Care and Problems with this houseplant.
Botanical Name - Schlumbergera - Cactaceae - sometimes called
The Christmas Cactus is a succulent cactus, though not
with the thorns normally associated with that group of plants. It is an
Epiphyte. Epiphytic plants normally grow grow on trees - taking most of
their nutrient and moisture out of the air, rather than through their
root system. It is not a parasite, so does not feed off its host plant.
It simply lodges there - normally in the crotches of branches. It will
also feed through its normal roots, upon the organic debris that falls
its way. Bear in mind its origins and you are on the way to having a
Christmas Cactus care
problems are usually as a result of incorrect watering. The Christmas
cactus is a tropical type cactus and is not quite as drought tolerant as
the name infers. However, it is a succulent plant and can store a
reasonable quantity of water in the leaves. Water thoroughly when the
top half of the soil in the pot feels dry to the touch. Discard the
excess water, then do not water again until the top half becomes dry.
The length of time between each watering will vary with the air
temperature, amount of light, rate of growth and relative humidity.
General Christmas Cactus Care hints
heat from radiators or other sources. Care for your Christmas Cactus -
keep it cool.
Christmas cactus can adapt to low light, but more
abundant blooms are produced on plants that have been
exposed to high light intensity. Keep your plants in a
sunny location indoors. Plants can be moved outdoors
in summer, but care for them in a shady or semi-shady
location. In warmer zones, they can be planted in
raised beds for good effect. Too much direct sunlight can burn the
leaves. When it's time to bring the plants back inside
in the Autumn, slowly adjust the plants to life
indoors by gradually increasing the number of hours
they spend indoors each day.
Schlumbergera - The Christmas Cactus.
Well-drained soil is essential for the proper care of your
Christmas cactus. Use a commercially packaged potting
mix for succulent plants or mix your own by combining
two parts plain potting soil with one part clean sand
or vermiculite. Whilst the plant roots do not not need
too big a pot, a larger pot is desirable to prevent the plant being
top-heavy and falling over. Hanging pots are best.
It is not classed as a poisonous plant normally - for humans or
domestic pets - cats, dogs etc. However, this is not to say that it
should be eaten, and if a youngster decides to chomp away, then best
seek medical health, making sure that you make a note of both the
common and botanical names. We have no knowledge of any allergies.
However, some people are allergic to many different plants, so if a rash
or other symptom is noticed after handling, then take precautions such
as wearing latex gloves.(Ref National Capital Poison Center)
Christmas Cactus Propagation
and Propagating Christmas cactus...
after blooming will encourage
the plant to branch out. Remove a few sections of each
stem by pinching them off with your fingers or cutting
with a sharp knife. These sections can be rooted
easily in almost any compost. Before potting, it is
advisable to allow the cut end of the cutting to dry
for a couple of hours on a not-too-sunny windowsill.
This effectively seals the cut end and prevents entry
of any soil borne pests etc. plants dried in this
manner seem to root slightly quicker also. There is no
need for rooting hormone. You may even find that a few
roots have sprouted from the joints before you even
take the cutting.
Christmas Cactus Propagation from Seeds
Schlumbergera can be successfully propagated and raised from seed, with the Schlumbergera truncata types seemingly seeding indoors better
than other varieties. The fresher the better for good germination.
Otherwise buy from a reputable seed house that will have vacuum sealed
the seeds in a foil packet. They need a little bottom heat for best
results - a propagator is ideal. It is possible with sowing fresh seeds
to have a flower on the end of the single leaf by year end. better
though, to pinch out the solitary shoot and allow to bush out for the
following year. You should see assorted colours from your seedlings. Do
NOT overwater - just keep humid until established. When large enough,
pot into no more than a 3in (4.5cm) pot.
Christmas Cactus are not normally grafted. That simply
mentioned because of the email requests we get about how to Propagate
Christmas Cactus by grafting!
General Care of Christmas Cactus.
Christmas cactus will bloom if given long
uninterrupted dark periods. Begin the dark treatments
in about mid-October to have plants in full bloom by
the Christmas holidays. Christmas cactus will also bloom if they
are subjected to cool temperatures of about 50 to 55F
Schlumbergera are quite happy in a wide range of
environments - so adaptable. One of the best specimens that I have seen
- flowering year after year at Christmas - was on top of a tall cabinet
in a hallway - receiving no direct sun - and very little life. Covered
in dust, yet seemingly happy with its lot. It had already had a long
life, and will probably continue well into old age!
Christmas Cactus Problems
There are very few diseases or problems that the Christmas Cactus ails
with, though there are a few bugs - noticeably mealy bugs, scale insect,
and rarely, red spider mite. If there are general plant problems, such
as yellowing of the leaves - or drooping leaves (It does trail naturally
by the way!), then these can normally be traced back to one of the bugs
mentioned - mealybug being the main problem. Severe wilting can be
caused by root mealy bugs below the surface of the soil.
Flowering problems are usually as a result of
overwatering - in particular if the plant pot is in a saucer and holding
a reservoir of water. This will cause mature flowers to droop, and in
particular to see the buds dropping off. Let it dry out and don't make
the same mistake the following year. If you have bud drop on a newly
bought plant - or a Christmas present - then flower problems and drop
will probably be because of the severe change of environment. From that
of the grower, then transport - often across countries - being stood in
a draughty shop or even outside in a pavement display. Red or bronzed
leaves will invariably mean that it has suffered from a cold spell.
There is little need to regularly feed your
Christmas Cactus, but a very weak solution of plant
food for a month or so after flowering, will get it
moving into new growth.
If it needs re-potting, then
only into the next size pot. Do NOT over-pot it. I have had one in the
same pot for around ten years. It is enormous - and happy!
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By David Hughes -