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Caring for Christmas cactus and Holiday cactus

By Edited Apr 17, 2014 0 0

Easter cactus
Christmas cactus

Understanding a few simple rules for how to care for Christmas Cactus will insure the return of those beautiful blooms for years to come. All the holiday cacti such as the Thanksgiving cactus, Easter cactus, and Christmas cactus require the same sort of care after blooming to keep them healthy and growing. It is their ease of care along with the fact that their beautiful flowering season happens right at the holidays, that make these succulent houseplants as popular as they are.

The Christmas cactus, which has a scalloped edge to its stems, is a short day blooming plant meaning they bloom in responce to the nights getting longer, needing some 15 hours of uninterrupted darkness to set flower buds. After blooming they need a rest period to get ready to put on new growth as the days grow longer. Blooming Christmas cactus plants need soil that is constantly moist and bright indirect sunlight. Once the flowers start to fade and fall off, clean up all the old buds, sit the plant in a semi shady location in the house, and let the soil dry out between waterings. All holiday cactus plants should be kept inside during cold freezing weather with temperatures between 70 and 60 degrees being ideal. The Thankgiving cactus which has pointed tips on the sides of its stems will bloom earlier than the Christmas cactus if exposed to the natural shortening days in the fall. The Easter cactus blooms as the days start getting longer and can be told from the other two species by the rounded teeth on its stems and the hairs between the sections. They have star shaped flowers and will often rebloom sporatically during the summer.

When the weather starts to warm up outside and all danger of frost and freezes has past, the plants can be moved outside to a semi-shady location such as on a porch or under a shady tree. Water as needed to keep the soil moist but be sure the pot drains well as Holiday cactus can suffer from root rot if the soil does not drain well. Starting in April and on until Oct. fertilize Holiday cactus plants once a month with half strength liquid fertilizer. Unlike desert cacti, Holiday cactus plants need rich organic soils that are acidic in nature.

If your plant needs repotting, spring is the time to do it and you should use a good rich potting soil that drains well. You can make a nice soil by mixing equal parts good garden soil, leaf mold or compost, and coarse sand. Pull the crowded plant out of its pot and simply cut it into however many pieces are wanted, being sure that each section has a good root ball. Plant the sections in the new pots and tamp soil all around the root ball, water well, and watch them grow. In midsummer, June or July, you can prune the Holiday cactus plants by simply pinching or cutting off any stems that are overly long. Place the trimmed off pieces in some potting soil and water them from the bottom to encourage roots to grow. Pruning the plants will encourage them to branch out and more stems means more flowers.

Leave your cactus outside as the days grow shorter and the nights get cooler in the fall to insure they will set a full crop of flower buds. They can take temperatures down to 40 degrees but be careful to not expose them to any artificial light sources such as car headlights, or porch lights. Don't fertilize Christmas or Thanksgiving cactus plants after Oct. 1st. and be sure they are kept watered. Check the soil and when the top inch or so feels dry, water the plant well but don't leave it sitting in a tray of water for days at a time. Starting in mid Oct. place Christmas and Thankgiving cactus plants where they will be in total darkness for 12 hours each day say from 7pm to 7 am, like in a closet. Gradually increase the amount of darkness to 15 hours by the end of the month. When you do bring them inside, set them in a cool well lit area so they are not shocked by the sudden change causing them to drop their flower buds. Once the flowers are open the plants can be set anywhere in the house to show them off except where hot dry air may dry them out quickly. For spring blooming Easter cactus plants let them rest from Oct. to Feb. by withholding all fertilizers and letting them dry out between waterings. Cool temperatures and the increasing day lengths of spring will help them to set flower buds. After they bloom hang them out under a shade tree and start watering and fertilizing them regularly again.

Thanksgiving cactus
Thanksgiving cactus(76025)


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