This genus of epiphytic, succulent cacti originates in rainforest environments in south-eastern Brazil, where they grow naturally on trees and rocks, and they are named after Frederic Schlumberger, a French collector of cacti in the 19th century. There are many hybrid forms of Schlumbergera - commonly know as zygocactus (ht 30-40 cm). Many are cultivars of Schlumbergera truncata. They have flattened, fleshy stems that appear to be segmented. As with most cacti, they have no true leaves but have modified leaves in the form of spines on the sides of the stems, in pads called areoles, from where flower buds emerge. The reduced size of the leaves helps restrict water loss; and the fleshy stems are able to store water to help the plant survive. The unusual silky flowers usually appear in late autumn and winter (hence they are called Christmas cacti in the northern hemisphere) and are held at the stem tips, coming in colours of pinks, purples, magenta, white, orange, yellow and red. Some develop a cascading habit with age.
They seem to look best when grown in pots under trees or in a dry rockery situation, and need protection from frost in a part shade or dappled shade position; however, they can be grown in the ground in a well-drained spot. They can also provide a bright splash of colour on an outdoor table or in a hanging basket in a filtered or morning sun position in the cooler months, or even brought inside in a brightly lit spot once they have started to flower. They should not be overwatered, but do need occasional watering, as they don't like to dry out completely. They seem to enjoy being pot bound and can last well for years in the same container. Good drainage is vital. Use a growing medium suitable for orchids. Give them a small amount of fertiliser in spring. . Removing a few stem tips each year after flowering helps maintain a good shape and promotes more blooms the following year.Being epiphytic, they can also be affixed to trees, in a pouch of orchid mix held in a length of old pantyhose, or grown in rock crevices. Schlumbergera are easily propagated from stem cuttings in spring and summer. Dry out the cuttings on a sheet of newspaper for about a week, then pot them up in a well-drained propagating medium.