Questions? Write Me at

Questions? Write me at fullcirclegardener @ cableone . net.

Plant of the Week: Christmas Cactus

Christmas Cactus (Schlumbergera sp.)
Commonly called a 'Christmas' or Holiday' cactus, this succulent plant is native to the tropical rainforest and not a desert like most cacti.  Like the Amaryllis, the Christmas cactus mostly makes it's home in the rain forest treetops in Brazil, and obtains its nutrients and water in crevices filled with decaying vegetation.

When we bring this tropical plant into our homes we must remember that it is a cacti.  It should be planted in a well drained pot that is about half the height of the plant and filled with soil that is rich with organic matter.  Though a cactus and fairly drought tolerant, the Christmas cactus prefers to maintain even moisture.  Water when the soil is dry to the touch, and do not keep the soil continually saturated or the roots and stem may rot.  Add a liquid houseplant fertilizer to the water every two or three weeks during growing periods to meet it's nutrient needs.  This cactus typically grows it the shade of dense trees in it's native setting and prefers to not find itself sitting in direct sunlight so choose a location that has an abundance of indirect light to set it.

Keep in mind if you purchase a holiday cactus that it has been grown in specific conditions to facilitate a specific flowering time and it may not flower at the same time in the conditions surrounding it in your home.  It will take a full year to determine it's likely flower time in your home, but experience has taught me that conditions change in my home some years and it may flower at 'odd' times (like Easter!).  Darkness is the key to flowering for this plant.  It requires at least 12 hours of complete darkness for more than a week to stimulate flower bud setting.  This is easier to provide in our northern latitudes, but can be emulated by covering the plant or moving it into a closet if necessary.  For more details on stimulating flowers check out this article on the National Gardening Associations website.

Happy Houseplant Gardening! :)

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