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How to grow and care for Christmas Cactus

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The Christmas cactus (Schlumbergera x Buckleyi) is a beautiful plant that takes the spotlight this holiday season.

Christmas cactus flowering is stimulated by temperature and day length (called the “photothermal” response), so you’ll need to pay close attention to a few details if you want to keep your cactus blooming year after year. year.

This plant has segmented stems with grooved details on the leaf edges and blooms tubular flowers in late fall to early winter. It is native to the rainforests of Brazil, and usually grows in crevices of rocks or on trees covered in moss.

Related: Learn how to care for Pilea, Monstera, Jade Plants, Calathea, Spider Plants, Fiddleleaf Figs, Golden Pothos, Snake Plants, Rubber Trees, and String of Pearls Plants.

Christmas cactus on the table
Christmas cactus leaves

Varieties of Christmas cactus

There are three main types of Christmas cactus you can choose from:

  • Easter cactus: (S. Gartneri) It blooms from late winter to mid-spring with rounded leaves and small hairs at the edges.
  • Thanksgiving cactus: (Schlumbergera truncata) They are often confused with Christmas cactus and bloom from late fall to mid-winter. Flower colors can be red, pink, peach, purple, orange or white and feature claw-shaped projections on their leaves.
  • Christmas cactus: (S.S. Buckley) It blooms from early to mid-winter with white and purple flowers. The flat leaf segments have been rounded with slits around the edges.

How much sunlight does a Christmas cactus need?

You will need bright but indirect light for your Christmas cactus. Although it tolerates some direct light, you’ll need to reduce it because too much can cause leaf burn.

If you are trying to encourage the plant to rebloom next holiday season, you will need to give it at least 13 hours of complete, uninterrupted darkness starting in mid-October for the buds to form for the plant to flower.

Christmas cactus

How often should you water a Christmas cactus?

Although Christmas cactus need more water than some other drought-tolerant cacti, watering the cactus too much can cause the roots to rot, so you’ll need to make sure the cactus is dry enough between waterings.

Stick your finger into the soil to check the water level and once the top of the soil is dry, water it well. Be sure to Use a pot with drainage holes So that the plant enjoys good drainage away from its roots.

Should you fertilize your Christmas cactus?

You can fertilize your Christmas cactus using General all-purpose fertilizer Monthly when the plant blooms. If you are trying to keep it going after the holiday season, you can continue fertilizing monthly until early fall.

In mid-October, stop feeding and wait until the plant flowers again to resume a monthly fertilizing schedule.

Temperature and humidity level for Christmas cactus

Because they come from the rainforest, Christmas cactus enjoy higher humidity and temperatures between 70°F and 80°F. Once the buds have fully emerged, they require lower nighttime temperatures of between 55°F and 65°F.

As with most plants, keep them away from heating vents, exterior doors, and drafty areas near windows because temperature changes may cause their buds or flowers to drop.

You can add more humidity to your home with a humidifier or you can put some pebbles and water in a tray and then place the tray on top (make sure the water level is below the top of the pebbles). The pot will be placed on top of the stones and the water in the tray will evaporate and create moisture around the plant. You can too Mist the plant lightly Sometimes to add more moisture.

Bathrooms or kitchens are a great place for Christmas cacti (as long as they have the right light) because they are a more humid environment.

Christmas cactus on the table

Christmas cactus pruning

While you can cut back faded flowers to redirect the plant’s energy to other areas, the Christmas cactus doesn’t need pruning unless your plant grows larger than you want and you want to keep it more compact.

Replanting Christmas cactus

Christmas cacti are low maintenance in this area because they actually tend to bloom better when they are slightly root bound.

You can replant it in a slightly larger container with well-drained soil (in a pot Pot with drainage holes) every three years or so during the spring.

Propagate a Christmas cactus

You can easily propagate Christmas cactus from cuttings from the original plant. Just be sure to wait until the plant has finished flowering. Therefore, early spring is the best time to make cuttings and not the time for bud formation in the fall. All you have to do is:

  1. Prepare a small bowl of Soil or Aloe vera mix.
  2. Using sterilized secateurs or shears, cut the aloe vera stems, containing 3-5 sections on each stem. You can grow several divisions in one pot, so cut up to 5 stems to plant in one pot.
  3. Allow the ends to dry for 4-5 days until a hard substance forms over the cut area.
  4. Push the dried ends into the soil about 1 inch deep, using 3-5 stems per pot.
  5. In about two weeks, your roots will develop but you want to keep them well watered while they are rooting and you can place a plastic bag over them to increase the humidity until the roots take hold.
  6. Look for new leaf and stem growth before repotting into a larger container.
Christmas cactus on the table

Encourage your Christmas cactus to bloom

If you want to keep your Christmas cactus and encourage it to bloom next holiday season, you’ll need to give it some extra care throughout the year:

  • In mid-October, stop fertilizing and stop watering the plant until the shoots appear.
  • Keep your aloe vera in an area with a temperature between 50 and 60 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Limit the hours of light your cactus receives for the next 6-8 weeks, as it needs about 13 hours of uninterrupted darkness each night (you can place a black cloth over it or put it in a closet). If your room is warmer than 60 degrees, try giving it a few extra hours of darkness each day to compensate for the warmer conditions.
  • Once the flower buds are fully formed, move the plant to an area with bright, indirect light and wait for the buds to fully open (you won’t need to give it 13 hours of darkness at this point anymore). Make sure to continue watering the plant once it has flowered as it may drop its buds if it becomes too dry.
  • If you find that your cactus buds are falling off the first winter, try again as it may bloom the following year.

Diagnose common problems

  • Dice drop: Sudden changes in temperature can cause flowers or blooms to drop, so be sure to place your plant away from areas exposed to drafts or heating vents.
  • Curled or wilted leaves: Underwatering can cause the leaves to curl or wilt, so feel the soil and if it’s dry, water well and see if the plant revives in a day or so.
  • Mealybugs: These tiny insects can be spotted by the small cottony masses they build on the plant. Try removing clumps with a toothpick or brushing the plant with a soft toothbrush.
  • Spiders: Although it is difficult to see actual mites with just your eyes, if you see small specks or webbing on your plant, you likely have a problem with spider mites. use Insecticidal soap spray To remove them and keep the plant clean, as mites are attracted to dust.
  • Root rot: When you water it too much, your Christmas cactus is more susceptible to root rot, so make sure your cactus is dry enough between waterings to avoid conditions that are too saturated.

Frequently asked questions

Is the Christmas cactus toxic to pets or children?

Christmas cactus is not toxic to pets or children, but it can cause some stomach upset if eaten in large quantities, so it is best to keep it away from pets or young children who will try to chew it.

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