poinsettia remains the most popular of the holiday plants, a healthy Christmas
cactus in full bloom is a great gift idea for that special gardener. They are
easy to care for and can be grown indoors throughout the year. The flowers range
in color from yellow, salmon, pink, fuchsia and white or combinations of those
colors. Below are the details that you should know about your Christmas Cactus
so you can easily take care of them:
Common name: Christmas
Scientific name: Schlumbergera
group of epiphytic cactuses native to the South American jungles
the Christmas cactus can adapt to low light, more abundant blooms are produced
on plants that have been exposed to high light intensity. Keep your plants in a
sunny location indoors. Plants can be moved outdoors in summer, but keep them in
a shady or semi-shady location. Too much direct sunlight can burn the leaves.
When it's time to bring the plants back inside in the fall, slowly adjust the
plants to life indoors by gradually increasing the number of hours they spend
indoors each day. If you want to grow it indoors in a south or west window, you
should shade the plant with glass curtains. No diffusion of light is needed on
the north or east. Many growers move the plants to the broken shade of a porch
or patio or plunge the pot in a shady spot in the garden during the summer
months. Christmas cactus needs shading from the sun between May and September.
soil is a must for Christmas cactus. Use a commercially packaged potting mix for
succulent plants or mix your own. The ideal soil for Christmas cactus is
composed of equal parts of garden loam, leaf mold and clean coarse sand (not
sand from the seashore). Add a quart of wood ashes per bushel of mixture.
One-tenth part by bulk of old dry cow manure may be added if garden soil is
The plant is not a true cactus
and is not quite as drought tolerant as the name infers. However, it is a
succulent plant and can store a reasonable quantity of water in the leaves.
Water thoroughly when the top half of the soil in the pot feels dry to the
touch. The length of time between waterings will vary with the air temperature,
amount of light, rate of growth and relative humidity. During the summer, water
so that the soil is continually moist. When fall arrives, water the plant only
well enough to prevent wilting.
During the month of October, give the plant no water. Cautiously resume watering
in November, but don't let stems get flabby from over watering. If the
atmosphere is dry, place pot on a tray of pebbles. Keep pebbles moist with water
in the tray.
plant completes blooming, let it rest by withholding water for six weeks. When
new growth appears, re-pot and top-dress with fresh soil. Resume watering to
keep soil fairly moist.
tender growth appears in the spring, apply a weak solution of liquid houseplant
fertilizer at 2 to 3 weeks.
Prefers warm temperatures,
although evening temperatures of 50 to 55 degrees F can be used to initiate
flower bud formation (which normally is responsive to day length). From October
on, keep the plant where it is cool at night (60 to 65 F). Keep away from drafts
from heat vents, fireplaces or other sources of hot air.
conditions or filtered light are necessary for Christmas cactus to thrive. You
can force will reach unmanageable size in time. To root cuttings for new plants,
cut back shoots from the tips, cut at the second joint of each tip. Place
cuttings in a moist peat and perlite, or peat and sand mixture. Water sparingly
at first to prevent rotting of cuttings. After two or three weeks, water as you
would any other cutting. When cuttings are rooted, pot them in a very loose
mixture of good potting soil.
should be re-potted every two or three years, or whenever pot is filled with
roots and the soil appears to be depleted of nutrients. Christmas cactus usually
is re-potted in the spring, but a plant that is unhealthy because of the root
system can be re-potted at any time of the year.
Common causes of bud dropping
are over watering, exposure to cold drafts, a position too close to a hot
radiator or vent and lack of sufficient potash in the soil. Water plant
sparingly and feed a little liquid manure weekly.
How to get your
Christmas Cactus to Flower: These
plants are easy to grow but are sometimes difficult to get to bloom. A medium
light intensity and a soil high in organic matter are recommended. Do not allow
the plant to dry out, water when the soil surface begins to feel dry. The plant
may be kept drier in fall. Any fertilizer may be used according to label
directions. Cool temperatures or long nights are required to induce blooming.
The plants bloom when given night temperatures near 55 degrees and day
temperatures below 65 degrees.
is related to day length and night time temperatures. The temperature range for
flower bud development is between 55 and 60 degrees for a period of six weeks.
As long as the temperatures remain in this range they will develop buds
regardless of day length. If the temperatures in your home get above that
required range, the plant will need 13 hours of uninterrupted darkness each
night. One can do this by placing them in a completely dark room, or by covering
them for the recommended time, or longer, each night with a dark piece of cloth.
Or just keep the plants in total darkness like a closet till buds develop. For
holiday blooms this usually means in late September to mid October.
flower bud formation, stop fertilizing and only water enough to keep the leaves
from becoming shriveled. Once buds do form then you can keep the plant in normal
light and temperatures. Keep it evenly moist and fertilize every other week with
a mild fertilizer solution.
The general schedule
of the ideal life of a Christmas Cactus:
March: Resting (55 degrees,
to May: Water thoroughly
when potting mix begins to dry out.
to August: Place outdoors in
a shady spot.
to October: Plant prepares
to flower. Reduce length daylight hours. Keep on
the dry side and cool (55 to 60 degrees F) until flower buds form. Then
increase water and temperature.
to December: Flowering.
Water normally. Temperature no less than 55 degrees F0.