A few years back I brought a lovely little “Thanksgiving Cacti” set of plants nestled in a double wicker basket to my host’s Thanksgiving dinner celebration. I had long forgotten about this gift until I was visiting the home a week before Thanksgiving this year. Sitting in their living room having coffee, I commented on the stunning 2 Cacti beginning to bloom. I was then reminded these were the dynamic duo I brought to the home years ago. Lamenting on my lack of success with these lovely plants, my host indicated there was value in having 2 plants side by side. She swore there is an annual friendly competition in bloom production with these 2 plants. By keeping the 2 side by side…they feel the plants communicate and use their togetherness to try and outdo one another each year. I found this fascinating information…and worthy of my consideration in purchasing my own dynamic duo of holiday cacti! But in the meantime, perhaps a little information about these stunning holiday cacti and tips for sustaining them throughout the year, will help you avoid the indoor gardening mistakes I have made along my path of indoor gardening enlightenment.
This popular holiday gift plant is often the source of great debate among gardeners. One of the most frequently asked questions regarding this plant is “why is my Christmas Cactus not blooming?” Knowing the plant characteristics and growing habits is just as important here as it is with your outdoor gardens. Typically when you think of the cacti family you envision drought tolerant heat loving plants. Although a succulent (storing water in the leaves) Christmas Cacti grow more like a tropical. They retain their blooms longer in cooler temperatures free from drafts of heat or cold. Well that explains why my original plants did not perform near the woodstove 🙂 They tend to drop their buds before blooming under drafty conditions. They prefer well-lit locations….the more light, the more blooms.
Water requirements also differ for this cacti family member. Think tropical plant versus cactus. They need a bit more water than others in the family. Water when the top inch of soil is dry to the touch. Your environment will dictate the frequency. And most importantly DO NOT fertilize during bloom.
How does one sustain this plant for many years? I recall my grandmother’s stunning Christmas Cactus plant during our visits each year. And I do recall seeing that plant out on the front enclosed porch every spring and summer. I now know why! To sustain another year the plants need sunny indoor locations. In the late spring and summer you can bring them outdoors, but be sure to keep in a shade or semi shade location. They will actually tell you when they are receiving too much light outdoors as their leaves will turn a reddish color. Holiday cacti make for a nice complimentary plant on porches during the summer months here in the North Country. Begin a gradual transition back indoors late summer..perhaps on the porch during the day and indoors at night until the cold weather begins to settle in.
Well drained soil is a must for these plants. Do not allow it to become pot bound. As is the case with your outdoor gardens, holiday cacti respond to selective after bloom pruning with robust branching. You can easily propagate the plant by placing the cuttings in vermiculite! So you can have gift giving plants for next year!
Keep in mind, not all holiday cacti are equal! Many bloom at different times of year. Christmas cacti are distinguished by their scalloped stem sections and bloom at the stem tips. Thanksgiving bloomers boast 2-4pointy teeth along the edges of their sections. The Easter bloomers have rounded teeth along their segments and bloom primarily in the spring, but have been known to re-bloom at other times of the year.
Looking for an alternative to the traditional Poinsettia plant? Well here is a sustainable option that can provide you and your family with years of enjoyment and holiday sharing. Start a new holiday tradition. Would sure love to hear from readers who have their own “cacti competition” going! Plant whisperers?
Looking for other ways to “Keep Green Sustainable”? Follow our projects and programs on our Chips Landscaping Facebook Fan Page or visit our website: www.chipslandscaping.net In 2014 we will be launching our “Get Your Hands Dirty” campaign. Our answer to health care reform! Educate, Engage, Enjoy!