Christmus cactus 2The unusual shape and intense colors of Christmas cactus flowers brighten even the cloudiest gray days of December. Often blooming for as long as 6 weeks, mature plants are covered with blooms and can add to any holiday décor with little care or attention. Christmas cactus can be distinguished from its cousin Thanksgiving cactus (Schlumbergera trincata) by its later bloom time and its leaves; Christmas cactus has smooth edges while Thanksgiving cactus has jagged or pointed edges. Christmas cactus is very long living and responds well to being pot bound so you can enjoy it for many years to come with little care.

Type: House plant.

Outstanding Feature: Intensely colored tubular flowers.

Form: Cascading.

Growth Rate: Medium.

Bloom: White, pink, red, orange, purple or bicolor flowers in December.

Size: 10”H x 24”W.

Light: Indirect bright light indoors; partial shade outdoors; susceptible to sunburn. Will set buds with 14 hours of darkness in early fall (see temperature for alternative conditions).

Soil: Moist but well drained; 1 part sand, 1 part peat moss, 2 parts standard potting mix.

Water: Water when the surface of the soil is dry (about every 2-3 days in warm weather, every week in cool, cloudy weather); keep on the dry side after blooming until spring when you can put the plant outdoors being careful not to let the leaves shrivel.

Temperature: Thrives with night temperatures of 50-60 F; will set buds with night temperatures of 50-57 for 6-8 weeks. Does not tolerate frost.

Fertilizer: Feed monthly with liquid fertilizer from May until the beginning of August.

Care: After bloom, set plant in cool, shady place and water sparingly until spring when plants can be put in a shady place in the garden. Bring indoors again in the fall when frost threatens and place in bright indirect light. Pinch the tips of branches to shape.

Pests and Diseases: None of importance.

Propagation: When the plant is growing (summer) put 1 to several segments into sand. Rooting hormone is helpful but is not necessary. Keep evenly moist until roots appear and then transplant.

Comments: May drop buds or blooms if moved or if soil is too wet.

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By Karen