Saturday, January 30, 2010

How to care for a Christmas cactus


This Xmas cactus is owned by one of my family members. When she brought it to me, it appeared as if it was pretty dried up. She was afraid it was just too old to go on.  After questioning her about its situation, I determined that it was getting too much light and not enough water.  After giving it a thorough soak and placing it in more appropriate light,  it began thriving again, as you can see.  Most plants can live with you for years. Some people have even been known to leave them in their wills as a family treasure!

Vibrant, showy bursts of flowers pop up all over this holiday succulent. It is available in an array of colors. This houseplant favorite has been enjoyed by many for over 100 years!  It is an epiphyte, which means they naturally grow on trees and is indigenous to South America. It is botanically known as a Zygocactus, and is a member of the Cactaceae family.  Its normal blooming period is between late fall and winter and always on Christmas Day. 

Care Instructions--
  • A few hours of direct morning sun would be ideal. More than a couple hours of afternoon sun would be too much. They are quite happy with very bright indirect light. 
  • Water when the top of the soil feels very dry. In a 6" (15cm)diameter pot, they should get about 1 cup to 1 -1/2 (about 1/4 liter or so) cups of water. 
  • A cool window is ideal. Cooler temperatures and the amount of daylight they get, will cue them to set buds. 
  • Fertilize regularly when not in bloom. Blossom Booster or African violet food may help their blooming if used during the late summer and early fall. Once blooming, do not fertilize again until blooming ceases.
  • Putting them outdoors in a shady spot during the summer months, would be beneficial..
Propagation-- 
  • They are easily propagated by single joints in peat moss.  A potting soil mix that is mostly peat moss or half orchid mix and half peat would serve well as a rooting medium.

*Many thanks to my friend, David Brooks, for his help on this!  He has several  Christmas cacti that he has appreciated for many years.

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**To see other plants on this blog click here:   The Indoor Garden blog
***For a variety of  video clips on houseplant care from my 90's TV series, click here:The Indoor Garden TV show