Schlumbergera is a small genus of cacti with six to nine species found in the coastal mountains of south-eastern Brazil. These plants grow on trees or rocks in habitats that are generally shady with high humidity, and can be quite different in appearance from their desert-dwelling cousins. Most species of Schlumbergera have stems which resemble leaf-like pads joined one to the other and flowers which appear from areoles at the joints and tips of the stems. Two species have cylindrical stems more similar to other cacti. Recent phylogenetic studies using DNA have led to three species of the related genus Hatiora being transferred into Schlumbergera, though this change is not universally accepted.
Common names for these cacti generally refer to their flowering season. In the Northern Hemisphere, they are called Christmas cactus, Thanksgiving cactus, crab cactus and holiday cactus. In Brazil, the genus is referred to as Flor de Maio (May flower), reflecting the period in which they flower in the Southern Hemisphere. Most of the popular houseplants are cultivars of Schlumbergera, rather than species, with flowers in white, pink, yellow, orange, red or purple. The Easter cactus or Whitsun cactus, until recently placed in the genus Hatiora, is also called a holiday cactus and has flowers in red, orange, pink and white.