The Christmas Cactus is a beautiful plant for the holiday season. The flowers have a wide range of color including white, salmon, pink, yellow, and fuschia, or any combination of these. The Christmas Cactus is not really a cactus, but an epiphytic. They are native to Central and South America, where they can be found growing in the forks of trees. The Christmas Cactus survives in the same environment as orchids. They are long-lived and often are passed down from generation to generation. Christmas Cacti are relatively easy to grow, they just need a little special care. The keys are light, temperature, and water.
Placement. Move the cactus to a room where the temperature remains around 50 degrees, and there is no artificial light at night. This should be done in September or October, in order to bloom by Christmas. It should never be kept near a door that opens to the outside, or next to heating ducts, or drafty areas. Christmas Cactus also do well outdoors in shady areas.
Humidity. Create a source of humidity at about 50 to 60 percent. You can place a glass or vase of water next to the plant, or place it in a waterproof container filled with gravel and water.
Watering. Watering this finicky plant can be tricky. Too much water will cause the leaves to fall off; too little water will cause the buds to fall off and the plant will wilt.
- Water thoroughly only when the top inch of soil is completely dry. Mist the leaves as well.
- Water every two to three days in a dry climate that is outdoors, warm and sunny.
- Water every week if the plant is in a humid climate, cool or indoors.
- Water less frequently in the fall and winter to promote blooming.
Fertilizer. Fertilizing the plant in early November with an all-purpose liquid houseplant fertilizer will increase the chances of having blooms by Christmas. The fertilizer should have a nitrogen ratio of 10 percent.
Light. Lighting during the fall should be indirect. The cactus requires 12 to14 hours of total darkness every night, for 6 to 8 weeks until the buds begin to develop.
Blooming is complete. The plant should be given a 30 day rest in a cool room with plenty of water.
Pruning is most successful in March and April. Pinch or snip the leaves to shape the cactus and remove any unwanted stems. This is also a good time to repot, however the Christmas Cactus flowers best when it is pot-bound. The best soil for the cactus is equal parts of leaf mold, garden loam, and clean coarse sand.
When grown in the right soil with the correct amount of water in the proper temperature and with suitable lighting, your Christmas Cactus will bloom at Christmas. It is also possible it will bloom several times during the year.