Christmas cactus has attractive leaves with beautiful flowers. Although the main roots of this plant go back to the tropics, you can buy it at any time of the year and grow it indoors as a houseplant. Christmas cactus is almost easy to care for and a little care is enough to see its colorful blooms on cold winter days and Christmas days! Continue reading this article in TooPlant in order to learn more about how to grow and care for Christmas cactus.
Introduction of Christmas Cactus (Holiday Cactus)
Before addressing how to care for Christmas cactus, please allow us to give you a brief introduction about this houseplant.
|Botanical Name||Schlumbergera x buckleyi|
|Native||Coastal mountains of south-eastern Brazil|
|Common Name(s)||Christmas cactus, holiday cactus, crab cactus|
Christmas cactus together with Poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima) and Norfolk Island pine trees and spruce are some of the most popular winter plants. Unlike drought-tolerant desert cacti, the Christmas cactus is native to tropical rainforests and needs regular watering to maintain its freshness and health.
The flat leaves of this cactus are essentially stem-like sections that hang beautifully from the pot. The flowers of this houseplant grow at the tips of the leaves, so the more stems your plant has, the more flowers it will produce. The flowers of most cacti are usually red; But the holiday cactus can also bloom pink, purple and orange flowers.
In short, in order to take care of and maintain the Christmas cactus, we must say that During the care of the Christmas cactus to encourage the plant to flower more, grow your Christmas cactus as a hanging plant or place it in a place where there is enough space for the leaves to spread and hang. The good thing about the Christmas cactus is that, unlike most other cacti, you do not have to worry about its sharp blades when you touch it!
In this article, we want to provide you with information about how to care for Christmas cactus. To find answer to the question “how do you care for a Christams cactus?” stay tuned with Tooplant.
Care for Christmas Cactus
In this part, we will focus on the most important aspects which you need to take into consideration while treating this houseplant. To find answer to the question “how do you take care of a Christams cactus?” read the following part:
Christmas Cactus Light Requirements: What light is best for Christmas cactus?
Light is among the first important issues to care for Christmas cactus. Holiday cactus prefers relative shade or filtered light; Of course, this houseplant can quickly get used to other light and environmental conditions, but it is better to keep it in an environment with indirect light, so make sure you sufficiently provide the Christmas cactus light requirements.
However, if you want to expose it to direct sunlight, do so only during the winter months, as too much sunlight in the spring and summer can cause the plant to turn yellow and pale.
Above, we tried to discuss all the details related to the Christmas cactus light requirements since it plays a significant role in order to care for Christmas cactus.
Christmas Cactus Watering: How often should you water a Charismas cactus?
In the rest, concerning the tips of caring for a Christmas cactus, it is better to know that although this houseplant is a cactus, its tropical background makes it thirstier for water than its counterparts. So, water the Christmas cactus regularly during maintenance. The important thing to keep in mind when watering a Christmas cactus is to allow excess water to drain through the drainage holes under the pot when watering. In addition, the soil should be completely dry between waterings. Of course, if the soil is too dry, the leaves will begin to wilt and wrinkle.
Regarding how often you water your plant, it depends on the environmental conditions in which your Christmas cactus is kept. For example, during a hot and sunny summer, you should water the plant almost twice a week. Or, for example, if you put a Christmas cactus next to a skylight window in the winter, you may need to water it once a week.
To find out when your holiday cactus soil is dry and needs watering, dip your finger about 5 cm into the soil. If you feel the soil is dry, water the plant. Otherwise, avoid watering the plant, as overwatering will kill your cactus.
In this way, to care for Christmas cactus, watering is considered to be of great significance.
Christmas Cactus Soil: What is the best soil for a Christmas cactus?
Regarding the soil which is suitable for maintaining the Christmas cactus, we must say that the type of soil is not a vital factor for this houseplant. Christmas cactus has a high adaptability to different types of soil and can grow well in different soils. It is interesting to know that this plant grows in its original nature as an epiphysis (aerial).
However, in the case of holiday cactus soil, we can say that this plant can grow well in sandy, perlite-containing, potting (multi-purpose) and cactus-specific soils. For best growth, soil pH should be between 5.5 and 6.2. Therefore, peat moss can be a suitable additive to have an environment with more acidity.
Thus, it can be said that, soil is another basic and important issue so as to care for Christmas cactus.
Christmas Cactus Temperature Tolerance
Now, we come to temperature which is assumed to be principal to care for Christmas cactus in addition to light, watering and soil that are mentioned above.
When it comes to temperature, the Christmas cactus gets a little tougher! During the peak months of its growth (April to September), this houseplant prefers a pleasant temperature between 21 to 26 degrees Celsius, and after the buds are established, the plant should have a lower temperature of 12 to 18 °C at night and at least 13 hours of darkness to enhance its blooming.
During the maintenance of Christmas cactus, keep it away from doors and windows that are constantly opening and closing. This houseplant does not tend to experience a sudden decrease or increase in temperature, and this can lead to the loss of buds and flowers.
Christmas Cactus Humidity: Does holiday cactus like humidity?
Moisture is another thing which we need to inevitably pay attention to when talking about how to care for Christmas cactus.
Christmas cactus is one of the cacti that needs moisture to live, especially when it grows in dry areas or spends the winter in a warm environment. You can provide the required moisture for the holiday cactus by spraying water on the leaves or placing the plant pot on a tray containing water and pebbles. Just make sure the bottom of the pot does not come in contact with water. 50% humidity is enough for this plant. If the humidity is high, the risk of fungal diseases increases.
Therefore, please do not forget to take humidity into consideration in order to care for Christmas cactus in the best way.
Christmas Cactus Fertilizer: What is the best fertilizer for a Christmas cactus?
When you want to care for Christmas cactus, one of the important questions that may come to your mind is “what is the best fertilizer?” In what follows, we will address how to fertilize this plant:
Schlumbergera x buckleyi (Christmas cactus) needs fertilization for better growth. Therefore, during the spring and summer, strengthen your Christmas cactus once a month with a balanced fertilizer diluted in water and twice the recommended amount. For example, if on the package is written that you should dilute every 10 milliliters of fertilizer in one liter of water, you need to double the amount of water, i.e., 2 liters. Make sure to stop fertilizing when you notice the flower buds – usually in late summer or early autumn.
As a result, we could say that fertilizer is regarded as one of the fundamental issues when someone wants to care for Christmas cactus.
Christmas Cactus Toxicity: Are Christmas cactus poisonous to humans and pets?
In order to care for Christmas cactus, toxicity is considered to be a major issue because it directly relates to your health especially children and pets.
This houseplant has little poison and children should not touch it. Its harmful effects can include nausea and diarrhea. In some cases, touching Christmas cactus may be a cause of depression, but no signs of poisoning have been reported after consuming this plant.
Christmas Cactus Repotting: How to repot holiday cactus?
If you want to learn how to repot a Christmas cactus, it is necessary to notice that Christmas cactus does not need frequent repotting and every 3 to 4 years is enough for it. During the care of the holiday cactus, if you notice that the roots are coming out of the drainage holes under the pot, it is time to repot. This powerful succulent tends to experience slight compaction of the roots, so constantly repotting can damage the plant.
Unlike other houseplants whose repotting should be done after the emergence of newly-grown parts in the spring, the Christmas cactus repotting should be done after blooming and wilting ends, i.e. in late winter or early spring. Remember to never move this plant during its active growth and blooming and be patient to repot.
To choose and buy a pot, keep in mind that the best pot for a Christmas cactus is a clay pot. Clay pots with their porous structure help to circulate air around the roots and quickly remove excess water that accumulates in the soil due to overwatering. The pot of your choice should have multiple drainage holes or a large hole in its bottom surface.
In addition to choosing a clay pot, choose a pot whose radius is only 2.5 to 5 cm larger than the previous pot; Because choosing a very large pot can become a breeding ground for insects and pests by maintaining excessive moisture in the soil, and the plant can face many diseases.
Christmas Cactus Pruning: How to prune Christmas cactus?
Another thing to keep in mind when caring for a Christmas cactus is pruning it. Prune the holiday cactus (schlumbergera x buckleyi) immediately after blooming. When the plant enters a new growth period and expands its newly-grown parts, pruning forces the plant to form new branches and produce more attractive stems.
To prune a Christmas cactus, you can twist the stems you want to prune, or do so with a sharp, sterilized knife or scissors. Every year you can finally remove one third of the plant in the pruning process. Remember to trim the tip of one or two pieces of the stem if you wish to do more.
Propagating Christmas Cactus: How to propagate Christmas cactus?
When you want to care for Christmas cactus, another important question that may come to your mind is “how to propagate it.”
During the maintenance of the Christmas cactus, the best time to propagate it is one to two months after the end of blooming. Separating the cuttings from the Christmas cactus (whether large or small) will help the plant grow more densely and lead to more blooms. The best way to propagate a Christmas cactus is to propagate by stem cuttings. The best way of how to root Christmas cactus and propagate it is by stem cuttings. To do this, you must follow the steps below:
- Remove the stems you want to propagate by twisting or using a disinfected knife or scissors.
- Take a pot and fill it with suitable soil such as cactus soil, ordinary flower soil or sand/peat mixture.
- Plant the cuttings at a depth of 2.5 cm from moist soil. Rooting takes about 2 to 3 weeks.
- Then water the plant gently and allow the potting soil to dry between waterings.
- After planting the Christmas cactus in the soil, you have to wait until its root system is fully formed and established. Therefore, it is better to wait 8 to 10 weeks and then transfer the cuttings to its permanent home. The best evidence for a proper root system is the emergence of new leaves or the growth of new stems.
A few tips on propagating holiday cactus
- Depending on your choice, you can put the cuttings in water before planting them in the soil to take root there. For this purpose, put the cuttings about 2.5 to 5 cm in the water from the cut part. Then place it next to a window with indirect sunlight. Then leave the cuttings in water until the rooting is done well and the root size is enough. It should be noted that for planting cuttings in the soil, the root length should be at least 2.5 to 5 cm.
- Each stem that you cut from the mother plant should be made up of at least 1 to 4 parts.
- The separated parts should be placed in a dry and cool place for 2 to 4 days. The cuttings should remain in the same place until the cutting site is repaired and dried and then planted in the soil, as this will prevent it from rotting.
- Avoid propagating this plant in the autumn (when the plant is still growing buds and undergoing active growth).
In the above section, we sought to provide you with the necessary information on how to root Christmas cactus and propagate it point by point, hoping that all your questions have been resolved.
Common Pests and Diseases
To answer the question “how do you take care of a Christmas cactus?” we must say that Christmas cactus (holiday cactus), like any other plant, can be exposed to disease or pests.
The most common pests and insects that attack Christmas cactus are flower thrips, aphids, spider mites and mealybugs. To prevent these pests from invading, do not overwater your Christmas cactus, as wet soil is the main cause and attractor of insects and pests.
If your holiday cactus is infested with pests, insecticidal soaps and oil gardens are usually effective in relieving insect problems. It should be noted that if the number of pests is low, they will be eliminated by using an alcohol-soaked tissue or ear cleaner, and you will not necessarily need insecticidal chemicals. During the care of the Christmas cactus, keep in mind that this plant will not survive a widespread infection and may need to be discarded, especially if it has other plants nearby. As a result, be sure to check your Christmas cactus regularly and avoid overwatering it.
After the pests, it’s time for Christmas cactus diseases. Christmas cactus is susceptible to fungal diseases. These diseases occur when the plant is overwatered. As a result, avoid overwatering the plant not only to prevent pests but also to prevent fungal infections.
Fusarium and Phytophthora are two common fungi in the Christmas cactus that can cause stem rot. Stem rot caused by Fusarium fungus leads to brown spots on the stem close to the soil surface. Phytophthora is also deadly. Therefore, although a Christmas cactus infected with Fusarium fungus may be treated (if the infection is detected early), it is often very difficult to deal with fungal infections in this type of cactus and eventually lead to the death of the holiday cactus. If your Christmas cactus is infected with the fungus, if the plant soil is too wet, allow it to dry first. Then use a fungicide to kill the fungus according to the instructions on the package.
Caring for Christmas Cactus: Common Problems With Christmas Cactus
Christmas cactus is a long-lived plant that is sensitive to temperature and humidity. If you keep it at a temperature above freezing, it will continue to grow strongly. As the name implies, in the middle of cold winter days you have to wait for it to bloom. For this reason, providing the right temperature for it can be difficult and can cause problems for the plant. Therefore, in the following, we will explain the problems and their solutions during taking care of the Christmas cactus:
Yellowed, Spotted, or Wilting Leaves or Stems
As “yellowed, spotted or wilting leaves” is one of the common problems that you may face when you want to care for Christmas cactus, we will try to describe the reasons and the ways to solve it in details.
If you experience yellowing of leaves and stems, the appearance of spots on them or wilting of the plant, thoroughly examine the plant for the presence of thrips. Thrips are small, crab-like black-silver insects. Leaf and stem damage is not caused directly by thrips, but by viruses that are transmitted to the plant by these insects. If you notice thrips in your Christmas cactus, get rid of them with insecticide soap or garden oil.
It is better to remove the plant from its previous pot and plant it in a new and disinfected pot with fresh potting soil. In addition to thrips, wilting can be caused by lack of light, improper watering, or excessive root compression. Therefore, if you notice yellowing, spots or wilting of leaves and stems, consider these cases and make the necessary changes.
Why is my Christmas cactus appearance stunting or its growth distorting?
If you find that your Christmas cactus is stunted, check the different parts for mealybugs. Mealybugs look like white and small cotton dots a few millimeters long. This pest moves slowly and usually first appears on the surface of the leaves in dark, hot and humid places near the central stem of the cactus. This insect feeds on the sap in the plant and leaves a compound called “honeydew” that will cause mold on the plant.
Since “stunted appearance or growth distortion” is another common problem that you may face when you want to care for Christmas cactus, we tried to describe the reasons and the ways to solve it in details.
Why Are Holiday Cactus Leaves Turning Red Or Pink?
During the maintenance of Christmas Cactus, if your plant’s leaves have turned red or pink, it is likely that the problem is due to excessive sunlight or lack of water. So, to solve this problem, if you have placed the Christmas cactus next to a skylight window with direct sunlight, bring it to a point where it receives light indirectly. If it has dried to a depth of 2.5 cm from the soil surface, water it sufficiently.
Does Christmas Cactus Bloom?
Under suitable environmental conditions, Christmas cactus will start blooming 18 months after sowing the seeds. Each flower stays open for at least 6 days. The Christmas cactus will continue its blooming process for 4 to 6 weeks. Christmas cactus flowers are attractive and colorful, but have no fragrance. The best way to ensure that blooming continues in winter is to remove the faded flowers or deadheading or cut the tips of the stems.
In order to see your Christmas cactus blooming during Christmas, you have to make your plant go dormant. To do this, follow the steps below:
- In early November, reduce the amount of watering (approximately once or twice a week) and water the plant only when 2.5 cm of soil has been dried.
- In addition to reducing watering, stop fertilizing.
- Place your Christmas cactus in a cool place (10 to 12 degrees Celsius) and limit the amount of light it receives for about 6 to 8 weeks. In this regard, we must say that during the day the plant can receive indirect sunlight, but it must also spend 12 to 14 hours in the darkness at night.
- Remember to increase the dark hours if the room temperature is warmer than 12 degrees.
- If light shines on the plant during the 12 hours of darkness at night, cover the plant with a dark cloth.
- Once the buds have been formed, move the plant near a skylight window. Make sure that the Christmas cactus is not placed near any heating device, otherwise, the buds and blooms will drop.
Caring for the Christmas cactus in the winter
If you live in an area with a warm and temperate climate, you can also keep this tropical plant outdoors in the winter. Christmas cactus can withstand temperatures of around 15 degrees at night, but the plant is not resistant to the cold in winter. Therefore, any temperature and situation that is even close to frost will cause the death and destruction of the plant. Therefore, if you live in an area with cold and icy winters, bring the plant indoors before the first cold wave and keep the soil slightly dry.
It should be noted that during the maintenance of the Christmas cactus, a little cold air is needed for it because the low temperature of the air stimulates the production of buds. If the maintenance conditions of the Christmas cactus are good, you should see the formation and emergence of buds in November.
Infographic Of How To Care For Christmas cactus
In this article, we tried to explain to you in an infographic the essential tips in the care of Christmas cactus, so if you want to find the answer to the question “how do you care for a Christams cactus?” see the infographic in which we briefly explained the methods of caring for this plant.
In The End
In this article, we tried to provide you with the necessary information about the methods of caring for a Christmas cactus.
However, if you have any questions regarding this indoor plant or you need to get advice from our houseplant experts, please share your questions with us through the comments section below.
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