Not into the traditional poinsettia for the holidays? Do you need a gift for a holiday party, secret Santa or maybe yourself? Christmas Cactus or more appropriately, Holiday Cactus are lovely plants with white, pink, purple or peach flowers.
Caring for Holiday Cacti is relatively easy. They prefer bright light indoors, benefiting from full sunlight in the fall and winter. However, they cannot be in direct sunlight in the summer, as the leaves will become pale yellow.
Water them when the top of the soil becomes dry. Do not let them dry excessively or the unopened buds will drop off. They also do not like to be water-logged, so make sure that they are in a loose, well-draining soil and do not sit in a saucer of water.
Plants should be fertilized monthly during the spring and summer with a general purpose fertilizer. Stop giving them fertilizer in late summer so that flower buds can develop. If possible, provide supplemental humidity with a room humidifier, placement near a kitchen or bath or by placing plants on pebbles in a tray of water.
During the growing season in spring and summer, Holiday Cacti like to be grown in temperatures between 70 and 80 degrees. When it’s time for bud initiation in the fall, the temperatures should be kept between 60 and 68 degrees, with 68 degrees being ideal.
Flower buds develop when the days get shorter and the nights longer. They require at least 13 hours of darkness, at 55 to 70 degrees, for at least 6 weeks in order to develop their flower buds. By controlling the temperature and putting the plant in darkness, you can actually have some control over when it blooms. Be sure to give it light though too, because it cannot grow in total darkness for 6 weeks!
Holiday Cacti can bloom for 7 to 8 weeks if the plants are given the right conditions. After your plant blooms, evaluate whether it needs to be repotted. They bloom best when slightly pot-bound, so this should only be done once every three to four years. If necessary, repot the plant in the spring.
Holiday cacti are easy to propagate, so if you want to increase what you have or pass on plants to family or friends, it can be done with relative ease. In May or June, remove sections of the stems with 3-5 segments and leave the cut ends of the sections to dry or callus for one to two days. After the segments callus, dip them in Bonide Bontone Rooting Powder, insert the segments 1” deep into a well-drained potting media such as Espoma Seed Starting Mix and water well. Place in bright, indirect light and in about 6 weeks you should have rooted plants.
Holiday Cacti are a wonderful addition to any home during the holidays. They make great gifts because they are easy to care for and can live for decades. If you need proof, come out and see one we have that’s over 100 years old!