How to Grow a Christmas Cactus
We’d like to introduce you to a wonderful houseplant commonly referred to as “Christmas Cactus.” This interesting blooming plant is also known as “Orchid Cactus,” or “Holiday Cactus,” “Thanksgiving Cactus,” or “Easter Cactus.” Their names come from the bloom time of year and the holidays associated with them. This popular winter flowering plant is native to Brazil.
Many Christmas Cactus lovers cherish these indoor plants for their long lifespans, and colorful blooms during the winter months. In regards to long lifespans, these plants can last for generations, and are very easy to propagate from cuttings. I, for one, have a plant that is a start from a two generation plant, originating with my dear Grandma Bea. I have fond memories of her plant blooming in her south facing bedroom window by the sheer curtains each winter. I’ve since passed on a start to my eldest daughter.
Some fun facts about these plants:
• While part of the cactus family, these elongated leaves are modified stem segments. They do not have sharp spines.
• Blooms can be a variety of colors, including red, purple, cream, orange, pink, and fuchsia.
Tips for care and growing a Christmas Cactus:
• Easy to propagate, by putting a cutting into water and allowing to root.
• Fertilize new growth in spring with a weak solution of liquid houseplant fertilizer.
• Keep out of direct sunlight, but place in well-lit windows or areas. Keep the soil moist, but not too wet.
• To get more intense blooms, place in brighter light about 3 weeks prior to desired bloom time each holiday season.
• Plant in soil that is free-draining, humus rich and somewhat acidic, such as a mixture of peat and sharp sand. NOT beach sand.
• Keep them lightly watered, but don’t over water. Watering less in October will help promote blooms in early December.
• Fall is the time of year that the overnight period of darkness lengthens to about 12 hours, which also helps promote blooms. These plants will do well in rooms that the temperature lowers overnight to about 60 degrees F.
• Enjoy the blooms! They will come in waves over 2-4 weeks. Pick off faded blooms to encourage continuing blooming.
• After the blooms fade, wait about a month, then trim back the plant by the tips. This will help promote new growth and branching.
• During moderate summer temperatures, you can move these plants outdoors, but keep them out of direct sun, in a semi-shaded area.
• They do fine in crowded planters, but you may want to carefully repot every 2-3 years when first growing. You may have some pieces break off during the repotting, but just stick those into water to produce roots, and start new plants. A perfect gift, they’re great to share with friends and family!
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