Growing up my mom always had a ton of Christmas cactus in and around our house. Christmas cactus are like the fluffy, rainbow bunnies of cacti. They don’t have painful spikes, come in lots of pretty colors, and put on a magical colorful show in late fall/early winter (around, wait for it, Christmas). If you don’t have a green thumb, no problem; Christmas cactus are also super easy to not kill.
Christmas cactus AKA schlumbergera (I kid you not) are from the mountains of southeastern Brazil, one of my ancestral lands. Apparently some people also call them Thanksgiving cactus, holiday cactus, and crab cactus (again, not kidding). Brazilians, being in the Southern Hemisphere refer to them as May flower (flor de maio). Can you imagine Christmas in summer?
In their native habitat, Christmas cactus grow on trees or rocks unlike many of the cacti Americans are used to seeing in desserts. The flowers are long and tubular, thought to be adapted for our friends the hummingbirds to pollinate.
Like I said, these plants are hard to kill. I have mine in a small pot on a window sill and give them a good watering once every couple of weeks. Unlike most cacti, Christmas Cacti like pretty normal, well draining potting mixtures. Basically, you can buy a pot and some potting soil at your local garden center and plop them in there. Try to put them in a spot with indirect light, they don’t like to bake in the summer sun. They are also super easy to start, so if you have a friend with a color you want, pluck off a piece that is about three “leaves” long and plop it in a pot. Keep on watering it and voila, insta-Christmas cactus. It’s kind of like Pokémon, you gotta catch them all.
Do a Christmas Cactus sharing party after they bloom. Note the color and then put them in cute pots. If you are crafty (unlike me) decorate the pots and then next year you can give these cuties away to people that are not quite buy a gift-level friends but more than Christmas card worthy. Pairs well with with a good bottle of Prosecco.