Learn how to care for Christmas cactus and poinsettias
Christmas cacti are beautiful festive plants best known for being a popular holiday decoration as they are a colourful winter flower that blooms at this time of year.
While the Christmas cactus is a very pretty plant, it often gets a reputation for being difficult to care for, as a lot of people get frustrated trying to get them to re-bloom.
However, once you know a few simple gardening care tips for taking care of these cacti then it is easy to have a flowering and thriving Christmas cactus.
Dr Marisa Y. Thompson, an extension horticulture specialist, has shared a few important things houseplant owners can to do “encourage a longer blooming period and return bloom next year.”
Overwatering is one of the biggest reasons Christmas cacti do not flower and Dr Thompson explained it is important to let the soil “dry slightly” between waterings. She wrote: “Surplus water should drain away, leaving the soil about as moist as a wrung-out sponge.”
Best conditions to make a Christmas cactus flower
Christmas cacti also need to be placed in an area in the home where they cannot be exposed to the windy winter weather, as it can dry out the plant quickly making it more difficult to keep healthy.
Dr Thompson explained: “Avoid drafty locations near open doors and heater vents. These locations speed the drying of the soil and plants.”
Instead, place Christmas cacti in a brightly-lit place in the home not in the direct sunlight.
They are also houseplants that do best in humidity, so if possible place them somewhere like the bathroom or kitchen to make sure they bloom to their full potential.
According to Dr Thompson, moving the plant around too much or suddenly exposing it to temperature changes can cause the flower buds to drop off.
Dr Thompson said: “Keep the plants in a cool location. Cool air slows the ageing of the flowers, so they last longer, but do not let the temperature drop below 50F (10C). Temperature-wise, they are not as fussy as some other seasonal houseplants, such as poinsettia.”
Next autumn when the plant will be resting, it will typically need 10 to 12 hours of darkness to reflower, and once the buds appear you can move it to a brighter area of the home.
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Best time to prune a Christmas cactus
Christmas cactus should be pruned in the springtime and not during the Christmas period to get them to bloom to encourage more growth next year.
Dr Thompson wrote: “In the spring when the plant is actively growing, you can prune your cactus by cutting between stem segments using clean, sharp shears that do not tear the plant tissue.
“Flower buds develop at the distal edges (ends) of each stem, so by pruning, you are encouraging branching and therefore maximizing flower potential next season.”
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