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Archive for the ‘Christmas Cactus’ Category

After learning a bit about when and how these guys bloom, I figured I’d better learn a few other things about them!  Here’s my Christmas Cactus right now.  I’m tickled with it, and hope to have this kind of a display EVERY year!img_8444First of all, I’d better learn what it’s real name is!  It is formally known as Schlumbergera.  Depending on WHICH of the Holiday Cactus(Thanksgiving, Christmas or Easter) you get, they will have different descriptive names.  But the  “Schlumbergera” will probably always be there.

As it my plant ages, I am assuming it will get larger and more prolific with blooms.

So, how do I accomplish that?  I DO know that they like to be root-bound.  Which means less worries about re-potting.  That’s good, right?

I also know they like to be kind of dry. That’s also great.  Talk about an easy plant to deal with…except for light and temperature, which are BIGGIES!

Here are a few suggestions, and a few links to places where you can read a bit more than I’ll give you.

  • As you know, the flowers appear at the very ends of the stem.  When the flowers are done and shriveled, you can just snip them off, either by pinching them carefully, or using a sharp pruning shears.  When ALL the blooms are gone…ignore the plant!  Little water, no fertilizer, “no nothing” for about a month. Then, during the winter start giving it an occasional “spritz”, gradually begin to treat it like a normal plant until springtime, when you’ll see new growth appear.
  • If you want your plant to be fuller, you can prune it back. Where you cut, you will get two new stems, so go back toward the pot, and watch what happens. Remember when you prune to use SHARP and CLEAN shears, and cut BETWEEN the segments. The best time to do this is in the spring, just as the new growth is beginning.
  • Guide to Holiday Cactus
  • screen shot 2019-01-23 at 2.48.09 pm
  • It is a myth that these cacti should be in direct sunshine.  DO NOT DO THAT. A light exposure to sunshine will be exactly what it needs! These are what’s called “Forest Cacti” so don’t know what to do with direct sun!
  • Never let them get waterlogged!  A drainage hole is an absolute necessity.
  • Once they begin blooming, try not to move them around too much.  This can sometimes cause the buds to drop.  Remember this if you buy a blooming cactus from the grocery store.  Chances are it’s been moved around A LOT!
  • If your home is extra dry, they will love a bit of misting.
  • From everything I’ve read, they are NOT toxic to pets.
  • The Bloom Cycle for A Christmas Cactus-A Simple chart!  
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For the last 7 years or so, my Christmas Cactus have not bloomed, except when I had just purchased them…or when I first arrived from New Hampshire.  I was disappointed.

Those of you that know me, know that I’m not really an “indoor” plant kind of person…although I’m learning to be one here in Seattle, which is VERY different from New England.

So, what’s with the Christmas Cactus?  They put out lots of green growth.  I water them according to their needs…not too much!  They look pretty, all green and shiny, but around Christmas?  No flowers!

This year however, I did a few things differently, and I think “I’ve GOT it”!  As Chair of the Garden Committee (which I just gave up) I saw to it that a rack was put outside on one of the terraces for indoor plants, to be used by anyone in Horizon House who felt their plants would benefit from a summer outside.  I took advantage of that as well.  OUT went my Christmas Cacti!

I have to say that in both Connecticut and New Hampshire, I always put my indoor plants out under a tree for the summer.  (Are you paying attention?)  When we moved here, I didn’t have a spot to park them.  If I put them in my little garden plot, the snails would have eaten them alive! So, they stayed on my window sill, inside.  I didn’t have any closet, basement or garage to put them in for an “unlit”, “cooling” period.  ALL the lighting needs were ignored.  The other thing that was ignored was the temperature.  They had to be either inside or outside, and a rack was not available for me.  So, the plants looked healthy enough, but NO FLOWERS!

Enter the rack this past year.  I got it out in June, and removed it in Mid-October.  My Christmas Cactus loved it!  The temperature was correct, as was the light.  However, they still were not chilled enough to set buds.  Next year, I will request that the rack be left out until we’ve actually had a frost…perhaps sometime in November.

Then miraculously, an opportunity appeared.  We have a non-functioning air-conditioner in our bedroom window.  We finally had it covered…with a wooden box-like structure…A SHELF!  We turn the heat down at night and open the window by the air-conditioner.  When I put the plants on that air-conditioner shelf the cacti rejoiced and set buds!!!!

Yesterday, I felt I had waited long enough, and I brought the two cactus’ that had set buds, out to the living room window sill.  There’s another one on the “cold shelf”, but it is an Easter Cactus, and I can’t expect it to flower for a few more months.  It will remain there until it set’s buds, for SURE!

At any rate, when they tell you that Christmas Cactus (and Easter Cactus) need a cold and dark period in order to bloom, BELIEVE THEM!

I continue to learn.  Gardening inside sure is different!

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It’s a question I often hear, and often answer as simply as I can, usually after asking a few questions.

  1. Is it an orchid that has just decided it doesn’t want to bloom in the next year or two???  (and you don’t care to wait!)
  2. Whatever kind of plant it is, is there anyone you know who might want to adopt your plant?
  3. Is the plant diseased or buggy?
  4. Are you willing to WORK on it, or are you DONE with it?

After we talk about those possibilities, we then go on to a possible solution.

#1-There are a few people here at Horizon House who will “adopt” spent orchids and bring them back to flower. What they do with them at that point is unknown!

#2-Would a neighbor, or family member like to have it?

#3-If it is diseased or buggy, it should go “down the shoot” into the garbage.  Put it in a plastic (or paper) bag and into the garbage.  It is neither recyclable, NOR compostable.

#4-If it’s just beyond your interest or appears to be dying a natural death, or you can’t find an adoptive “parent” for it, here’s what you can do.

If the plant is small, and in fairly good condition, put it on the shelf in the Service Room.  Perhaps someone on your floor will take a liking to it.  OR maybe the person who empties the trash may know someone who would like it.

If no one takes it…or it’s beyond help…

Allow the plant to dry out.  Take a large, PAPER grocery bag, dump the plant (with it’s soil) into the bag WITHOUT the pot.  Close up the bag and put it (carefully sealed) in the compost container in the Service Room on your floor.  If it is too large for that, bring it to the Potting Room on B-2 and put the bag into the compost container there.

Just so you know, this is perfect compost!  It is living (or having once been alive) material.  compost-handSoil is exactly what compost will become, and is a needed part of the composting process.

The pot remaining, if you don’t have a use for it, can be washed out, and put into the recycling bin.  If it’s a pretty one, consider Monday Market!

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I hope this answers your questions.  Happy Gardening, inside or outside!!!

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1Schlumbergera bridgessii,  Crab Cactus, Christmas Cactus, Easter Cactus, or Thanksgiving Cactus whatever you call it will (probably) have to do with when it blooms.  They are ALL Schlumbergera bridgessii which is MUCH too hard to pronounce, to say nothing about spelling!  So any title you choose to give it will work!
They come in many flower colors, sizes, and leaf shapes, but they are popular enough that even the greenest (pun intended) of gardeners can identify them!
I bought a white one last year, in full and massive bud for a little plant. IMG_4454 It was dirt cheap (no pun here!) since it was past the season (whatever season that might have been, knowing this plant).  I picked it up at the local grocery store for about $7.00!  I couldn’t resist, especially since I’ve never owned a white one.  Actually, when it blooms it has a blush of pink.  So much for white!  But it was very pretty, and still is.  However, this year instead of about 30 flowers it only has 5. Thanksgiving Cactus I’m sure it’s because it was raised (before I got it) in a greenhouse, where on my shelf it doesn’t get much sun at all.
My purpose for this post today is to help all of you who have one of these Schlumbergera bridgessii treat them so they give you as much pleasure as possible.
  • Sun exposure should be moderate.
  • Temperatures should be 60*-70* which is perfect for a home environment.  Note: most bud drop is caused by temperatures being too high, or light being too low.
  • Humidity should also be moderate.
  • Fertilizing should be done when it’s in a growth period, which is commonly between April and October.  A complete indoor plant fertilizer will be fine.  Less is more as far as strength!
  • Watering-it should be moist when in a growth period, but NEVER allow the soil to be WET!  When it’s “resting”, cut back on the water, only watering when it’s dry.
  • Propagation-can be easily accomplished by cutting a section (at a joint) of more than 2 or 3 segmented stems, after letting them dry out for a few days, root them either in water, or damp sand.  Once they are rooted they can be planted in a peat based compost, or potting soil.
  • Resting Period is after they bloom.  At that point they need to have less water; cooler temperatures; darker location and perhaps a summer vacation outside in a sheltered spot, img_0044hopefully safe from snails.  This can be difficult to offer a plant for many people, meaning that blooms may not be as prolific.  I’m sure that is what happened to mine!  Window sillWe live in a small apartment with limited exposure to sun on the window space.   It did NOT get outside this summer-next summer it will!!!  I’d check the soil every two weeks or so in our Pacific Northwest climate to be sure it doesn’t get TOO dry.  They can stay outside until temperatures drop below 50*.
  • Blooming Period-as soon as buds appear, cut back on the water, and don’t allow the temperature to drop below 55*.

So, there you have it.  I hope all these tips help you deal with Grandma’s Christmas (or whatever) Cactus.  It shouldn’t die on YOUR watch if you pay attention to all the advice I’ve given you here.

Maybe this is the year to make cuttings for next Christmas and give each family member their own piece of that family “heirloom”!  Enjoy!

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If you have read my last post, you know I’ve had some issues with my Christmas Cactus looking a bit bedraggled.  I have watered it HEAVILY over the past week or so.  I think that MAY have been the issue.  It seems to be less wilted looking.  Some of the leaves that were really drooping, have seemingly come back to life.  There is a bit of “plumpness” there, which makes me very happy!

It’s hard to know what to do when one direction says, “water generously” and the other indicates it likes to be kept on the dry side!  I think the issue is that it has to be amply watered FIRST.  Once it’s feeling well watered, THEN it would be wise to let it kind of dry out between waterings.  I’ll keep working on this issue!

I’ll check into a few websites that address the watering and note them here:

Caring for a Christmas Cactus has a good section on watering.  You might want to read that (along with me!)

Here’s a good one, although it’s commercial and would love to sell you a Christmas Cactus, it also has a good description of how to care for it.

This one has beautiful pictures, and a good watering section concerning that Schlumbergera.

They helped me a bit.  I hope they do the same for you!

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