Care Instructions Christmas Cactus
Known for years as Zygocactus, the Christmas cactus has been reclassified as Schlumbergera. Its stems are segmented and flat and are pendulous when bearing the typically pink, magenta or reddish-orange colored blossoms. It is native to tropical rain forests where it grows as an epiphyte, attaching itself by its roots to trees and shrubs rather than rooting into the ground.Placement:
Christmas cactus grow well at normal temperatures, 55º to 75ºF. When temperatures will not drop below 40º F, the cactus may be situated outdoors in a shady spot in a patio or under a tree and returned indoors before the first frost. Indoors, place your plant near a window to receive moderate indirect light or a maximum of 2 hours morning sun or filtered sunlight but never direct hot midday sun. Too much sunlight will turn the leaves yellow.
Christmas cacti grow best with at least 50% humidity. They should be misted frequently or placed in a tray filled with pebbles and water added to a level just below the tops of the pebbles. The pot should not be in contact with the water in the tray. As water evaporates from the tray, the air around the plant is humidified.
A common problem experienced with Christmas cacti is flower buds dropping before blooming. To prevent this premature bud drop, protect the plant from drafts and rapid temperature fluctuations after the buds are set. Avoid moving or rotating the plant once the flower buds are showing color. Proper watering and providing extra humidity are most important when the cactus is in bud.
Keep the soil of your plant evenly moist, not soggy and never allow it to dry out completely. Apply water to the soil until water flows freely from the drain holes in the pot. Allow the top 1 1/2" of soil to dry before watering again, checking with your finger to determine soil moisture. Over or underwatering during flower bud formation and the blooming period may cause bud drop. If your tap water is high in minerals or has been through a water softener, use collected rain water or distilled water for all watering.
Christmas cactus are susceptible to scale insects, spidermites and mealy bugs. Spray with a house plant insecticide according to label directions. Test spray one branch and observe one day later to prevent any possible pesticide damage to your cactus. As an alternate to spraying, dip a cotton swab in rubbing alcohol and dab onto the insects, or wash the plant with a soft cloth in mildly soapy water, protecting the soil by covering it with plastic or aluminum foil.
Your Christmas cactus has arrived in bud. Here are some tips to get it to bloom in future years. Flower formation is affected by temperature and day length. Flower buds will form in early fall if the temperature is between 55º and 70ºF and the plant receives 13 hours of uninterrupted darkness every night.
If the temperature is between 70º and 75ºF, the plant will need 15 hours of uninterrupted darkness every 24 hours for a period of six to nine weeks. To insure that the plant doesn’t receive any artificial light which would delay flowering, it may be covered each night with a black cloth or a black plastic sheet or placed into a light-free closet for the required time. Do not leave the plant in darkness for 24 hours. Following the nightly dark period a Christmas cactus requires bright light.
If night temperatures where the cactus is situated are maintained at 50º-55ºF., flowers bud will develop regardless of day length.
Plant material, such as this product, should not be eaten. While most plants are harmless, some contain toxins.