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How To Care For Your Christmas Cactus – Before & After Christmas!

Did you know that with just the most basic of Christmas cactus care, you can keep your holiday plant alive and blooming strong for many seasons to come? Even better, if you are lucky enough, they can even bloom a second time in late winter / early spring!

caring for a Christmas Cactus
The simple beauty of a Christmas cactus. These plants with tropical roots can survive for 50 years or more with just a little care. Even more, cuttings can easily be rooted to create additional plants.

Christmas cacti, along with the Poinsettia plant, have long been the official indoor plants of the Christmas holiday season. And true to their name, they usually come into bloom right as the Christmas season arrives.

The shiny foliage of the cactus, along with its ultra-bright blooms fill the indoors with holiday cheer. And with bloom colors ranging from deep red and white, to purple, pink and salmon, there is a variety to fit any decor.

But these beautiful houseplants live on well past the holiday season. In fact, many, with minimal care, survive for decades. Here is a look at how to get the most from your Christmas cactus this holiday season, and how to keep it alive and thriving for many years, and many bloom cycles to come.

perennial plants
This purple blooming Christmas cactus is just one of the many varieties you can find. Their blooms are so unique, they really do add a special touch to the indoors during the holiday season.

Christmas Cactus Care

The biggest misconception with the Christmas cactus is that it hails from the hot, dry desert, and therefore should be cared for like a true cactus plant. The Christmas cactus actually hails from a tropical Brazilian environment. And because of that – its care and requirements are much different than succulents and other true cacti plants.

Because of that tropical background, the Christmas cactus performs best in bright, indirect lighting. Full sun, or placing near a window that receives too much sun can often burn the foliage.

Christmas Cactus Care - lighting
To bloom at its best, place your Christmas cactus in a room that receives plenty of bright, indirect lighting. Direct sunlight, especially through a sunny window can actually injure plants.

Place plants in well lit rooms but away from windows. Preferably in a more humid room with moderate temperatures between 65 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit. When blooming, too much heat or direct light will decrease both the blooms and blooming periods.

Watering – Caring For A Christmas Cactus

Although Christmas cacti are a humidity loving plant, their roots cannot sit in water. Water when the top inch or so of soil is completely dry to the touch. If water runs through the plant to a liner or saucer below, be sure to empty it away from the plant.

Christmas Cactus Care After The Holidays

The best part of growing a Christmas cactus is that it is extremely low maintenance. Continue to water and care for you plant as usual after it has bloomed, removing any spent blooms or foliage that become unsightly or damaged.

Christmas Cactus After Blooming
Once your Christmas cactus has stopped blooming, continue to care for with consistent watering. Fertilizing and pruning should be held off until the warm spring and summer months arrive.

In some cases, the plant can begin a new cycle of bloom set in late winter. This can be driven and helped by less light and cooler temps. Many move their plants to a cool basement or garage for 4 to 6 weeks to encourage a second bloom. It doesn’t always work out, but when it does, it sure is an extra treat!

As spring and summer arrive, the plant can be kept indoors indoors with adequate indirect lighting, or moved outdoors to a shady porch, patio or garden setting. Remember the plant has tropical origins, so be sure to keep inside when any threat of low temps are in the forecast.

Fertilizing – Christmas Cactus Care

Christmas cactus should only be fertilized during the late spring and summer months. This allows for a bit of new growth and for the plant to store energy for the winter blooming season.

Use a high quality all-purpose indoor plant fertilizer, and not one intended for succulents or true cacti plants. Product Link : Espoma Indoor Plant Food Fertilize once a month from late spring to August. Be sure to stop fertilizing in the fall to allow the plant time to prepare for December blooming.

indoor plant food
Many make the mistake of fertilizing with a succulent fertilizer. Instead, use an all purpose indoor plant food like above. This will provide the nutrients needed for a good bloom cycle the following year.

Pruning & Re-potting – Christmas Cactus Care

Prune plants back a bit in the spring to help keep their shape and form. Remove renegade branches or any damaged foliage. Do not over prune at this point, just help the plant keep its shape. Place healthy cutting into moist potting soil to generate new plants easily.

A Christmas cactus plant will not need to be transplanted often. In fact, it blooms better when the root structure is more tight than less. When and if re-potting, choose a container only slightly larger than the existing one. This will keep roots close for best performance.

Blooming For Next Christmas – Christmas Cactus Care

About 8 to 10 weeks before Christmas, move your cactus to a cool room to give it a rest. The ideal temperature will be between 50 and 55 degrees. A cool dim basement or semi-heated garage works perfectly.

repotting plants
When re-potting plants, choose containers slightly larger than the previous pot. This keeps roots close together, which is important for the Christmas cactus plant.

This cooling off period allows the plant to get ready for its blooming cycle. Low light and cooler temperatures are what signal plants to begin blooming before Christmas.

A few weeks before Christmas, move your plant back to a humid room with temps between 65 and 70 – and get ready to enjoy another beautiful blooming Christmas season!

Here is to getting the most from your Christmas Cactus this year, and to keeping it around and in the family for many years to come! Merry Christmas- Jim and Mary

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