I can remember as a young child going into people’s homes and seeing their beautiful Christmas Cactus. As an adult I began giving one to my mother each year. The fall and winter season for us wouldn’t be the same if we didn’t have a Christmas cactus in the house.
But we’ve seldom been able to keep them for long. Usually the buds fall off, or the blossoms are few and far in between. Research was called for this year because I found the prettiest young cactus at the roofing store (go figure!) and decided it was time to make a go of it. While I found a lot of information, how you treat your Christmas cactus is subjective to what works for you. For example, according to Dick Kohlschrieber:
“It happens that Schlumbergera are “thermo-photoperiodic”. This means that their bloom initiation is triggered by a combination of day length and temperature. The primary trigger is the day length. Once the day length decreases to approximately twelve hours, the plant recognizes that it is time to bloom. Night temperature of 55 to 65 degree F. should accompany the short day.”
Another reference confirms the importance of 12 – 14 hours of darkness throughout the fall, with temperatures of around 50 degrees. This encourages the blossoms we love. Once they start blooming a nice bright room will work, but keep them out of direct sunlight, and make sure you don’t have a heater vent blowing on it. And, finally, since it is a succulent, let it dry out between watering. Keep in mind their structure holds moisture longer, so when the first inch of the soil is dry it is time to water.
The plant I have pictured here is in a six inch pot, but I have known people to grow their Christmas cactus for years, gradually increasing the size of the pot to accommodate the plant and keep it root bound.
I am making a point of following these instructions this year. Can anyone share any of their tips on caring for this lovely winter plant?