Christmas Cactus Care

Properly caring for a Christmas cactus will ensure the life of the plant and the abundance of colorful blooms during the Christmas season.

Properly caring for a Christmas cactus will ensure the life of the plant and the abundance of colorful blooms during the Christmas season.

In recent years the plant has been propagated to bloom longer and require less care than in earlier species, therefore making it easier to have the beauty of the plant to enjoy for longer periods of time.

New hybrids have expanded the choice of colors; you can find them in a variety of beautiful colors such as orange, bright pink, white and purple.

The best time of the year to purchase a Christmas cactus is during the Christmas season. You can find them in an abundance of many different colors at the Home Depot nursery and your local plant nursery.

There is a Thanksgiving cactus as well and it can be easily mistaken for the Christmas cactus if you don't know how to look for the difference in the appearance of the two plants. The Thanksgiving cactus has two oppositely pointed tips compared to the smooth edged leaves of the Christmas cactus.

Most people will buy a Christmas cactus because the color of the flower appeals to them. The temperature of the climate and the cool nights and short days will induce budding in the fall. Temperatures must be between 50 degrees and 59 degrees. When temperatures are between 70 and 75 degrees the plants will have no flowers for a period of many days. The length of the day should be between 12 1/2 to 14 hours. When the days become shorter in the fall of the year, the plant will begin to bloom and they usually bloom much earlier than Christmas.

The plant must have more than 12 hours of light each day until mid October. After mid October give your plant 15 to 17 hours of darkness each day for at least a month and your plants will bloom for Christmas. If you find it difficult to give them this amount of darkness, place them in a dark closet or cover them with a dark cloth.

The Christmas cactus needs well-drained soil and this is very important to the life of the plant. Use a potting mixture of soil for succulent plants. This can also be purchased at your local Home Depot to local nursery. You can mix your own soil mixture, which works just as well, and economically it is better to mix your own soil because you will always have a supply on hand when you need it. The ideal mixture in equal parts is: garden loam, leaf mold, and clean course sand. Old dry cow manure can be added also

fertilize the plant every two or three weeks with a weak solution of liquid houseplant fertilizer.

The plant stores water in its leaves, so water it thoroughly when the top half of the soil feels dry when you touch it. The temperature of the climate that your plant is in will determine how often you should water it. If it is very hot and dry weather, the plant will need to be watered very often. During the fall, water the plant only enough to keep it from wilting.

During the month of October, do not water the plant at all but resume watering it in November. This is considered "starving" the plant but it will also induce blooming in the months of November and December.

The Christmas cactus is very easy to root. If a piece of it falls off or is accidentally broken off, just place the piece back into the soil of the plant. Be sure that it is firmly placed in the soil. It will take root and start growing a new plant. If you want to root cuttings to make more plants, just break off several tips about 2 to 3 inches long in y-shaped cuttings from the larger plant and place in small pots in a moist soil mixture and let the soil dry out. Water sparingly. The cuttings will develop root rot if you water them too often. After a few weeks, when you know the cuttings have developed a root system, you can move them to larger, more decorative pots. If you start your cuttings early enough, you will be able to give them as Christmas gifts.

Christmas cacti should be repotted every 3 years because they become root bound and this can choke out the life of the plant and this should be done in the spring.

Once in a while, your Christmas cactus will refuse to bloom but if you follow these instructions you will surely have a blooming plant for Christmas. One of the most important things to remember is to give it the proper amount of light and darkness because this determines whether or not your plant will bloom.

Some people like to collect Christmas cacti because of the beauty and variety of colors the plants have and also the simplicity of rooting the plants. They are also relatively easy to care for when you have a little knowledge of the plant to use in your endeavor.

These beautiful plants are often given as Christmas gifts because it is a gift that gives many hours and days of enjoyment. It is a gift that can live for many years with the proper care.

So, the next time you see a beautiful display of Christmas cactuses in a rainbow of colors, buy one and take it home to enjoy.

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