Oh Christmas Cactus
With the holidays around the corner, there is great excitement in seeing lights, ornaments, and tinsel come together to decorate families’ Christmas trees. Another event that can be appreciated during this exciting time of the year is the buds that are turning into blossoms on many families’ Christmas cactus. Christmas cactus is a very unique and popular indoor plant that can often times be a family heirloom that is passed from generation to generation within a family because of the its long lifespan. Now, no family member wants to be responsible for ending something that has been in the family for generations. So an understanding of Christmas cactus care and maintenance is important. The easiest way to understand the care of a Christmas cactus is to divide its maintenance into three periods: the pre-blooming, the blooming, and the post-blooming periods.
The pre-blooming period occurs between the months of September and November. The majority of the time, a Christmas cactus thrives in indirect, bright light. However, during a segment of the pre-blooming period, the cactus needs more night light as it prepares to bloom. Towards the beginning of October, keep the cactus in a location that receives about 14 hours of night light and about 10 hours of indirect light for about 6 weeks. You can also cover the cactus with blanket to accommodate these low light requirements if you cannot find the perfect spots with lower light in your home. Temperatures need to be cooler, in the lower 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Also, cease to water the cactus during October. At the beginning of November, start lightly watering again. When buds begin to appear on the cactus, return the cactus to indirect, bright lighting.
With consistent maintenance, the blooming period will occur in the month of December. The new buds will blossom into pretty, showy flowers. With increased indirect light requirements, it is also important for temperatures to increase to around 70 degrees Fahrenheit for day temperatures and mid-60 degrees Fahrenheit for night temperatures. Be sure to keep the soil moist during Christmas cactus’s bloom. If this attention is given to your Christmas cactus, you will be able to fully enjoy its blooms and beauty.
The post-blooming period will occur approximately between the months of January and August. The blooms will begin to fade. So, the light, the temperature, and the watering will need to be decreased for about 30 days. This serves as a rest period for the Christmas cactus. When new growth is observed, begin watering normal, and increase the indirect light and temperature. Pinching and pruning can be done in March or April as there will be more new growth around this time. Between the months of April and September, houseplant fertilizer can be applied to benefit the cactus.
Christmas cactus is a plant that propagates very well from cuttings. In order to do this, take a cutting from a section of the stem, and place it half way into soil. Keep the cutting lightly watered and in about 2 weeks you will see establishment and growth of the new plant. So, if you are in possession of your family Christmas cactus, try making a cutting from it. The new cactus could make a great Christmas gift for one of your family members so they can enjoy the Christmas cactus as well! Happy Planting!