Christmas cactus is one of the easiest holiday
plants to get to rebloom.
seems as though every year since I graduated from Texas
A&M I have been asked how to get poinsettias to
re-bloom. It doesnít take long into the discussion
before the gardener knows the task is more than
formidable. On the other hand, the Christmas cactus, so
rare in beauty, is actually easy to grow and re-bloom,
maybe for the rest of your life. In fact this is a plant
that I often find as a hand-me-down from mom or grandma.
cacti I used to have in my office were living, blooming
proof. Although I had them for several years, they were
abandoned for weeks on end during the spring and fall
garden season when I was on the road. If they got water
or any other light than sitting in a north window, they
year, however, they rewarded me with their floral
displays as if I were a long lost friend, or as if I had
been pampering them for months. It was almost
incredible. I visited two places before I wrote this to
make sure this plant had now fallen out of favor. They
were in several different colors. It is amazing that
these plants are for sale at these unbelievably low
Christmas cactus is one of those plants that trigger
fierce arguments over its botanical name and even the
common name. You would think with a plant this beautiful
we could just all get along. First, is it a Christmas
cactus or a Thanksgiving cactus? Donít bring that up
at the dinner table; no use fighting.
am just thankful for it whenever it blooms. Even though
my stores selling the plants on Dec. 19 called them the
zygocactus, that name is no longer correct. Who cares
right? Botanically speaking, most taxonomical
authorities say the Christmas cacti sold are
Schlumbergera x buckleyi, which is a cross between S.
truncata and S. russeliana. In fact, there are more than
200 named cultivars. Then there are other reputable
sources that say, nope they are Schlumbergera bridgesii.
Oh my gosh I nominate them for congress.
bloom period of these hybrids may be somewhat controlled
by the amount of uninterrupted darkness the plant
receives. You can delay blooming by giving more light.
Once the plant receives 12 to 14 hours of uninterrupted
darkness each day, buds will usually start to form.
of you that have been reading my columns for the past 20
plus years have gathered that Iím a tropical plant
nut. Absolutely, and guess where the Christmas cactus is
from? This true cactus, minus thorns, is native to the
South American rain forest. In Brazil, they grow on tree
trunks and limb alongside orchids and bromeliads,
wherever rainwater quickly drains away. Their flowers
are almost iridescent in shades of lavender, fuchsia,
orange, red and white.
the neglect I gave mine back at the office, it is best
to keep them in a bright, cool location. Keep the soil
lightly moist, but never soggy. Donít fertilize until
growth begins in the spring.
temperatures stay above freezing, you can move the
Christmas cactus outdoors for the spring and summer.
Keep it in an area that is shaded, especially in the
afternoon. Feed with a dilute water-soluble fertilizer
every other time you water. Around the first of October
next year, place it in an area where it will receive no
light for about 12 hours each late afternoon and night.
Buds should start to develop around the first of
November and open between Thanksgiving and Christmas.
can start new Christmas cacti by simply taking stem
sections of two or three segments and sticking them in
very porous, moist potting soil. I actually prefer sand.
They will root very quickly. These tropical cacti are
fun to grow and in my opinion the easiest holiday plant
to get to re-bloom. Buy some now and start a tradition
whereby your children or grandchildren see them blooming
each Thanksgiving or Christmas at your home. You will be
making lasting memories.