The Christmas Cactus is a popular holiday gift plant. But this
plant is also the subject of frequent debate among gardeners with
regards to care, maintenance and how to get them to rebloom.
Known as epiphytic cacti, they are native to tropical rain forests
of the Americas. They are not parasites, but the derive nutrients from
"Epiphytic cacti have flattened, slightly succulent stems, sometimes
incorrectly thought to be leaves. These stem consist of short segments
and flowers are produced at the end of them." (Indoor Plants)
Cactus needs good, pourous soil and will do best
in a sunny window away from hot drafts (like heat vents).
Hot drafts cause the buds to drop. Try to find a window in a cooler
room - the blossoms will hold longer.
tricky subject with Christmas cacti. While in bloom, water the plant
when the top inch of the soil is dry. Stick a finger into the soil up
to the knuckle to test the soil. Don't overwater.
When the blossoms drop, the plant begins a resting period. During this
time, keep the plant on the dry side, but water if the leaves
begin to shrivel.
When new growth resumes, water more frequently.
What about care during the summer?
A Christmas Cactus will thrive outdoors, but be sure to place
the plant in a shady or semi-shady spot. Then water as
needed to keep the plant from shriveling.
The trick to getting the plant to blossom again is long nights (12
hours of darkness) and short days. "As they grow naturally in
woodlands, epiphytic cacti need less sun than desert cacti, but being
exposed to sunlight for part of the day helps to ensure good blooming.
An east-facing window-sill is a good spot as it will capture the early
morning sun, but will be in shade during the heat of the day." (Indoor Plants)
Exposing a Christmas Cactus to cool temperatures (50-55°F) will
also encourage blossoming, so leave the plant outside as temperatures
cool in the fall.
Bring the plant indoors gradually when temperatures get too cold, and
keep in a cool, bright window. You will be rewarded with a
burst of flowers in time for the holidays.
Source: Patrick Byers,
horticulture specialist, University of Missouri Extension.