As a gardener, I miss being outside during the winter, growing in my garden. One way I get my garden “fix” is taking care of my houseplants. When the weather started getting cooler, I brought all of my houseplants inside. None of my houseplants with the exception of my peace plant, bloom. This year to bring a little color into the house I planted Paperwhite bulbs to force for winter blooming. You can read that post here.
While shopping at a local home improvement store, I spotted a group of Christmas Cactus, with blooms of deep fuchsia, and pinks. They were in small pots and cost only $3.68 so I chose one with some blooms but also with lots of buds. I wanted to be sure I had blooms for quite a while. I also grabbed a bag of cactus potting soil.
If you read my blog regularly or follow me on social media, you know I don’t like plants which are complicated, or fussy. I had read that caring for a Christmas cactus wasn’t very hard at all. In fact, that’s just one reason why this plant is such a popular choice when it comes to houseplants. It would make a great holiday gift for even an inexperienced gardener.
How do you care for a Christmas Cactus?
Christmas cactus prefer growing conditions that are present in most households.
- Bright, but indirect light. Avoid direct sunlight, as it can burn the delicate leaves of the plant. The best place for your Christmas Cactus would be about 3 feet from an east facing window. I have the perfect spot in my dining room . It is on my buffet which sits about 3 feet from my window which is facing east. When you choose a spot, try to leave your plant in the same place. I have found that most plants prefer to stay put once they are placed in a certain location.
- Temperatures around 65-7O.
- When you think of cactus, you usually think of dry, arid areas. But Christmas cactus actually originate in the tropical areas of Brazil. They require the soil to be kept evenly moist, but well draining. It’s a good idea to water when the top two thirds of the soil feels dry. They also prefer humidity and you can provide this by placing the pot in a saucer with pebbles. As the water evaporates, it will provide humidity to the plant. I also like to group several plants together that require the same light conditions. They will provide a little humid microclimate when water vapor is released through their leaves.
- Misting. I don’t mist my houseplants, although I know this is popular. Misting allows the water to stay on the leaves which may result in bacterial issues. Just like in my vegetable garden, I recommend watering at the base of the plant.
- Unless you live in zone 9 or higher Christmas Cactus are indoor plants. If you live in one of these zones you can plant your Christmas Cactus outside in the spring.
When should you repot your Christmas Cactus?
- I purchased a bag of cactus potting soil when I purchased my plant. My cactus was in a small pot and I knew it wouldn’t be long until it needed to be placed in a bigger pot.
- The best time to repot your Christmas Cactus is when it finishes blooming.
Some plants, however may take up to March to stop blooming.
- When choosing a pot to replant your Christmas Cactus in, choose one that is 1 to 2 inches bigger in diameter. If it is much larger it may retain too much moisture, and result in the roots rotting.
- Be sure the pot has drainage holes. I prefer clay pots for my plants. Add a terra cotta saucer with pebbles to add humidity.
- I chose a cactus potting soil. If you are using a regular potting soil you may want to add a soil amendment such as perlite to will increase the fast drainage your Christmas Cactus prefers.
- If you are re-potting a small, newly purchased Christmas Cactus, it shouldn’t be root bound.
- Gently tip the pot over, gently squeeze the pot and remove the plant. Fill your new pot with potting soil and make a hole for the new plant. Plant it at the same depth it was in it’s old pot. Back fill with potting soil and press down slightly to remove air pockets. Water.
- If the plant is older, or root bound, gently untangle the roots to give them some to breath before placing in the pot.
- Your plant should not need repotting again for 3-4 years.
Do I need to fertilize my cactus plant?
- You can fertilize your Christmas Cactus with a blooming houseplant fertilizer.
- Fertilize April through October and then stop for Christmas blooms.
- Christmas cactus need to be in darkness for about 12 hours to produce flower buds. They are a “short day” plant. To force for Christmas blooming, you may need to place in a dark area in the evening to get 12-16 hours of darkness. Do not use a grow light on Christmas Cactus.
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