Christmas cactus, scientifically known as Schlumbergera, is a fascinating plant that requires specific care and conditions to thrive. Unlike standard cacti, it lacks spines and originates from Brazil where it naturally grows on rocks and trees. A downside to this plant is that it's not very frost-resistant, which makes it ideal for indoor cultivation.
Creating the ideal conditions
The Schlumbergera needs certain conditions to thrive. First and foremost, it needs light, but be careful to avoid direct sunlight. When the plant starts showing its first floral buds, it's advisable not to move it. To maintain a compact shape, stems can be pinched after the plant flowers. It's worth noting that this cactus values stability and dislikes drafts or being placed next to a radiator. Nonetheless, during Summer, the plant can be taken outside if properly shielded from wind and sun.
When it comes to watering, moderation is a key aspect during the growth period. It's recommended to only water when the potting mix is dry, and avoid stagnant water in the pot. A sign of overwatering could be if the leaves begin to fall or start to yellow.
Feeding and soil
Feeding the Christmas cactus is a major aspect of its care. Use a cactus fertilizer from October through January to stimulate flowering. You can also use natural fertilizers like wood ash or coffee grounds. Once the flowering is over, remember to remove faded leaves. The plant prefers a mix of sand and heather soil, which should be light and well-drained.
You can propagate the Schlumbergera at any time, but it's advisable to do it after the plant flowers. Preferably use stems that have not flowered and cut 2-3 leaf segments, then allow them to dry for 48 hours. You can root the cuttings in water or potting mix. If you choose water, place the cutting in a pot with stones and add just 1-2cm of water. If you use a pot, apply some rooting hormone and place in a mix of potting mix and sand, burying a quarter of the stem.
For the Schlumbergera to blossom, stop watering for 2-3 weeks in late October/early November. This helps to encourage bud formation. The plant also needs a cool period to start flowering, so remember to place it in the coolest room. With meticulous care, your Christmas cactus can reward you with a beautiful bloom for the festive season.