Thursday, January 24, 2013

Christmas Cactus Debunked


Rainy today but at least it is not NINE degrees!! We are hovering around the low 50s and plenty of gray clouds skittering across the skies.
We have many Christmas cacti and find them to be beautiful and exotic when they bloom. I have heard horror advice from my MIL on how you torture them to get them to bloom...not me.

Came across this fantastic article by Jack Christensen that gives you step by step, month by month advice. This is one to save and print out. Enjoy.

Christmas cactus plants are really quite stunning in bloom, aren't they? They grow naturally in tropical climates, so they require specialized care in our locations, and they can sometimes be a bit finicky. They also do not make good houseplants, because the main factors that help them to keep growing and blooming rarely exist indoors.

To initiate flowering, these plants require cool night temperatures- generally in the range of 50-55 degrees F- as well as a minimum of 12-14 hours of darkness per day. If you bring the plant indoors, perhaps this requirement is best achieved by placing it in an unused bathroom each night while in bloom. There is also one more requirement. These plants need some water on a regular basis so the growing medium remains slightly moist on a consistent basis. Oddly, although the Christmas cactus will not tolerate any degree of drying out, they also will not survive if the soil mix remains soggy. Under these conditions each flower may last several days and the whole plant could be in bloom for a couple of months.

By the calendar, here is a general schedule for growing a Christmas cactus. Keep in mind that during daylight hours all year long it should receive bright but no direct sunlight-never the direct rays of the sun.
JANUARY-flowering; Keep soil mix slightly damp but not wet. Feed once during the month at half the recommended rate. Keep in a place where the temperatures stay above 50 degrees at night. Reduce watering when flowering stops.
FEBRUARY- resting; 55 degrees; light, infrequent watering-just enough so that the soil mix does not dry out; feed once during the month at half the recommended rate.
MARCH, APRIL, MAY- water thoroughly whenever potting mix first begins to dry out; feed monthly with a liquid formula recommended for flowering plants- at the normally recommended rate.
JUNE, JULY, AUGUST, SEPTEMBER- keep the plant outdoors in a spot away from direct sunlight but not in deep shade; water thoroughly whenever potting mix first begins to dry out; feed monthly; protect from snails and slugs.
OCTOBER- stop feeding; water less often; keep in a cool place (50-55degreesF); let the plant have 12-14 hours of complete darkness each night so it will prepare to flower.
NOVEMBER, DECEMBER- flowering; plant may remain outside or be gently moved to a bright spot indoors; water normally; feed monthly at half strength; keep temperatures between 50-55F degrees, at least at night; if indoors, move plant each evening to a dark room overnight to prolong the flowering period.

Whether they are members of the genus Schlumbergera or Zygocactus, Christmas cacti may be cut back at any time between winter and spring. You may remove enough stems to even out the plant and give it a balanced appearance. Do not get too carried away, however. Just bring it back under control.

Thicker stems may be cut with clippers at the points where the two segments connect, but in general, it is better to twist off younger segments instead of cutting them. By the way, if you want, you can place the trimmings into a light, fluffy soil mix and they will usually root and grow into new plants that will bloom next year.



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