Cactus, Christmas


QUICK REFERENCE PLANTING GUIDE

1. Light/Sun Exposure - Indoors near a sunny window (away from direct sunlight) or under bright fluorescent lighting.  Outdoors in a shady, cool location.

2. USDA Hardiness Zones - Not winter hardy.

3. Planting Distance - One plant per 6-inch or larger container.  Likes to be a little root bound.

4. Mature Height/Spread - 12-inches tall with an 18 to 24 inch spread.

5. Bloom Time - Late fall until early spring, when forced into bloom.

6. Planting Instructions - Fill the container with soil to within 4 inches of the top. Dig a hole in soil to insert the lower part of the root ball.  Remove plastic containers and loosen up roots that have encircled the growing pot.  Place the plant in the hole and back fill to original soil line.  Water well, and if necessary, adjust the plant so that it is upright. Add additional soil to bring the level back up to the original soil line. Never insert the plant lower than the original top of the soil ball.

  

GET THE MOST ENJOYMENT

The Christmas Cactus is so named because of its seasonal timing. They burst into spectacular bloom in December, sharing our holiday celebration.  This traditional houseplant now comes in a wide array of colors, from the old-fashioned red, to pink, violet, white and even yellow.  Christmas Cacti are maintenance free and very easy to force into bloom every December. They will bloom through the winter months, even until early spring.  During the summer, plants can be set outside in the shade, which will force foliage growth.

Cool, long nights are what trigger blooms in Christmas cacti.  The easiest way to encourage blooms is to grow them in pots, in the shade outdoors until frost.

Christmas cacti are not desert cacti, but are from tropical jungles, so they need more water than desert cacti.

Christmas cacti are not frost tolerant.  They do need the chilly nights to encourage bud set but they will not survive a frost and will need to be brought in before the first frost in your area.

When moving plants from outdoors to indoors, or indoors to outdoors you want to do so gradually over a period of days to prevent the plant from going into shock and so it can adjust to the new environment.

Repotting Christmas cacti can be done any time the plant is not forming buds or blooming. They prefer to be a little root bound in their pot for best flowering. Repot only when absolutely necessary.

Bud drop is most commonly caused by over-watering, lack of humidity or insufficient light.

After the holiday season, the Christmas cactus should be given about a 30-day rest period. Place the plant in a cool room and provide limited water.

CONTINUING CARE

Water - Your plant will require the soil to be moist but not overly wet.  Use your finger to determine if the soil is too wet or too dry.  Christmas cactus is a tropical cactus, not a desert cactus so care must be taken not to underwater it.  If the soil gets too dry the plant will wilt and flower buds will drop.  Feel the soil with your fingers; if it feels dry then it's time to water.  Overwatering can cause spots from white rot to appear on the leaves, and the leaves will likely fall off. The soil should be evenly moist for best growth. The rule of thumb is, less water is better than too much water.

Grooming - Clip off unsightly or dead growth to maintain the plants in good form and shape. The best time to prune your plant is right after it has bloomed.

Feeding - Feed once every two to three weeks during spring and summer growing seasons with Cottage Farms' water soluble Carefree Bud-N-Flower Booster.

Winterizing - Bring indoors before the first frost.

When you bring your plant indoors for the winter, select a room that is bright, preferably one with a southern exposure. Indoors, plants tend to dry out from lack of humidity; however; this does not mean to water them daily. Bathrooms, especially those with a southern exposure, will provide a naturally humid environment for your plants.

If you place your plant in any other room, you can boost the humidity level around your plant by filling a shallow tray with gravel and water then placing the pot in the tray. The water level should be slightly below the gravel so that the pot is not submerged in the water. You may also use a spray bottle to mist the plant with water once a week.

All other watering and feeding indoors should be reduced significantly.  Do not over water or allow your plants to sit in water.  Follow these simple steps and remove unsightly or dead growth over the winter, to extend your plant’s performance.

In the spring when temperatures begin to rise, ease the plant into a full watering schedule and move back outdoors for the summer.  

Re-Blooming Christmas Cactus - Christmas Cactus are very easy to grow, but do require some special attention to re-bloom each Christmas season.  

While in bloom during the winter months, keep the soil moist and fertilize every other week.  Blooms will last the longest if the plant is placed out of hot, direct sunlight.  A northern window is ideal.  

In the spring move outdoors to a porch or in the shade.  Move indoors before the first frost.  If the fall nights are in the 50-55 degrees F range, buds will form easily. If the night temperatures are 60-65 degrees, the plants will need 13 hours of uninterrupted darkness every night.  Either set the plants off in an unused room, or drape them with a dark cloth every night.  Remember, plants left outside until frost will probably have enough cool nights to have buds formed before bringing indoors.  During the fall, while buds are forming, stop fertilizing the plants and give them only enough water to keep the green stems from shriveling.  

Once the flower buds appear, the night temperatures and hours of darkness no longer matter.  Set the plant where you can enjoy it and see the buds open.  

CAUTION: Not all plant material is edible. Though most plants are harmless, some contain toxic substances which can cause headaches, nausea, dizziness, or other discomforts. As a general rule, only known food products should be eaten. In case of ingestion, please contact your local poison control center at once and advise them of the plant ingested. Keep out of reach of children.