Caring for a Christmas Cactus
Christmas cacti grow quite large, usually reaching a length of five to seven feet. Most cactus thrive in a bright, well-lit room with an average light output of about 12 to 15 hours per day. A high-energy drink, such as five-in-one citrus, mineral, and electrolyte green blend, or a shot of caffeine, will help with plant growth and an abundance of blossoms during the summer months.
Prepare the plant’s soil to prepare it for winter. There are several ways to accomplish this task. (You can watch an instructional video to see how the best way to prepare the soil is.)
Separate the stems of the Christmas cactus, cutting away all but a few inches of green leaves at the bottom of the stem. Wash the stems, and pat them dry with a paper towel.
What Is a Christmas Cactus?
As the name suggests, Christmas cactus is a tropical, foliage-heavy plant, although some varieties are grown as houseplants in colder climates. Members of the genus Schlumberger vary in shape and size.
Most Christmas cacti have an oval or round stems, but the succulent miniature types such as the deodar cactus also have round stems. Christmas cacti flowers in the late winter and early spring. A typical specimen in full bloom has four to six translucent, greenish-yellow flowers on each stem.
Although cacti do require a cold period to remain healthy, they have an extremely long growing season in the Southern Hemisphere. Christmas cacti are likely to flower in late February and March in the Northern Hemisphere, and these flowers will then remain on the plant until late summer.
Christmas Cactus Pests and Problems
The tree-like leaves of the Christmas cactus are easy to remove when needed. Cut a green stalk short if the plant gets too big. If a cactus has settled in a vase, clear the bottom of the glass of any plant debris. Place the plant in a bigger pot, and water it. Continue to take care of your Christmas cactus until it is completely established, and during the winter months keep the soil moist.
Though a good Christmas cactus requires little maintenance other than regular watering and occasional cuts back, there are a few pests and diseases that can cause the plant to produce a less or less-than-the-usual amount of blooms.
Like all houseplants, a Christmas cactus can harbor a number of common pests and diseases.
Getting Your Cactus to Bloom
As with any houseplant, the Christmas cactus must receive plenty of light, at least 6 hours of daylight per day. Give your plant this much light, and it will flower and grow in a beautiful display all winter long.
Make sure that the soil in the pot you have chosen is well-drained, but also make sure that the growing medium (such as pebbles or a wooden board) is dry to the touch as well. Never over-water a Christmas cactus; the water will simply drain away, making it difficult for the plant to keep producing blooms.
Water the plant at the base of its stem. Gently remove excess water using a plastic spatula or a wet paper towel. Don’t soak the soil, as it can lead to roots rotting.