How to care for holiday cactus and other indoor plants
Have you ever wondered why the Christmas cactus blooms in November? The reason for the timing outage is simple. Don’t have a Christmas cactus. You have a Thanksgiving cactus. Christmas cactus and Thanksgiving cactus are two very similar but different types of plants.
Known as the holiday cactus, there are actually three species. There are Thanksgiving cactus (Schlumbergera truncata) and Christmas cactus (Schlumbergera x bucklei). There is also an Easter cactus (Rhipsalidopsis gaertnerrii) that blooms in the spring.
The difference between the three cacti is in the shape of the leaves. The Thanksgiving cactus has very pointed, claw-shaped protrusions on the edges of the leaf. The Christmas cactus has leaf spurs that are more scalloped or teardrop-shaped. The Easter cactus has very rounded edges centered on the leaf.
These plants, native to Brazil, grow where days are short and temperatures are cool before their flowering time. If you have one of these plants and it is outside or growing in a bright room, you will need to place it in a cool, dark place until it can set buds. This should be done six weeks before the holiday.
Holiday cactus are relatively easy to grow. It can be carefree, the most common problem being overwatering. When properly cared for, they can be passed from one generation to another. There are records of some living over 100 years old.
This is a great time of year to think about adding some tropical plants to the interior of your home. I don’t call them “houseplants” because as my father used to say, “There are no houseplants. Every plant wants to live outside.” What he meant was that the environment inside most of our homes is not conducive to plant growth. The key to success is to use plants that are most tolerant of adverse growing conditions indoors.
At Bloomin’, we have two employees who are houseplant lovers, Holly Short and Priya Bachman. I asked them to give me recommendations on their two favorite plants to grow indoors.
My first choice for holly is the snake plant (Dracaena trifasciata).. She recommends it because it is an easy plant for beginners. It is very low maintenance, requiring water once a month. It will grow in low light and tolerates bright light as well. You want to avoid direct sunlight.
Her second choice is the many philodendron varieties. Her two favorite varieties are Brasil, Moonlight and Prince of Orange. All of these varieties have very colorful foliage. They need bright light for the best color. These are also fast growers.
Priya’s first choice is Pothos. They have a vine habit and can be grown in a hanging basket. They can also be trained to grow on a trellis or moss pole. These plants are also great for beginners. It tolerates most lighting conditions. They tolerate dry soil and, like all tropical plants, do not like over-watering. Best of all, Priya refers to these as “the gift that keeps on giving” because they are easy to propagate and can be gifted to other “plant parents.”
Her second choice is the peace lily (Spathiphyllum). She likes this habit for her straight growth. With the right amount of light, they put out a “brilliant white flower.” It tolerates low-light spaces but may not thrive there. One of their favorite traits is that the peace lily will “talk” to you. This is in reference to the leaves wilting when thirsty.