Schlumbergera or Christmas cactus by its more well-known name, is one of the few houseplants that prefers to flower in winter, when the air is cooler. Nevertheless, it may need help to bloom every year around the winter holiday,s. In the following, we will present some tricks used by flower growers so you can enjoy the pretty, crisp blooms this winter holiday.
Did you know that this small cactus that blooms so beautifully around Christmas has been grown in pots since the early 1800s? Christmas cactus loves cold winter air and cloudy days, doesn’t like sun at all, and needs a sheltered spot where no drafts will reach at any time of the day. It is a rather delicate and pretentious plant, so growers have to use all sorts of tricks to convince it to bloom just around the holidays. Here’s how you can help your Christmas cactus to bloom in November and December.
Christmas cactus is actually a succulent plant
Even though the stems of the plant resemble the stalks of desert cacti, Christmas “cactus” is actually a succulent plant native to the colder mountain areas of Brazil. It grows under shady trees in mountain forests, and can withstand neither the sun nor the strong heat. In summer, it feels the best in temperatures of 20 to 22 degrees Celsius, while in winter an average temperature of 10 degrees Celsius stimulates the plant to produce flower buds.
Light is essential to help Christmas cactus blossom in winter
Schlumbergera does not tolerate sunshine in any form, and therefore it should be kept in a shady place during the summer. In winter, on the other hand, it needs a well-lit place in the morning, preferably on the balcony, where the sun does not reach, but there is plenty of light to stimulate flowering.
Christmas cactus is a succulent plant, but be careful with water!
Whoever has had a Christmas cactus already knows how finicky these plants are when it comes to water. Schlumbergera is a succulent plant that can retain a large amount of water in its thick stems. Therefore, it is good to water it when the soil in the pot has dried almost to a two-fingers depth on the surface. Do not water too often and do not keep the soil always moist, because the stems and roots may rot.
The soil in the pot should have sand mixed in it
It is very important that every year you replace the top soil with a fresh batch, rich in humus and nutrients and well mixed with sand. Sand has essential minerals needed by the Christmas cactus, and it also helps the water drain quickly, thus preventing the appearance of mold.
Add liquid nutrient 4 times a year
Plant food for succulents with a ratio of 20-20-20 NPK is all your plant needs to bloom richer in winter. Mix the nutrient solution in water in spring, summer and twice in autumn, to stimulate the appearance of flower buds.
Another little secret
Leave the plant in the dark for almost 3 weeks and water less frequently in September. In October, move the plant to a well-lit place in the morning and water as usual. This way, you will trick the plant into making buds that will bloom even at Christmas!