No thorns, just glory – the picture-perfect cactus plant, more commonly known as the Christmas Cactus, promises to reward you with an array of bold, hot-hued blooms. When cared for correctly, this shrub will thrive in the majority of home environments with little care and can grow to a size of 20 cm.
Native to Brazil, where it typically grows in the rainforest, the Christmas Cactus (botanical name, Schlumbergera bridgesii) is extremely easy to care for and propagates easily, meaning you can gift one to all of your friends and family throughout the festive period.
It’s the perfect addition to the home and office, especially throughout the winter season, and can return year after year when cared for correctly.
In order to promote healthy growth, this plant requires moderate care and has the ability to adapt to various light conditions, including those of a lower level. For best results and to ensure plentiful blooms, plant in an area boasting brighter light – just avoid direct sunshine as this can burn the leaves.
How to plant
The first step to embracing the Christmas cactus is understanding how and where to plant it. This particular species of plant is easily propagated and involves removing a short segment in a Y-shape from the stem tips. It is important to remove this cutting from only healthy plant foliage.
The next step involves planting this segment in sandy soil around a quarter of its length deep. Once secure, place the cutting in a well-lit area and add water. When choosing your plant’s location, avoid areas with direct sunlight.
When it comes to root cuttings for brand new shrubs, remove the shoots from the tips, at the second joint of each tip. In just a few weeks, the cuttings should begin to showcase signs of new growth. It is at this point, you can transport your plant into a new vessel, with a looser potting soil if you wish to, comprising a combination of loam, compost, and sand.
Moisture levels are an extremely important consideration for all plants. This shrub necessitates regular and thorough watering, especially during the spring and summer when growth levels are at their most active. This is when soil levels should be constantly moist.
During the winter, ensure your Christmas cactus moisture levels drop and allow the soil to dry out between watering – however, you’ll want to ensure the soil never dries out entirely. Similarly, avoid overwatering as this can cause root rot. You may also wish to add a milder fertilizer solution to the plant’s soil every other week.
When deciding where to place your Christmas cactus, opt for areas boasting temperatures of between 15°C (60°F) and 21°C (70°F), as well as medium to high humidity levels.
To boost humidity, try placing a tray of pebbles brimming with water below the pot containing your Christmas cactus. This is a simple means of providing enough moisture without having to worry about overwatering the roots.
The Dormancy Cycle: When the Christmas cactus has stopped flowering (this usually occurs in the autumn months), you should enable the shrub to start its dormancy cycle. You can initiate this by reducing moisture, temperature, and light levels.
You should ensure the shrub gets between 12 and 14 hours of darkness per day and is placed in an area boasting an average temperature of 10°C (50°F) – 12°C (55°F) and away from draughts. When privy to the correct care and placed in the right location, the Christmas cactus can showcase additional blooming cycles over the year.