True to their name, these flat leafed succulents bloom right in time for the holiday season and that too profusely. The pretty pink blooms last well into the new year and when not blooming they make for a pretty foliage plant. Requiring very little care other than bright light, they are excellent for those sunny windows of yours!
Unlike other cacti, the Christmas cactus don’t live in hot, arid environments such as deserts or plains. In fact, these epiphytic succulents are native to the tropical rainforests of southern Brazil, where they grow on tree branches and soak up the high humidity, dappled sunlight, and warm temperatures.
Light: Bright indirect or filtered sun light. An east-facing window or a bright bathroom is ideal. Too much direct sunlight can bleach the sensitive leaves.
Plan to water every week, but only water when the top one third of soil feels dry to the touch. For example, if the plant is in 6 inches of soil, water when the top 2-3 inches feel dry. (Use your finger to check!)
- When the soil is sufficiently dry, soak the soil until water runs through the pot’s drainage holes. Place a tray underneath the pot to catch the water. After 10-15 minutes, discard any excess water in the tray so that the pot doesn’t sit in water.
- It’s especially important to water well while the plant is flowering or the buds may fall off.
Humidity: Christmas cacti prefer a more humid environment, which makes a bright bathroom or kitchen a good spot to keep them.
Considerations: Don’t treat a Christmas cactus like it’s a run-of-the-mill cactus or succulent. They can’t take the same sort of sunny, dry conditions that other cacti can. It’s important to water these cacti more regularly than most succulents, but to also be cautious of keeping them too wet.
Blooming period: November - December
If your cactus is not blooming, it may be receiving too much light or too-high temperatures. Here are some tips to encourage yours to produce flowers!
- To trigger blooming, nights need to be at least 14 hours long and days between 8 to 10 hours for at least six weeks. If you have strong indoor lighting that’s on at night, you may need to cover your cactus or move it to an area that’s exposed to the natural light cycle.
- Flower buds form best when the plant is kept in temperatures between (10 and 15°C). You can kick start the budding process by exposing the plant to temperatures of (7°C) for several nights in a row.
- Make sure that you are consistent with watering while the plant is in flower. If the plant dries out too much, it may drop its buds.
- If the cactus sheds its buds one winter, don’t worry: it should bloom the following year!
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