The Christmas cactus (Schlumbergera bridgesii) is a succulent rather than a cactus. Because it blooms during the holidays, it is commonly known as Christmas cactus. The hanging branches of a Christmas cactus are flat-shaped, glossy-green segments. With proper care, they produce an abundance of beautiful tubular red, yellow, pink, purple, or white blooms. This plant is simple to maintain, but it requires a strict regimen to form flower buds during the winter season. Here are some basic things you need to know about Christmas Cactus before we start learning more about them.
- A Christmas cactus should be kept in a bright, indirect light environment.
- Only water your Christmas cactus when the soil is dry to the touch. However, it is critical to keep the soil evenly moist during the flowering season by misting it frequently.
- The ideal temperature range for your Christmas cactus is 15°C to 21°C (60°F to 70°F), with average to high humidity levels.
- Once buds have formed, fertilize your Christmas cactus every two weeks with a high-potassium fertilizer.
This article will walk you through the planting and propagation of a Christmas cactus, as well as the maintenance required to ensure its success. Continue reading to find out what kind of soil you should use for your Christmas cactus, how much water and sunlight it needs, and how to care for it. You should be able to grow this cactus by the end of this article.
The Right Potting Mixture for Your Christmas Cactus
A Christmas cactus prefers a light, well-draining potting mix. This plant originated in the Brazilian rainforests, where it grows on the trunks of large trees and draws moisture from the air. Its roots will burrow into the decomposing leaves and other organic matter that has accumulated on the tree’s sides.
Because of its small volume and the plant’s high altitude, improvised soil would dry out quickly. As a result, the best soil for your Christmas cactus should be draining. You can use a commercial potting mix for cacti and succulents because it is designed to ensure excellent drainage, but you can also make your own.
The simplest method would be to combine three parts regular potting medium with two parts perlite. This combination would be adequate for drainage. If you have all of these materials on hand, you can also combine equal parts perlite, milled peat, and compost.
On the other hand, simply combine one-third sand and two-thirds regular potting soil. In general, the Christmas cactus grows well in most container soils as long as it drains well. It is critical that your pot or container has adequate drainage holes.
Planting and Propagating Your Christmas Cactus
The most important part of every plant care is the process of planting and propagating. Each plant is unique and has different needs. Here are some of the tips you can use for planting and propagating your Christmas Cactus.
Repotting Your Christmas Cactus
A Christmas cactus is a prolific grower as long as it is kept in favorable conditions. As a result, it will eventually need to be repotted to accommodate its growing size. While repotting your Christmas cactus isn’t difficult, it can become difficult.
To begin, prepare a pot or container that is only slightly larger than the current one. This plant dislikes being moved into a much larger container. In other words, it dislikes having its pot too large and would rather be a little cramped in a container.
In fact, you might only need to upgrade to a larger pot every two to three years. You’ll also need to drill a drainage hole in the new pot’s bottom. A Christmas cactus may prefer moisture, but its roots will rot if not exposed to air. Here’s a step-by-step guide you can use when upgrading your
- Remove your Christmas cactus from its current pot gently. Include the surrounding ball of soil and carefully loosen the roots. If the soil ball is too compact to be loosened by hand, soften it with water and gently wash it away from the roots.
- Put your Christmas cactus in its new container. The top of the root ball should be one inch below the rim of the pot.
- Fill the pot with fresh potting mix, making sure to cover the roots. Water moderately after lightly patting the soil or potting mix to remove air pockets.
For two to three days, place your repotted Christmas cactus in the shade.
Your Christmas cactus is simple to grow. However, for first-timers, there may be some trial and error. If you don’t succeed on your first attempt, try again. You can also experiment with different methods to see which one works best for you.
- Simply cut a short Y-shaped segment from healthy stem tips.
- Plant the cutting in sandy soil or potting soil.
- Plant about a quarter of the length of the cutting.
- Moisten the soil evenly and place your newly planted cutting in a well-lit but shaded area.
Another method for rooting a Christmas cactus is to take a Y-shaped stem segment and place it in a cool, dry place for three to four days.
If the cutting is kept in the right conditions (low heat and humidity), it could begin to root in 48 hours.
- The rooted cutting can then be planted in a container filled with a mixture of peat meat and sands.
- Water your Christmas cactus sparingly once it has been planted in soil because overwatering can cause root rot.
- You can also soak your Christmas cactus in water to root it.
- Begin by cutting segments three to four inches long with three or four leaves on each side.
- Fill a clean, empty glass jar halfway with the cutting.
- Fill the bowl two inches deep with pebbles or stones.
- Fill the jar halfway with water and add your cuttings. The humidity in the jar will prevent root rot. This also prevents water from evaporating. So, if you notice that the water level is very low, add more water.
It will take two to three weeks for roots to form. You can transplant your now-rooted plant into a pot once you can see them. Also, keep your cutting moist, not soaked, during the rooting process. It will also require the appropriate amount of sunlight.
How Much Sunlight Does a Christmas Cactus Need?
Place your Christmas cactus in a bright area that is not overly exposed to direct sunlight.
Otherwise, its leaves will turn dark red, indicating that they have been sunburned.
This plant will thrive in an east-facing window, where it will receive moderate light and just the right amount of direct sunlight.
During the summer, place your Christmas cactus in a shady area of your garden or an unheated part of your balcony or porch until temperatures fall below 10°C (50°F).
It is critical to keep the soil of your Christmas cactus moist but not soggy. When the top inch of your Christmas cactus’ soil feels dry to the touch, water it. Do not let it completely dry between waterings.
You can soak its soil until the water runs through its container’s drainage holes. Make sure to discard any water that accumulates in the tray so that your Christmas cactus does not sit in water.
In the spring and summer, your plant will require regular watering. However, less water is required in the fall and winter.
When watering it frequently, avoid saturating or soaking the soil as this can cause root rot. Furthermore, it is critical to water your plant on a regular basis while it is flowering.
Remember that drainage is more important than volume of water. Keep an eye out for puckering or wrinkling along the plant’s flattened stems, as this could indicate that you are under or over-watering it.
Ideal Temperature for Your Christmas Cactus
A Christmas cactus prefers temperatures ranging from 15 to 21 degrees Celsius (60 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit). It also prefers average to high humidity.
So, to increase humidity, especially if you keep the plant indoors, place a tray of pebbles filled with water beneath the plant’s pot. When your Christmas cactus has finished flowering, which is usually in the fall, allow it to rest for six to eight weeks.
Allow the plant to rebloom after that. Reduce moisture, temperature, and sunlight to make way for the dormancy cycle. You can accomplish this by reducing watering and ensuring that the plant receives 12 to 14 hours of darkness.
Furthermore, maintain an average temperature of 10 C to 12 C (50 F to 55 F) and keep your plant away from drafty areas. When it’s blooming season, sudden temperature changes can cause flowers to drop, whether from cold or hot air blowing through your windows, heaters, fireplaces, or air conditioning units.
The Right Fertilizers to Use
While your Christmas cactus thrives with well-draining soil, adequate watering, average moisture, excellent humidity, and bright but indirect sunlight, fertilizing it will keep your plant in top condition so that it forms abundant buds in the winter.
Feeding should be done once a month, from April to October, when it is in its growing season. If you don’t fertilize your plant, the soil will eventually run out of nutrients to give, and your Christmas cactus will starve to death.
If you save it in time, you must immediately transfer it to new soil and feed it with houseplant food. Fertilizing your Christmas cactus in the spring and summer will help it grow strong enough to support its blooms later on. It will also assist the plant in storing enough energy to fuel flower production.
A half-strength, water-soluble multi-purpose fertilizer, such as a 20-10-20 or a 20-20-20, would be ideal for a Christmas cactus. This equates to 20% nitrogen, 10% to 20% phosphorus, and 20% potassium. Fertilize your plant once a month during regular watering from late winter to late summer.
Alternatively, a slightly higher phosphorus plant food or a time-release balanced plant food would be ideal for once-a-month feeding from mid to late summer to boost blooms. Furthermore, you can fertilize your plant on alternate weeks with a mixture of one teaspoon of Epsom salt per gallon of water. This will meet the plant’s high magnesium needs.
To prevent salt buildup in the soil, you should use this application rate or formula. However, if salt has accumulated in the pot, all that is required is to wash and release the salt with water. All feeding should cease in late summer. Otherwise, flower production will suffer. Fertilizers are also unnecessary in the winter because the plant is not actively growing at this time of year.
Top Nutrients Your Christmas Cactus Needs
The NPK balance of most fertilizers consists of three primary nutrients. NPK is an abbreviation for nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium.
Most plants, including Christmas cacti, require it. Each of these nutrients serves a different purpose, and a Christmas cactus requires an equal amount of each.
It regulates the growth of leaves.
It aids the plant in converting any other nutrients that may be beneficial to its growth into usable building blocks. Its primary function is to promote root growth as well as the development of flowers and fruits.
It contributes to the plant’s overall performance.
How to Promote Flowering of Your Christmas Cactus
A Christmas cactus is distinguished by its flowers. Its name was even derived from the season in which it bloomed. As a result, you must ensure that your plant blooms profusely during the winter.
There are some things you can do to help your Christmas cactus bloom.
To begin, you must assist the plant in preparing for a flowering period and allowing it to store plenty of energy required for flower production. And you can do this by providing it with the proper fertilizers in the spring and summer.
In order for your Christmas cactus to bloom in time for the holidays, you will need to follow a strict regimen in the fall. The plant is ready to form buds in the fall, when the days are cooler and the daylight hours are shorter. As a result, giving your Christmas cactus 12 hours of darkness can help it grow and trick it into producing flowers.
When autumn arrives, you should begin a punishing routine of cooler temperatures, longer dark periods, less water, and no fertilizer. This should stimulate the plant to produce flowers. To encourage flowering, take the following steps:
- Move your Christmas cactus to a dark spot. Look for a nice, dark area in your house or garden in late September or early October and place the plant in a dark room. You could also put the plant in a box. Do this at least 12 hours per day.
- Limit the amount of water your Christmas cactus receives. Reduce watering around October or the first few days of November. Water your plant only enough to keep the soil slightly moist. Also, only water when the topmost layer of soil is dry to the touch. Water restriction will allow the plant to enter dormancy, which is required for blooming.
- Move your Christmas cactus back into a sunny, draft-free area as soon as you see the tiny buds. It should still be kept away from direct sunlight, as it will cause the plant to droop. Meanwhile, a drafty location will cause your buds to fall before they bloom. Move the plant to where it will be displayed for the duration of the flowering period once the buds have grown larger and the flowers are ready to bloom. Blooms can take up to 12 weeks to appear.
- Regulate the temperature system. Cooler temperatures will also be required for your plant. This should result in an average temperature of 10-13 C (50-55 F). As a result, make sure you place your plant in a location that meets both its lighting and temperature requirements.
- Maintain food and water. Continue to water and feed your plant while it blooms and buds.
In six weeks, the plant should bloom. Remember that it is natural for a few Christmas cactus buds to fall off, so don’t be concerned if you lose a few. However, regardless of the regimen you follow or how strictly you follow it, the bloom time for Christmas cacti may vary depending on the variety. Whether it blooms in time for the holidays or not, you can count on it to bloom every year.
Extending the Blooming Period
Giving your Christmas cactus proper care, including the proper temperature and lighting conditions and placement, will ensure that the plant blooms and may continue to flower several times within a year. Yes, you can force your Christmas cactus to bloom again after it has already bloomed for the season.
All you need to do after the blooming period is keep your plant in cool temperatures. Water it just enough to keep the soil moist, but don’t fertilize it. You can use the same strategy to encourage reblooming when your plant’s new growth begins.
After the new growth appears, you can alternate between giving your plant 10 hours of light and 14 hours of darkness for one month or one and a half months. When the buds reappear, move the plant to a warmer location and resume regular culture.
A Christmas cactus enjoys being pot-bound, and it only needs to be repotted every two years or so. However, you may need to replace the soil more frequently than you do the pots. Pruning is the only other regular maintenance required.
The plant can become leggy, and its branches will begin to drop as a result of its inability to support its weight. As a result, you can propagate by pruning or cutting off a piece. Furthermore, simply pinch off the ends of the plant’s stems after blooming to encourage branching.
Dealing With Common Problems
A Christmas cactus requires little care and is resistant to pests. However, it is susceptible to pests such as spider mites, mealybugs, fungus gnats, and scales. To get rid of these common pests, use an insecticidal soap spray on a regular basis.
Larger pests can be brushed away with a soft toothbrush or picked with a toothpick. You can also use rubbing alcohol on a cotton swab. If all else fails, organic pesticides can be used. Aside from pests, you may notice yellowing leaves on your plant.
This could be an indication of root rot, which is caused by overwatering or poor drainage. If this occurs, remove the plant from its pot and inspect the roots from within. Diseased roots are typically brown or black in color and appear mushy.
You can see how many healthy roots are present if there is root rot. You might be able to remove the unhealthy roots while keeping the healthy ones. To do this, repot your Christmas cactus in fresh potting soil.
Yellowing leaves can also indicate a nutritional deficiency. In this case, you must fertilize and ensure that it contains a complete list of nutrients required by the plant. It could also be a result of too much direct sunlight. You may want to relocate the plant and keep it somewhere bright but not directly in the sun.
A Christmas Cactus requires little care, but not as little as other cacti and succulents. For one thing, because it prefers a crowded environment, it rarely requires repotting. You can use the excellent repotme cactus mix or a mixture of potting mix, sand, or perlite for its soil.
While the plant requires moisture, you must ensure that the soil is well-drained to avoid root rot. Also, the plant prefers bright lighting but should not be exposed to direct sunlight as it may become sunburned.
This plant blooms around the holidays or in the winter. However, in order for it to bloom profusely, dormancy must be encouraged. You must create the illusion of less sun, less water, and lower temperatures.
To force this plant to bloom, you must first understand that its bloom cycle consists of dormancy, little water, less light, and lower temperature.