Care and Maintenance of the Christmas Cactus
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Care and Maintenance of the Christmas Cactus

The Christmas Cactus is so named because its blooming cycle coincides with the Christmas season. With proper care and maintenance, this plant will bloom for several generations.

The Christmas or Holiday Cactus is so named because it has been hybridized to bloom at this time of the year. In nature, the Christmas Cactus is found in the tropical mountainous areas of South and Central America growing in the debris that accumulates in the forks of tree limbs. Schlumbergera or Zygocactus is not a dessert cactus. It more resembles a succulent plant with fleshy segmented joints.

The Christmas Cactus makes an excellent gift for an indoor gardener. It is a long-lived plant that can be handed down from generation to generation if given proper care and minimal maintenance. Care starts from time of selection. Use a reputable garden center or nursery. If you must shop at a local discount department store, select your plant as soon as it goes on display. The needs of these plants are not always a priority so shop early to get a healthy plant. Check for bugs or flies on the soil. Make sure there are no bruises or spots on sections and main stem. Check that buds are not falling off. If plants are displayed in cellophane wrappers, it is to protect them. Once you have purchased your selection, have the cashier bag it so that it is protected from a draft on the journey home. Do not let the plant sit in the car for any lengthy time to be exposed to heat and then cold.

Because this is a tropical plant, recreate humidity by placing your Christmas Cactus pot on a shallow bed of pebbles to which water has been added. The water level should remain below the top of the pebbles. Place the plant to get bright indirect sunlight in a draft free area away from any heat source. Day temperatures should be between 65°F-70°F, night temperature should not go below 50°F.

Water the Christmas Cactus thoroughly and allow to drain to prevent root rot. When the top inch of soil is dry, it is time to water. After the plant finishes blooming, it needs a thirty day dormancy. Reduce watering. Don't allow leaves to shrivel. Do not fertilize or prune during this time.

At the end of dormancy resume a normal watering schedule. Misting the Christmas Cactus is also desirable. Fertilize every three to four weeks with a half strength house plant fertilizer such as formulated for African Violets. The Christmas Cactus prefers its soil acidic as well. New growth will appear in spring. The plant prefers to be root bound. When transplanting every other year, choose a new pot that is only one size larger.

No later that November 1st, it is time to ensure your Christmas Cactus will bloom in time for the holidays just like the Poinsettia. It is necessary to provide the plant with 12 hours of complete darkness every night in a cool location. An unused guest bathroom or closet should do the trick. The end segments of the plant will begin to darken as it prepares to bud. Once buds are formed, resume the plant's normal position and enjoy the beautiful display of flowers on your Christmas Cactus.

Photo Courtesy Of Wikipedia

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Comments (3)

These plants add a special touch. I appreciate that they are easier to keep than poinsettias.

Wow, I didn't know it was such a complex process! Nice job!


thank you so much for this! the cc my friend bought me for my bday (nov) three years ago hasn't done ANYTHING! now i know i am taking care of it wrong. thank you again.