The Christmas cactus (Schlumbergera sp) has remained a favorite houseplant for centuries with its cheery pink blossoms and long lifespan. This flat-leaf cactus genus contains a small number of species, several of which are common houseplants. While "Christmas" may be the most common name identifier, this genus is more correctly known as the holiday cacti since certain varieties bloom closer to Thanksgiving or Easter.
While most people are familiar with the pinkish-to-magenta flowers, white, orange, and yellow are also common -- yellow being among the rarest available varieties. Yellow is more common on the Thanksgiving cactus, Schlumbergera truncata.
Holiday Cactus: General Information
It's not uncommon for an owner of a large, healthy holiday cactus to tell you the plant's history. These long-lived plants often live with several generations of a family, being passed down throughout the years. As such, these stunning flowering plants become legacies within a family as each generation continues the care of the plant.
When most people hear the word "cactus," they think of sunny, dry conditions in the most extreme heat. These plants put a whole new spin on the "cactus" -- they thrive in low-light conditions with extreme humidity.
In its native habitat of the rainforests of eastern Brazil, holiday cacti are epiphytic -- they grow on the surface of trees and other plants, absorbing their nutrients from the air around them.
Do You Have a Yellow Christmas Cactus or Thanksgiving Cactus?
How do you tell the holiday cactus apart? Contrary to popular belief, it's not by flower color or even blooms time, although bloom time is more effective than color. In general, a healthy yellow christmas cactus blooms in the winter, close to the year-end holidays.
The Thanksgiving cactus blooms closer to, you guessed it, November. Because these holidays are so close, the bloom times may overlap throughout the early winter months.
The stem segments of the three main species are quite different. Easter cacti have tiny bristles on the points of their leaf pads. Christmas and Thanksgiving cacti have pointed and scalloped lobes, respectfully.
Yellow Christmas Cactus Care
Although a few species and numerous cultivars exist, most care requirements envelop all. For proper care inside the home, it's best to consider the plant's native habitat. Because of its humidity and light requirements, bright bathrooms are a favorite location of these stunning plants.
Most holiday cactuses thrive in a bright room without direct sunlight. Too much sunlight will quickly cause stress-induced damage to your prized plant. These plants require long nights with uninterrupted darkness to encourage healthy and bountiful blooming.
Even the light from a street post outside your window will delay blooming. Some people go as far as covering the plant with an impenetrable bag or lightweight blanket during the night to encourage a successful bloom.
Full sun may be acceptable during the shortest winter days but beware of too much sunlight. Outdoors, place in bright light, but not direct sunlight. A shady porch is often ideal for an outdoor Christmas cactus during warm, humid months.
These plants love humidity, but not necessarily excessive water. When watering your yellow Christmas cactus or Thanksgiving cactus, aim for frequent shallow waterings. Think of sips instead of drinks!
Water when the soil feels dry, but don't let all the potting soil in the pot dry out completely. Excessive watering and poor drainage will lead to waterlogging of the plant and roots, which will prove detrimental. Waterlogging will quickly cause stress, leading to yellowing of the plant, wilting, yellow leaves, rot, and other undesirable effects.
Potting Soil and Container Requirements
The yellow Christmas cactus is a succulent plant planted in a well-draining soil mix specifically formulated for succulent plant varieties. Most mixes contain an approximately 70/30 blend of potting soil and perlite.
Ensure proper drainage by choosing a container with at least one properly sized drainage hole. If your container doesn't drain well, your plant may succumb to root rot and waterlogging, even if you're watering at proper increments.
When allowed to become slightly rootbound, Christmas cacti do well and require repotting once every two or three years. Choose a properly sized container that isn't too large and repot in the spring.
Fertilize throughout the growing season to encourage yellow flowers on your Christmas cactus. A half-strength soluble fertilizer works well for this plant. For additional benefits, consider adding organic compost to your succulent potting mix. Your organic food waste will serve as an excellent nutrient-dense light fertilizer if you have an indoor composter, such as the Lomi by Pela.
Yellow or wilting leaves may be a sign of improper nutrition -- especially if you've ruled out overwatering. Paying attention to your plant's overall appearance, from leaf color to flower color, will help you determine whether or not your Christmas cactus is thriving.
Pests of Yellow Christmas Cactus
These plants aren't immune to the common houseplant pests. Red spider mites, aphids, and mealybugs may all attack your Christmas cactus. Occasionally, look at your plant in-depth, gently turning over the leaves and inspecting for any signs of pest activity. White foam, webbing, or small spots on the stem segments may all be signs of various pests.
Fortunately, most pests of the Christmas cactus varieties are easily controlled by wiping them off with a wet cotton swab or using insecticidal soap.
Yellow Christmas Cactus Varieties
The original species of holiday cactus thriving in the rainforests are striking in their own right. With beautifully colored flowers decorating the green stem segments, these plants are a sight to behold.
Due to their popularity as houseplants, several enthusiasts have diligently worked to create new cultivars with striking characteristics that set them apart from known varieties.
Christmas cactus breeding and hybridization have resulted in numerous cultivars not found in the genus' native habitat. The striking yellow flowers and even white, orange, and purple result from specialized breeding programs to produce new, exciting varieties of this long-favored houseplant. What will the next hybridized holiday cactus be?
Gold Charm is a distinctive cultivar with a delicate pale yellow flower, sometimes apricot. The flowers often show pink-to-magenta edges, offering visual interest during its fall-through-winter flowering period. Like other varieties, Gold Charm can survive outside in warmer months in bright or dappled shade.
As the cultivar's name suggests, the flowers of Christmas Flame/Gold Fantasy resemble a Christmas candle. This is one of the most intensely yellow flowers of all holiday cacti, with deep golden hues complemented by reddish-orange margins. This stunning cultivar became available in the late 1980s and has been a favorite since.
Cambridge is a cross between Golden Charm and Christmas Flame, with showy features from each of its parent cultivars.
Healthy, Thriving Yellow Christmas Cactuses
When given the proper lighting, humidity, and other growing conditions, your holiday cactus can survive upward of 100 years. This allows the Christmas cactus to become a family treasure and beloved gift to friends and loved ones.
You can also propagate your Christmas cactus, allowing you to keep growing your collection or, as many do, a gift to others.