By Rhonda Love
There is nothing prettier than a Christmas cactus in full bloom. If you were gifted with a Christmas cactus this year or were perhaps lucky enough to have a friend share a slip from their established plant, you may be uncertain how to care for it. A Christmas cactus can bring added cheer to the holiday season year after year if cared for correctly, so here are some timely tips.
First, as with all plants, make sure the basics – soil, water, and light – are taken care of. The soil should be about half sand, along with bark or peat moss, or use a soil designed for cacti. Add fertilizer every three months or so during the active growing season, April – October. Your cactus will like frequent watering, but it should tend toward the drier side, especially before blooming. Provide plenty of drainage for the pot, and your cactus won’t mind being a little pot bound. Like most cacti, it likes lots of bright light. It will also be happier out of drafts.
When to Repot
If your cactus is root-bound, you can repot it every other year or so, any time from February to April, using a rich and appropriate soil. Remember that it will be happiest if it is a little root-bound, so don’t repot to a pot that is much larger than the one it is in. You can fertilize it lightly, and prune it before any new buds appear. Keep the soil moist and keep the plant in indirect light.
The cactus will be happiest during the spring and summer if it is outside, out of drafts and direct light. Bring it back indoors before the first frost and place it in indirect light. You can encourage blooming by placing your cactus in total darkness for 14 hours each day from early September until new buds form. To encourage bud formation, keep the plant in cool temperatures of about 50-55 degrees. Buds are reluctant to form at higher temperatures. When it buds, you can give it a high nitrogen fertilizer.
If you have treated your Christmas Cactus with love and care, it will most likely bloom for you by Christmas. You can expect blooms of red, pink, purple, fuchsia, or white. Whatever color you have, your plant will reward you with many blooms.
Learn more about Christmas Cactus at this link.
For more information about gardening in North Texas see dcmga.com/north-texas-gardening.