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The Beauty and Ease of Growing a Christmas Cactus

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christmas_cactus2_300As our days are getting shorter and winter creeps in, light is becoming scarce. Perhaps that’s why the Christmas cactus, also known as Holiday cactus and Thanksgiving cactus, blooms at this time of year. It is considered a short-day plant and requires 12-14 hours of total darkness in order to bloom. There is no legend like that of the Christmas tree or the poinsettia associated with the Christmas Cactus. It simply just blooms during the holidays and provides a brilliant spray of red, pink, orange or white flowers.

Much different from its desert dwelling relatives, the Christmas cactus is native to Brazil. As a tropical cacti it thrives in a moist and misty climate and when found in the wild, it is an epiphyte, a non -parasitic plant that grows upon another plant such as a tree. It gathers its moisture and nutrients from the rain, air and debris around it as opposed to the structure it sits on itself. No wonder it does so well here in our Houston weather. It loves our humidity.

cactus_690It’s possible to force a Christmas cactus to bloom by introducing it to cool temperatures, lower than 55 degrees F, for 6-8 weeks. But as a houseplant inside your home it is happy at room temperatures between 70-80 degree F and in a location with bright light. They are a plant that thrives on neglect and prefers moderately dry soil. Only water it once the soil is completely dry. It won’t do well sitting in water logged soil.  If you set it in a location with a lot of drafts, it will respond by dropping its buds and flowers. So keep it away from doors. Give the plant a light prune after its done flowering and fertilize it monthly with a diluted water soluble fertilizer. Refrain however from fertilizing during its blooming season.

The gift of plants is one that keeps on giving. As a gorgeous tropical cactus that adores neglect, perhaps this is the perfect gift for your friend who says she “can’t keep anything alive.” Stop into Buchanan’s today to see our exquisite holiday selection of Christmas cacti, along with poinsettias and cyclamen. Give a gift that keeps on growing!

Ebony Porter

Having inherited green thumbs from a long line of farmers and gardeners, Ebony is a writer, quilter, painter and gardening enthusiast living in Houston. She is originally from Australia.

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