How do I care for my Christmas Cactus? Advice from the ThriftyFun community.
I have a Thanksgiving cactus that I have had for over 20 years, it is similar to a Christmas cactus. It is in a small ceramic pot. I keep it on my deck in the summertime and feed it with rose food. I bring it in in October and do not water until dry. It blooms at Thanksgiving time. I continue to feed with rose food until after it blooms. The blooms on mine are peach-colored. It is a beautiful sight at Thanksgiving.
Christmas Cactus love to be rootbound and watered infrequently. Always let the dirt dry completely out before watering, too much water will kill them. It will take some time to "recover" from being transplanted twice, but they are hearty and as long as you don't over water it should be fine.
"Watering seems to be the source of most problems with the Christmas cactus. The plant is a tropical type cactus and is not quite as drought tolerant as the name implies. However, it is a succulent plant and can store a reasonable quantity of water in the leaves. Water thoroughly when the top half of the soil in the pot feels dry to the touch. Discard the excess water, then do not water again until the top half becomes dry. The length of time between waterings will vary with the air temperature, amount of light, rate of growth and relative humidity.
After the blossoms fade, the plant isn't much to look at. But a little extra care will help bring it back to full bloom next year.
While the Christmas cactus can adapt to low light, more abundant blooms are produced on plants that have been exposed to high light intensity. Keep your plants in a sunny location indoors. Plants can be moved outdoors in summer, but keep them in a shady or semi-shady location. Too much direct sunlight can burn the leaves. When it's time to bring the plants back inside in the fall, slowly adjust the plants to life indoors by gradually increasing the number of hours they spend indoors each day.
Well-drained soil is a must for Christmas cactus. Use a commercially packaged potting mix for succulent plants or mix your own by combining two parts plain potting soil with one part clean sand or vermiculite.
Pruning your Christmas cactus after blooming will encourage the plant to branch out. Remove a few sections of each stem by pinching them off with your fingers or cutting with a sharp knife. These sections can be rooted in moist vermiculite to propagate new plants. Christmas cactus will bloom if given long uninterrupted dark periods. Begin the dark treatments in about mid-October to have plants in full bloom by the holidays. Christmas cactus will also bloom if they are subjected to cool temperatures of about 50 to 55 degrees Fahrenheit at night. Plants will be ready for the holidays if the cool treatments are started by early November."
My Christmas cactus is only 2 years old and is in an 8" pot. It blooms from the mid November on. Mine is still blooming.
The idea is once it starts to get buds on it, "don't move" it. They don't like to be moved when the budding starts. I water mine once a week it is in a well draining pot. I also give mine a shower once a month in the tub. That counts for a watering.
Do not fertilize in the spring. Fertilize once a month from summer to winter. When it starts to bloom, stop fertilizing it.
Good luck, it will survive I just know it.
They thrive when rootbound. Also, they like to dry out between waterings. They love to be outside in summer (northern climate) and brought in in fall, but be careful squirrels love to munch on them. Some called Christmas cactus are not, there are Thanksgiving and Easter cacti out there, also. They are all beautiful, but different.
I have grown several varieties of Christmas cactus for many years. I have a mother plant that is 40 years old and weighs over 200 lbs. I use clippings from that and create new ones with my other varieties to create different variations and colors. Some have double and triple blooms. Those are sometimes called mother-in-law cactus. They are all the same in essence. Mine bloom at Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas, etc. except during the heat of summer unless you put them in a lightly shaded area. They do not require watering other than once a week. They love to have their soil loosened when transplanted. They hate being pot bound. Just remember when you transfer them to loosen soil, put in a larger pot. They will become bigger each time you transfer over years into larger pots, it's like creating mother plants. You can't make many more from those for propagation purposes.
Also, remember they do not direct sunlight in summer, that's when leaves will turn yellow some and may wilt. They are from the succulent family, hence don't like over watering. Soil will become moldy and you are inviting plant insects to feast on them. Also, always use a light soil fertile mix when transplanting and try and keep it loose every once and awhile. At this point, I would suggest that you take a clipping also from the plant. You do that by snapping off a piece or two where it is jointed. Put that in a clear container filled with water in a sunny spot until you see visible roots. Change water in container every once in a while. It really doesn't take long to root new ones. You can arrange them so they will begging to hang over nicely. They also like to have a hair cut when they become huge. You can make a ton of new plants from the clippings. Once they are rooted, just plant them in new pots by sticking the rooted part in soil.
Once you have established plants, there is a product called Bloom or Peter's that works on all kinds of blooming plants.
Post your own tips here.
I left the cactus outside all summer on a patio that received morning sunshine. I brought it in in late October before frost and placed it in a West window with partial shade. It was loaded with buds when I brought it in and I was careful to turn it to face the window on the same side that faced the sun outdoors. (12/06/2007)
I have two Christmas cactus and I water mine with my leftover coffee. They must like it because I have had two buds in the same place all over my cactus and they both bloom. (11/02/2009)
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