Caring for the Christmas Cactus Plants
The Christmas cactus (Schlumbergera bridgessii) is a must-have. This garden beauty has flat roundish segmented stems that produce tubular flower blooms of white, purple, red, yellow, orange, and pink. There are about 6-9 species of Christmas cactus that belong to the family Cactaceae.
Christmas cactus is native to Brazil and can be found growing in tropical to sub-tropical climates in coastal mountains and the rain forest hanging from tree branches and rocks. This garden beauty also goes by the names crab cactus, holiday cactus, and thanksgiving cactus.
Because of their unique appearance, Christmas cactus is grown both in outdoor gardens as well as on the interior. For more about this popular perennial that has found its way into the hearts of so many continue reading as we take a closer look at the Christmas cactus plant.
The planting location
Though grown mostly indoors Christmas cactus can also be installed in the home garden (outdoors). Because direct sunlight can burn the leaves Christmas cactus should be planted in an area that gets partial to full shade.
Soil type for Christmas cactus plant
The soil type should be well-drained holding a bit of moisture.
Water Christmas cactus
Watering your Christmas cactus thoroughly then allow the soil to dry almost completely between watering before another application.
Fertilizing Christmas cactus
During the spring and summer months fertilizer your Christmas cactus monthly with diluted water-soluble fertilizer. Once flower bloom starts to form discontinue fertilizing until flower bloom.
Garden insect pests of Christmas cactus
Garden insect pests of Christmas cactus include.
- Spider mites
- Fungus Gnats
Thrips, aphids, mealybugs, spider mites, and scales cause damage by sucking the plant’s juice or fluids causing yellowing and browning of the leaves followed by leaf drop. These sucking insects also encourage sooty mold.
Aphids are the easiest to control by applying a strong spray of water from your garden hose, the pressure however my remove flowers from your Christmas cactus. Another solution is to apply pesticides such as insecticidal soap to eliminate aphids and other listed pests. Before applying read and follow the manufacturer’s direction for the best results.
Fungus gnats in large amounts may cause leaf loss-making Christmas cactus look unattractive, the use of insecticidal soap will bring control.
Diseases of Christmas cactus
Diseases of Christmas cactus include.
- Botrytis blight
- Root rot
- Necrotic spot virus
- Stem root
Also known as grey mold affect Christmas cactus by covering the stems and blooms with a fungus that are silvery grey. Early treatment such as the removal of infected plant parts along with reducing humidity and providing proper ventilation will offer help.
Is caused by overwatering, symptoms include roots that are soggy, reddish, black, and brown. Plants that are suffering from root rot will also show signs of wilting. If this disease is caught in time may bring control.
Removing the plant and trimming the infected roots along with rinsing the roots in fresh water and replanting in fresh clean soil will bring improvement.
Necrotic spot virus
Infected plants with this disease develop wilt and spots on the stems and leaves, thrips are the culprit that encourage necrotic spot virus. The use of insecticidal soaps or sprays will offer help.
Signs of this disease show up as a water-soaked spot at the base of the stem, the only control for this disease is to remove the infected parts better yet it’s best to start with a new healthy plant.
Growing Christmas cactus indoors
When growing Christmas cactus indoors place in an area that gets bright indirect light near a south or west-facing window. A sheer curtain will help in filtering sunlight, if indoor conditions are dry the humidity level can be increased by misting the plant every other day with water or placing the pot on a tray of pebbles sitting in water.
Pruning Christmas cactus
The best time to prune Christmas cactus is right after it blooms, Pruning Christmas cactus after it blooms will force it to branch out putting out new leaves and distinctive stems. You can prune your Christmas cactus anytime after it blooms until late spring. Remove the stem with a sharp knife or pruner by cutting between the segments. If your goal is to reduce the size then removing up to one-third of the plant per year will give the desired results. For a fuller plant trim one to two segments from the stem.
Propagating Christmas cactus
Christmas cactus is easy to propagate, to propagate take cuttings from one to four segments. Once this is done place your cuttings in a dry cool place for about two days. A fresh clean potting mix such as a sandy peat soil type is ideal. The plant pot should have holes for water drainage, place the pot in an area that gets bright indirect light to avoid burn. Water cuttings very lightly until new growth develops which is an indication to increase but not overwater. Christmas cactus prefers temperatures of 65-70 degrees during the daytime and 55 to 65 degrees during the evening hours. Other than that follow the direction discussed above for care of your Christmas cactus.
5 Fun facts about the Christmas cactus
1. Christmas cactus is not toxic to dogs or cats.
2. Christmas cactus can live for as long as 20-30 years, I have heard of them even living as long as 100-145 years.
3. Although this plant is a cactus it cannot withstand direct heat or light but thrives in partial to full shaded condition.
4. These garden beauties grow on rocks and other plants.
5. Encourage your Christmas cactus to bloom by keeping them in a dark area for 14 hours once-blooming starts give them indirect light.
The final word on Christmas cactus
The Christmas cactus makes a great plant whether growing out or indoors this garden beauty will bring that much-needed flavor with its unique appearance and beautiful flower bloom. The Christmas cactus is not fussy at all which makes this plant a gardener’s choice so begin today by including Christmas cactus in your landscape and garden design and see why this garden beauty has captured the hearts of so many.