want to encourage branching, you can cut off the tips of the stems. Otherwise, just let the plant grow.
If you want to encourage denser growth, you can pinch back the tips of the stems. Flowering is typically induced by stress, so if you want your plant to bloom, it’s best to leave it be. However, if stems become leggy or damaged, you can trim them back as needed.
When to repot
Repotting is typically only necessary every two to three years, and should be done in the spring. To tell if your plant needs a new pot, gently push on the base of the plant; if it wiggles or tilts easily, it’s time for a new home. Choose a pot that is only one size larger than the current pot, and use fresh potting mix.
Gently remove the plant from its current pot, taking care not to damage the roots, and place it in the new pot. Fill in around the roots with potting mix, tamping down firmly with your fingers until all air pockets are removed. Add more soil if needed, but don’t bury the stem!
Water thoroughly after planting. Place the plant outside during the summer months (or put it near a sunny window) and water sparingly during the winter months. Fertilize once monthly with half-strength liquid fertilizer during the growing season (March through October). In late fall, stop fertilizing to allow leaves to harden off for winter.
In its natural habitat, Schlumbergera russelliana is found in the jungles of Brazil where it experiences a period of dormancy or winter rest. During this time, the plant will stop growing and producing flowers.
When you grow your plant indoors, it’s important to mimic the conditions that would naturally occur in its native environment. To do so, place your plant in an area that has plenty of bright light and temperature fluctuations.
Be sure to provide ample water (and fertilizer) during the summer months so that your plant doesn’t go into a dormant state before finishing blooming. For best results, try to keep the potting soil moist all year round by watering thoroughly at least once per week.
Provide direct sunlight for 10-12 hours each day; however, be mindful not to allow the plant to become overheated.
Schlumbergera russelliana flower & fragrance
Schlumbergera russelliana produces beautiful flowers in shades of pink, red, and white. Although the plant is not fragrant, the flowers are long-lasting and make a great addition to any holiday decoration.
The growth rate of Schlumbergera russelliana is fast. This plant can grow up to 12 inches tall and 12 inches wide. The leaves are thick and fleshy, and the stems are woody. The flowers are white with pink or red highlights, and they bloom in the spring and summer.
All Schlumbergera are considered non-toxic to humans and animals. However, the sap of all cacti can cause skin irritation, so it’s best to avoid contact. If ingested, these plants can cause stomach upset in both humans and animals. As with all cacti, Schlumbergera russelliana has sharp spines that can cause injury if handled carelessly.
USDA hardiness zones
Schlumbergera russelliana thrives in USDA hardiness zones 10-11. In colder climates, it can be grown indoors as a houseplant.
Pests and diseases
Schlumbergera russelliana is generally a healthy plant, but it can be susceptible to mealybugs and spider mites. These pests can be controlled with regular applications of insecticidal soap or neem oil.
The biggest threat to this plant is root rot, which can occur if the soil is too wet or if the pot doesn’t have adequate drainage.
If you suspect your plant has root rot, it’s important to act quickly and remove it from the pot. Soak the roots in room-temperature water for 24 hours before repotting in fresh, clean soil. It’s also a good idea to replace the potting mix every few years because it will eventually break down and become less effective at retaining moisture.