Now that Christmas is over,
- What do we do with the gift plants?
- We know that the poinsettia is worth keeping, but what about the Christmas Cactus?
- Can it survive after Christmas?
- Christmas cactus is not too hard to grow.
- You just need to know what it needs.
- It is usually grown in some kind of a pot.
In its native habitat, the Christmas Cactus grows in trees as an epiphyte in the shady humid Brazilian rain forest. This means that it does not need to be put in wet, heavy soil, which can quickly cause root rot. A good soil mix could be 2 parts peat moss with one part perlite. Builder’s sand can be combined with either of those ingredients also.
The Christmas Cactus can live in the house, on the porch, or even in a hanging basket. Just make sure that your site gets plenty of bright indirect light. On a porch, this would be in a shaded area. Indoors, it needs to stay about 6 feet away from a south or southwest-facing window. Strong direct sunlight will scorch and burn the leaves. It is thought that the cooler night temperatures on a porch may help the bloom process. But your plant must be protected from freezing temperatures.
- From here on, the directions become similar to those for growing a poinsettia. Water only when the soil feels dry, and make sure that the soil and pot drain well. Rot from overwatering is the plant’s worst enemy. The Christmas Cactus is actually a succulent.
- Once blooms are done, Christmas cactus will benefit from pruning up until mid-summer. Fertilize once a month from April to September. This plant likes to be a bit root-bound, so no need to invest in a large pot right now.
- Like the poinsettia, the Christmas Cactus will need special lighting conditions beginning on October 1. It must be in a place of complete darkness for at least 12 hours every night. The easiest way to accomplish this is to put the plant on a dark porch which does not receive artificial light, such as streetlights. Indoors, it will need to go into a dark closet for 12 hours a night. During this time, major environmental changes can cause bud drop. If it’s on a porch, it should likely just stay there. If indoors, use the closet method.
My Mom had a large Christmas cactus which bloomed every year from its spot on the porch. This made it incredibly easy for her to take care of. Once it was in full bloom, and freezes could occur, her plant was moved inside to enjoy until the blooms faded. With good care and the right environment, a Christmas Cactus can live for many years.
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By: Sandy Switek since 2005 and Eva Maria Pabon Residential Horticulture Agent
Do you want to read more about gardening? Follow our blog Eva Pabon, Author at UF/IFAS Extension Osceola County (ufl.edu)