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Plant of the Week: Christmas Cactus

Schlumbergera spp.

Plant of the Week: Christmas Cactus

Around Christmas time, we start to see many holiday plants at the nursery. My favorite of all of these is the Christmas cactus (and for a good reason). Christmas cactus are a holiday plant that you can easily keep for years to come. And even better, they are so easy to propagate, that many people will gift the pups grown from their cactus to friends and family for the holidays!!

Plant Characteristics: Christmas cactus are a low growing plant with pendulous stems that look great in a hanging basket. Their modified leaves ate flat and segmented and on the tips you will see the buds and the flowers. The cactus is appropriately named because it does set it blooms as the days get shorter. This allows it to bloom in the winter right around Christmas time. Hues of pink, red, white, lavender, orange, and peach make this plant so much fun to collect.

Plant Care: The Christmas cactus is indigenous to Brazil, and here it receives just the right amount of night hours to set its flower buds for Christmas each year. But in other places in the world, it is important to give your cactus the correct amount of night hours to ensure that it will bloom for Christmas. To do this you should try to keep it dark for at least 12 hours every night until you see the flower buds setting. Once you see some buds, you can stop doing the light treatment and put your cactus where you want to display it. Pick a spot that receives bright but indirect light and where it is protected from cold temperatures (keep above 50 degrees).

Although the Christmas cactus is truly a cactus- it does not like to stay quite as dry as other cacti do. You should still allow the soil to dry out, but be sure to water it again thoroughly once it is dry. They do not like dry air, which is often an issue made worse when you're running your heater in the house. Try making a pebble tray for you cactus to keep the relative humidity of the surrounding air a little higher. You can easily make a pebble tray by placing pebbles in a saucer about an inch or two high. Then fill the saucer with water, just nearly to the top of the pebbles. Your plant can then sit on top of the pebbles, while not sitting in the water in the tray.

Uses: Because the Christmas cactus has a "weeping" growth habit, I think it's perfect in hanging baskets and elevated pots. It makes for the perfect Christmas plant gift because the receiver will be able to enjoy it year after year.