If you have a Christmas cactus that refuses to flower for you, then read this
and it will flower for Christmas and again in February, if you follow these easy
steps. Today's plants are hybrids of two types of cactus that grow on trees
in the Orgel Mountains near Rio de Janeiro in Brazil; they grow only at an elevation
of 3,000 to 4,600 feet. The father of our Christmas cactus (Schlumbergera
truncata) is the true Christmas Cactus Zygocactus truncatus, and Schlumbergera
russeliana is the mother.
This cross of wild-flowering cacti that grow in a tropical environment has resulted
in stronger growing plants, more colorful flowers, as well as plants that can live at any
altitude and can be forced to flower at any time of the year (Christmas season
is preferred). The father originally came in red only, but new hybrid colors
soon developed and now you can purchase the Christmas cactus with red, pink,
white, purple-red, violet and even golden-yellow flowers.
Christmas cactuses grow best in a room with bright light or a little bit of
sun--but not full sun. They like good air circulation, so never group these plants
with other plants on a crowded table or windowsill. They love being outside
in the shade during the summer, and should stay out until the end of September,
but watch the frost possibilities. Cool temperatures will help to set flower
buds on the plant along with the shorter length of day.
During the summer, while the plant is outside, keep it moderately moist and
fertilize it every 2 weeks with Miracle-Gro until the middle
of August to help the plant make new growth. After August 15, fertilize monthly
until you put it outide again in May, then feed every 2 weeks again. Also cut
back on the water and give it a chance to dry up a bit between watering.
When you bring the plant indoors for the winter, in September, mist the plant
daily, because this is a tropical cactus. It loves humidity, so keep plants away
from forced hot air vents and out of rooms with wood or coal stoves.
Keep plants on the cool side in your home. Keep at 65 to 70 degrees during the day
and in a cooler space during the night; I use the basement from 6 pm to 7 am
until the buds form. Once they form, keep in a bright room away from full sun,
or the flower buds will quickly bloom and the fun is over; morning or late in
the day sun is best.
When the plant finishes flowering, keep it in a room with north-facing
windows, and cool temperatures below 70 degrees. The room must stay dark from
6 pm to morning. Your living room is not a good place, because you watch television
until 11:30 PM, looking at the news, and the lights stay on--making the length
of the day longer.
You need cool temperatures and a short day to change the hormones in the plant
from vegetative to flowering growth. If you purchased a Christmas cactus and
it begins to drop the flower buds, it is because your light situation has changed,
so move it away from bright windows and if your home is warm--70 degrees or more--move
the plant to a cooler spot in your home.
Repot the plant every spring when you move it outside for the summer if the
root system has begun to fill the pot. Short squatty pots are better than tall pots with a lot of soil;
look for azalea pots, not standard types. Use a
potting soil with a lot of organic matter like Miracle-Gro Potting Soil.
You can take cuttings during the summer by breaking the branches at the joints.
Allow cuttings to set out and dry for 3 to 4 hours before placing in a moist
potting soil. The cuttings you take should have 2 to 3 sections or knuckles on
them for the best results; keep them in a shaded area until they root properly.
I put 3 to 5 cuttings in a four inch pot and 5 to 7 cuttings in a six inch pot.
Try it next spring--it's very easy, you can do it!
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