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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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