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All About Christmas Cactus

 

This popular winter flowering houseplant makes a great addition to any indoor setting. Schlumbergera bridgessii (also known as Zygocactus) is not easy to care for, but if given proper care, will reward you with flowers each holiday season. They can last for years, even decades in the home.

A month prior to Christmas, the tips of the leaves begin to show new growth. As each day passes nearing towards Christmas, these tips grow darker and buds form, rewarding you with colour for up to two months.

 
Tips on Christmas Cactus Care

Light

  • prefer bright, indirect light
  • north or east facing windows are ideal
  • for south or west facing windows, diffuse direct sunlight with a curtain, or away from the window

Humidity

  • Place pots in a shallow tray filled with gravel and top up the tray with water to create extra humidity for plants.

Fertilizer

  • 15-30-15 or 20-20-20 when actively growing, 2-4 times a year
  • stop feeding about one month before buds appear (usually late October)

Watering

  • the Christmas Cactus is actually a tropical cactus, not a desert cactus as most people think
  • will not tolerate completely dry soil (if too dry, buds will drop)
  • too much water will cause leaf segments and buds to drop
  • keep soil evenly moist to slightly dry (before watering check to see that the top one inch of soil has dried thoroughly
  • thoroughly water plants allowing water to drain, dump out excess water
  • by November water sparingly until blooming commences
  • after flowering, cease watering for 4-6 weeks to allow plants to rest

Causes of Bud Drop

  • too dry
  • too wet
  • lack of humidity
  • lack of light
  • if buds drop, water less and add fertilizer
  • keep away from draughts and heat register

How to Re-bloom

  • Christmas Cactus are thermo-photoperiodic (IE> it sets buds when day length is equal to night length)
  • keep in a cool location (15-15ºC) September to October as coolness triggers flowering
  • begin dark treatments about mid October (keep in a room of uninterrupted darkness for 12 hours for 6-8 weeks until buds begin to form)
  • water minimally
  • as buds form, increase light, humidity and temperature

After Flowering Care

  • cease watering 4-6 weeks after flowering
  • prune back 1/4 to 1/3 February into March to encourage branching and to create fuller looking plants
  • repot every 2-3 years, preferably in spring (March – April)
  • do not repot into too large a post as Christmas Cactus bloom best when left pot bound

 

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