How To Grow And Care For A Christmas Cactus:- Christmas cactus is a favorite holiday gift with its bright blossoms. The exotic blooms bloom just in time for the holidays and provide weeks of color. Christmas cacti blossom red, purple, peach, and white year after year. Care for a Christmas cactus to enjoy these festive delights for years.
How To Grow And Care For A Christmas Cactus
Christmas Cactus Care
- Christmas cacti are rainforest plants, not desert plants. Christmas cacti thrive as epiphytes in tree bends in Brazil.1 Choose perlite-containing potting soil and a container with good drainage holes for indoor growing. Root rot affects Christmas cacti.
- Do not overwater plants or let water sit in container saucers. Water plants when soil seems dry. In spring and summer, plants can dry out, but while flowering, keep soil moisture.
- Reduce watering after blooms fade till spring growth. In spring and summer, plants thrive in partial shade but tolerate full light during flowering. Internally, that could be a bright east or north window.
- Summertime outdoor plantings work wonderfully too. Find filtered sunlight under a tree (they grow in jungles). To much light can make plants pale or yellow.
- Plant a Christmas cactus in well-drained, lightweight soil. Three parts potting soil and two parts perlite drain well. Or use cactus-specific potting soil.
- Christmas cactus should be watered when dry to the touch in summer and less in winter when temperatures drop and buds grow.
- Drain excess water in a well-draining pot to avoid waterlogging the plant. Avoid standing water for the plant. This can cause root rot.
- During peak development, keep the Christmas cactus at 70–80°F from April to September. After buds form, the plant prefers 55–65°F overnight temperatures. Keep the plant away from drafts and rapid temperature changes. Mist the plant or place the pot on a watered pebble tray in winter to add humidity.
- After spring growth resumes, fertilize with a half-strength balanced fertilizer like 20-10-20. Continue monthly feedings through August. Fall feedings with low-nitrogen fertilizers like 0-15-10 can stimulate floral bud growth. A well-cared-for Christmas cactus can last decades.
Types of Christmas Cactus
- Christmas cactus is closely related to Thanksgiving and Easter cactuses, which bloom during those holidays. They’re called holiday cacti.
Pinch and Prune Christmas Cactus
- A short summer pruning can boost winter blossoms. Pinching stems in early June promotes branching and more flowers at the shoot tips.
- Some growers pinch plants back in September to even the crown and remove immature stems. Flowers do not appear on stem segments under 1 cm. Pinch back to a mature segment to promote bud growth.
Propagating Christmas Cactus
- Family and friends can grow plants from cuttings. The plant will also grow fuller from cuttings. Propagation is optimal one to two months after blossoming.
- Put potting soil, cactus soil mix, or sand-peat in a 4- to 6-inch pot.
- One to four segment cuttings should be kept cool and dry for several days until the cut end dries out. It keeps the end from decaying.
- Plant the cutting inch-deep. Water to stay wet.
- Wrap the plant in a plastic bag and rubber band to promote humidity. Remove the bag when roots form. Roots should form in 2–3 weeks.
- Place clipped ends in one to two inches of water in indirect light to root. After weeks, roots should form. Cuttings can be planted in soil at two inches.
How to Grow Christmas Cactus From Seed
- Harvest seeds from plant pods or fruit. Wait until fall for green pods to become red.
- Plant the seeds in moist cactus soil mix or sphagnum peat moss and perlite after removing the pulp. Press them lightly into the soil without covering.
- Cover the pot with plastic wrap or a bag and place it in indirect sunlight to create humidity.
- Moisten the soil top regularly or place the pot on a tray of water to water the plant from the bottom.
Common Bugs and Diseases
- You can attract Christmas cactus pests by overwatering. Mealybugs, spider mites, and aphids are common. Wilting, yellowing, and stunting can result from these pests. Use insecticidal soap and horticultural oil to kill pests.
- Fungal diseases induce stem rot. Fusarium generates brown patches on soil-line stems, whereas phytophthora makes them damp. Though it may be doomed, spray the plant with fungicide.
How to Flower a Christmas Cactus
- Christmas cacti produce bloom buds in fall due to shorter days and cooler temperatures. Flower buds form best in broad daylight followed by fourteen hours of darkness in a cool 60–68°F environment.
- Too much heat or not enough darkness can prevent plants from blooming. These can be difficult to achieve indoors with artificial heating and lighting.
- Plants can be moved to a rarely used room, heated garage window, or other regulated lighting position until flower buds emerge.
- After flower buds form, plants can be transferred back to their display area because day length does not effect flowering.
- For best bud growth, provide dark nights for six weeks starting mid-September. Maintain 60–68°F air temperatures.
Common Christmas Cacti Issues
- Red or pink Christmas cactus leaves may indicate too much sun or water.
- Remove the plant from direct sunlight. If the soil is dry to one inch, water more often.
- When the soil is dry, water the plant.
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