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Decorating for the Holidays With a Christmas Cactus - Care and Forced Blooming

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Winter Rose 2007

Winter Rose 2007

Christmas Cactus Has More Than One Alias

The Christmas Cactus goes by many names. It is also called a Thanksgiving Cactus, Holiday Cactus and Crab Cactus. The genus is Schlumbergera, a cactus with six species originating on the coastal mountains in Brazil. The blooms flower in several colors; white, orange, yellow, pink, red and violet. They grow in their natural environment on trees or rocks and may get large enough to form shrubs. The flowers are pollinated by hummingbirds and require cross pollination to seed.The Christmas Cactus was first cultivated in Europe in 1818 and used as decorative greenhouse vegetation. Their popularity overseas did not spread until the 1950's.

The Christmas Cactus became a popular holiday plant because it blooms from the beginning of September to February. The blooms have festive colored flowers which appeal to people when decorating. The Christmas Cactus can be displayed nicely in festive pots as a centerpiece for a holiday table. It drapes well in hanging pots and white or red blooms go nicely with holiday decor. It is also becoming a holiday tradition because it is easy to care for and blooms are easily forced to coincide with Christmas. Although the poinsettia is one of the most commonly purchased plants during the holidays, Christmas Cactus is becoming a traditional holiday plant as well. Unlike a poinsettia, Christmas Cactus is not poisonous to cats or dogs. According to ASPCA.org the Schlumbergera or Christmas cactus is non-toxic to dogs and also non-toxic to cats.

When to Force Blooms

Start to force blooms in October or the early beginning November. When you want to force a Christmas cactus to bloom begin by limiting the amount of water the plant receives. Cut down on watering just enough to allow the soil to remain slightly moist. Water only when the topmost layer of soil is dry when touched. Dormancy is critical for getting a Christmas cactus to bloom. To further force a Christmas cactus to bloom, you’ll need to move the plant where it will receive about 12-14 hours of darkness. Bright and indirect light during the day is ok, however, a Christmas cactus requires at least 12 hours of darkness at night in order to encourage bud development. Placing it in a closet for 12 hours is a helpful tip.

Enjoy giving and receiving Christmas Cactus. They are festive holiday plant that is enjoyed by many and is a welcome plant since it will not poison a family cat or dog. Make a Christmas Cactus a fantastic poinsetta replacement this holiday season.

Planting and Care

Planting a Christmas cactus is easy. Choose a pot or container with ample drainage. A Christmas cactus will grow in a variety of containers and enjoys moist soil. Indoor temperatures should be above 60 degrees, however the plant thrives at a daytime temperature of 70 degrees. During the summer, your plant can be moved outdoors,choose a shady spot and remember to bring the plant back indoors when temperatures reach 50 degrees.

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To care for your Christmas cactus, remember to water it when the top layer of soil feels dry and dump out any water that collects in the bottom of the container's tray. You can fertilize the plant every 2 weeks during spring to autumn and feed it at least monthly through late fall and winter. If you wish to trim your plant, do so in early summer. Save the cuttings for rooting and replanting. Cuttings can be rooted in vermiculite and transplanted to pots once the roots have established.

To force blooms and flowers, reduce the amount of sunlight that your Christmas cactus is receiving. It will take approximately six weeks to reestablish blooms on your plant. Keep the plant in a dark area like a closet or cover it for 14 hours per day and make sure the temperature is around 55 degrees during this time period. Blossoms will drop off the plant if it is stressed by too much light, not enough moisture or severe temperatures. Following the tips above to force blooms will have your plant healthy and flowering again in no time!

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