Christmas Cactus

Low Maintenance Plant: Christmas cactus

Melinda Myers offers advice for the care of this low maintenance plant.

These holiday favorites have a long tradition of brightening our holidays with their exotic blooms and easy care nature. Whether you are new to indoor gardening or a pro, you are sure to enjoy these colorful, holiday plants.

The Christmas cactus takes center stage when the red, purple, orange, pink or cream colored , fuchsia-like flowers form at the end of the stems. It is often overlooked the rest of the year when the flowers disappear and only the flattened leaf-like stems remain.

Despite the name Christmas cactus, this plant is native to the tropical rainforests in the coastal mountains of Brazil. This means we treat them differently than the true cacti and succulent houseplants.

Place your flowering Christmas cactus in a bright location free of cold and hot drafts. Ideally, maintain day temperatures around 70 degrees and night temps at 60-65 degrees.

Water flowering Christmas cactus thoroughly when the soil surface begins to dry. Increase the humidity around the plants by placing it with other plants or on a gravel tray. Simply fill a plant saucer with gravel and water. The gravel elevates the pot above the water. As the water in the saucer evaporates it increase the humidity around the plant.

Prevent flower blossoms from failing to open or dropping off the plant by minimizing stress on flowering plants. By avoiding changes in the amount of light the plants receive, blasts of cold and hot air, dry soil and low humidity, you'll increase flowering success.

Once the plant finishes flowering, treat it like your other tropical houseplants. Grow it in a sunny window. Water thoroughly when the top inch of soil is lightly dry. Do not overwater but do NOT allow the plants to wilt. Fertilize with a dilute solution of flowering houseplant fertilizer when the plants are actively growing from April through September. You can move it outdoors for the summer after danger of frost has passed. Grow in a shady spot and bring it back indoors when the temperatures drop to about 50 degrees.

Rebloom these beauties for next Christmas. Provide 13 hours of total darkness if the room temperature is 55 to 70 degrees and 15 hours if the temps are above 70 degrees. Warmer temperatures can discourage flowering. Give the plants bright light during the remaining hours. Keep the soil a bit dirier but don't let the plants wilt. I have had success reblooming Christmas cactus by just moving them into a cooler location and keeping the soil a bit drier. Plants will flower in about 8 weeks and keep blooming for 4-6 weeks.

Add a few of these holiday favorites to your indoor garden. You'll enjoy their colorful blooms this holiday season and for many more to come.

Christmas Cactus

Name: Christmas Cactus (Schlumbergera bridgeeii)

Size: 8-12+ inches tall

Light: Bright light indoors, shaded location when growing outdoors in summer

Water: Water thoroughly when top inch of soil begins to dry, water slightly more often when in bloom and less often when forcing it to rebloom

Soil: Well-drained potting mix

Fertilize: Dilute solution of flowering houseplant fertilizer April through September

 

Written by, gardening expert, Melinda Myers.  Each month Melinda will feature a low maintenance plant perfect for beginning and experienced gardeners looking for attractive easy care plants.  Melinda Myers is a nationally recognized gardening expert with more than 30 years of horticulture experience.  She is a wealth of knowledge and we are pleased to share Melinda’s Low Maintenance Plant of the Month with you!