Christmas cactus (still known as Schlumbergera) is a real symbol of the Christmas season and, as its name suggests, blooms during the holidays . It is therefore a popular houseplant in winter and brings a little more color into the gray season with its beautiful flowers. Do you want to make your Schlumbergera bloom again? Or you have just received a Christmas cactus as a gift and want to know how to properly care for the plant? With our care tips it will certainly work.
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Christmas cactus care and attitude
The Christmas cactus or Schlumbergera belongs to the cactus family. The plant originates from the tropical forests of South America, but is cultivated as a houseplant because it is not hardy in our latitudes. Since the Schlumbergera blooms just at Christmas time, the plant is very popular as part of Christmas decorations. Although most varieties bloom pink, there are already cultivars whose flowers are red, orange, white and yellow.
The right location
These houseplants should be kept in a place with bright, indirect light. Too much direct sunlight can bleach the delicate leaves. An east-facing window or a bright bathroom are ideal. Since Christmas cacti prefer a more humid environment, a bright bathroom or kitchen is a good location for them.
The optimal daytime temperature for the Christmas cactus is 21 °C and in the evening it may drop to 15-18 °C. In summer, indoor plants can be placed in a shady place in the garden or in an unheated terrace until temperatures drop below 10 °C. You need to keep away from direct sunlight Christmas cactus.
Care tips: Water and fertilize Christmas cactus
If you often forget to water your plants, Christmas cactus is a suitable addition to your indoor garden. The plant will repay your neglect with a lush bloom just in time for the holidays. So do not water the Christmas cactus every day, but only when the top layer of soil dries out completely, about once a week. If the soil is too moist, the leaves will wither.
Important to note: Schlumbergera is very sensitive to water containing lime. Use only rainwater or boiled tap water to water the plant, otherwise it may die. During the flowering period, the cactus needs a little more water.
About every 2 weeks from spring to early fall, you should fertilize Schlumbergera with a balanced houseplant fertilizer or cactus fertilizer. During flowering, fertilizing is recommended once a month. After the flowering phase, water addition should be reduced and fertilizing should be stopped completely for a few weeks. This is the so-called dormant phase. This is followed by a growth phase again, during which the new shoots are formed.
Repotting, pruning and propagating Christmas cactus
The appropriate substrate for this plant is a high-quality, permeable potting soil or, even better, cactus soil. Also make sure to use a pot with good drainage, because the plant does not like waterlogging. You should repot the cactus after flowering, if the roots completely fill the pot.
Christmas cacti do not need pruning, but will tolerate pruning in late spring to encourage branching and flowering. Simply cut off a few limbs of each stem – the plant will branch out from this. To propagate the cactus, place the cut pieces in a slightly moist potting soil or growing medium. After a few weeks, they will have taken root easily and make excellent Christmas gifts.
Get Schlumbergera blooming again for Christmas: Here’s how!
Christmas cacti flowering is triggered by lower temperatures and longer nights in the fall. The best-known variety, Schlumbergera truncata, blooms earliest and longest, usually from November to February.
If your cactus is not blooming, it may be receiving too much light or temperatures are too high. Here are some tips on how to encourage your Christmas cactus to bloom:
- To trigger flowering, nights need to be at least 14 hours and days need to be between 8 and 10 hours over the course of 6 weeks. If there is strong indoor lighting in the room that is on at night, you will need to cover your cactus or move it to a location that is exposed to the natural light cycle.
- Flower buds form best when the plant is kept at temperatures between 10 and 15 °C. You can boost bud formation by exposing the Christmas cactus to temperatures of about 7 °C for several nights in a row.
- Be sure to water the plant regularly during the flowering period. If the soil dries out too much, the cactus may lose buds.
- If your Christmas cactus drops its buds one winter, don’t worry: it should bloom again the next year.
Christmas cactus or Easter cactus – what’s the difference?
The Christmas cactus (Schlumbergera) is often confused with the Easter cactus (Hatiora). Both plants look similar, but have differences in the shape of the limbs. Unlike the Christmas cactus, which has jagged leaves, the limbs of the Easter cactus are rounded and possibly slightly wavy. Easter cactus is also very popular as a houseplant and blooms between March and May, which is where its name comes from.