Care Tips for a Christmas Cactus

A popular winter-flowering houseplant that is easy to care for and propagate, makes
a wonderful addition to nearly any indoor setting and is a great holiday gift.

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The Christmas Cactus (or Schlumbergera bridgesii) is a popular, winter-flowering houseplant
that makes a great addition to nearly any indoor setting. The cactus blooms at Christmas and
also sometimes around Easter time if cared for properly. You will see the tips of the leaves
beginning to grow about a month before Christmas. The tips will grow darker as each day
passes, until a bud forms. At Christmas time, as if by charm, the buds open to a beautiful flower
that will add color and beauty to any holiday season.

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Nurturing 

In order to properly nurture your plant, you will need to give it a bright yet indirect light.
Keep it at a sunny spot, provided with the right amount of humidity. Water it with care,
as this is a tropical cactus it needs 50 to 60% humidity, less water is better than too much
water. Watch out for bud drops, these happen usually either because of over-watering,
lack of humidity or insufficient light. To provide humidity you can place the cactus container
on a trey of water filled with pebbles. Well-draining container is a must for Christmas cactus
as well as a well-drained soil.

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Fertilizing 

Add fertilizer to assist plant growth when the plant is about 2 to 3 weeks old. It should
be fertilized between 2 to 4 times a year. Stop feeding it about a month before the buds
appear, usually around the end of October.

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Growth Conditions 

The key to getting your cactus blooming during the holiday season is actually a proper light
exposure, correct temperature levels (50-55°F / 10-12°C) and limited watering.
Keep your cactus in the dark during the night and make sure it gets an indirect, bright light
during the day. When you start seeing flower buds forming, increase light and humidity levels.
Prune your Christmas Cactus approximately a month after blooming, it will encourage it to
branch out, do not water for about 30 days after the blooming, only when you notice new
growth it is possible to resume watering.

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Propagation 

Propagating a Christmas Cactus is easily done by cutting off a short Y-shaped section
of the stem, consisting of 2 or 3 joint segments. Dry them for a couple hours prior to
planting them into a small pot using the same potting soil as the parent cactus.
It is recommended to fertilize only after the new plant has sprouted at least one new
segment. In order to transfer your cactus from generation to generation as was done in
the past, re-pot it every 2-3 years. It is best done between February and April.
Don’t use a large pot, it flowers best when it’s pot-bound.

Good Luck!