To make miniature holiday cactus for scale and dolls house scenes it is useful to know the differences between the various types of holiday cactus
What is the Christmas cactus?
Schlumbergera x Buckleyi is a hybrid plant developed in England in the 1840s and given the popular name of 'Christmas Cactus' for its tendency to bloom at this time of year. (It needs 8 to ten weeks of cool temperatures, to set the flower buds) In the wild, Schlumbergera are native to rainforests in the mountains of Brazil where they grow high up in trees. Christmas cactus were a popular Victorian houseplant, grown for their exotic colorful flowers, and their ability to withstand cool temperatures and indirect light. Long lived plants, many have been kept in the family for over fifty years.
The Christmas cactus, is closely related to the Easter and Thanksgiving cactus, which bloom at other times of the year, and have slightly different shaped leaves. In Christmas cactus, the leaf sections are rounded, without points, and the original variety flowers are a magenta pink in color, with slight variations. The Thanksgiving cactus has soft points at the ends of the leaf sections, and tends to be more upright in growth than the Christmas cactus. Most plants sold as Thanksgiving Cactus are Schlumbergera truncata cultivars. The Easter Cactus is Rhipsalidopsis gaertneri, a plant which looks similar to the Schulumbergera varieties known as Thanksgiving and Christmas cactus. The Easter cactus has flat flowers, rather than the ones that curve backwards found on the Thanksgiving and Christmas cacti. The leaf segments of the Easter cactus end in soft bristles, and are without very many indentations, completely without points.
Growing Christmas Cacti - All varieties of jungle cacti set their flowers in response to daylight length and temperature. The Christmas cactus needs 25 short days and long nights, with temperatures lower than about 15 degrees C (59 degrees F)in order to set flower buds. All of the jungle cacti need indirect rather than direct sunlight for good growth, and acidic, moist but not waterlogged soil, to resemble their growth conditions high in the trees. A good description of the three different varieties of holiday cactus and their growth requirements can be found on the website for the University of Dalhousie cactus collection, Recognition and Culture of the Holiday cactus.
Ways to Make a Miniature Christmas Cactus - With craft materials becoming harder to find, I've set up these instructions to show you how to make a Christmas cactus from wire, paper and glue. If you can find paper wrapped craft wire, you can make Christmas cacti using polymer clay, carefully 'blobbled' over the wire to make the leaves on both sides of the wire, while the clay rests on a matte surface or piece of parchment paper. Or you can use acrylic paint thickened with matte acrylic medium, and make thick strips of dried paint along the coated wire, which can be trimmed to shape once dry. Once you have baked the leaf sections for polymer clay cacti (leaving a bit of wire free at the tip for the flowers, you can make flowers petals from magenta mixed with translucent polymer clay and press them to the flower tips. You can also adapt certain types of paper wrapped twist ties to make the sections of Christmas cactus (if you have a source of paper wrapped twist ties!) Regardless of how you make your Christmas cactus, the shapes are the same as the ones given on the simple instructions which follow. The Christmas cacti which follow are easily made just from recycled paper envelopes and a bit of tissue and wire.