How To Grow And Take Care Of A Christmas Cactus

Learn how to grow and take care of a Christmas cactus! Christmas cacti are beautiful houseplants that bloom in a variety of colors. The Christmas cactus requires special care in order produce blooms.

One of the most beautiful blooms is that of the Christmas cactus. With proper attention and the right environment, they will continue to bloom year after year. According to the website article entitled "Christmas Cactus", written by Marina Welham and published by The Amateurs' Digest, Christmas cacti have flowers in various shades of pink, red, and white. The differing sizes and shapes of the Christmas cactus are as unique as their brilliant holiday colors.

The website article entitled "Care of the Cactus in the Home", written by Dale T. Lindgren, Extension Horticulturist, and published by Cooperative Extension, Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, provides the following information on soil and potting requirements of the Christmas cactus. It says they require soil containing rich, organic material. The recommended growing medium is one part potting soil, two parts peat, and one part sand. It is very important to choose a pot that allows for proper drainage. "Christmas Cactus" recommends using a pot that is of appropriate size for the plant. It says these plants prefer to be root-bound rather than planted in a pot that is too large.

Moderate, filtered lighting is recommended by "Christmas Cactus". It says direct sunlight can be damaging, especially in the autumn, spring, and summer months. The website article entitled "Care of the Christmas Cactus Important After Holidays", written by Rosie Lerner, Purdue Consumer Horticulture Specialist, and published by Purdue University, says the Christmas cactus can be placed outside in a partially shaded location during the summer. To avoid shocking the Christmas cactus, the same article says it should be gradually acclimated to indoor conditions before it is brought back inside at the end of summer. This can be done by bringing the Christmas cactus inside for a few hours each day and gradually increasing this time.

To promote blooms, Lerner suggests placing Christmas cacti in locations ranging between 50 and 55 degrees Fahrenheit beginning in November. In addition, in order to bloom, they need several hours per day of complete darkness beginning around the middle of October. "Christmas Cactus" advises while the buds are developing, the Christmas cactus should be placed in a location that receives filtered light. At this point, it should not be moved. "Christmas Cactus" says moving the plant would encourage blooms that are not facing the light to turn. This could weaken the buds and cause them to drop off.

After blooming, Lerner recommends pruning your Christmas cactus. She says to remove a few sections either by pinching or by cutting them off with a well-sharpened knife. Doing so will promote branching and new growth.

Proper watering is important to the successful growth of the Christmas cactus. "Care of Cactus in the Home" says to encourage buds to form, less water should be given in late spring. After the Christmas cactus has formed blooms, it will require regular watering. Lerner says even though the Christmas cactus is considered a succulent plant, it does not tolerate drought conditions very well. The best way to decide if the plant needs water is by feeling the soil.

According to the book "Cacti & Succulents for Modern Living", published in 1976 by Merchants Publishing Company, the Christmas cactus should be fertilized once a month after blooming up until autumn. Do not apply fertilizer during autumn and winter months. "Christmas Cactus" suggests using a fertilizer with a high potassium content. Be sure to follow label directions carefully for proper application.

Christmas cacti can survive and continue producing spectacular blooms for many years. They often outlive the caretaker. A large, mature Christmas cactus will develop what appears to be bark, and is capable of producing hundreds of blooms. The extra care required by the Christmas cactus is well worth the effort. The brilliant flowers it produces is a wondrous gift to behold each holiday season.

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