|Friday Five: Making Sure Your Christmas Cactus Blooms|
|Written by Heleigh Bostwick Friday, 14 October 2011|
Christmas cactus (Schlumbergera bridgesii) is one of those plants (like Amaryllis) that blooms during the month of December--hence the name Christmas cactus. Here are a few tips to make sure your Christmas cactus does indeed produce beautiful blooms during the holiday season.
1. During the growing season keep temperatures between 70 and 80 degrees
Christmas cactus is native to Brazil so it prefers warm temperatures during the vegetative growing season. Temperatures, particularly at night should be cooler to initiate flower development (see below).
2. Use well-drained, sterile potting soil that contains sand
Well-drained soil is very important to Christmas cactus survival; however, most potting soil is very light in weight. Christmas cactus flowers at the end of the branches and can become quite top heavy (meaning the vegetative part weighs more than the root system) causing the plant to tip over if the potting medium is also very light. Adding sand to the mix stabilizes the pot.
3. Donít overwater
As with many plants, overwatering will cause the roots to rot. Do let the Christmas cactus dry out between waterings, but not so much that itís dusty and parched!
4. Shorten the daylight period to 9 or 10 hours
In other words, Christmas cactus needs 14 to 15 hours of uninterrupted darkness--key word: uninterrupted--in order to trigger flower development. Ideally, you should start doing this in mid-September if you want your Christmas cactus to bloom during the holidays; however, it can be later in the season if you want to add a bit of color to your life in January or February.
5. Maintain night temperatures between 55 and 60 degrees
Temperatures below 55 degrees F. may cause less than optimal flower performance and keeping temperatures above 70 degrees F. tends to inhibit bud development all together.