x buckleyi - Christmas Cactus
This most striking flowering gift plant is actually a member of the
Cactus family. A curious plant, it grows on the trees in the tropical rain
forest. It is well loved for its stunning display of brightly colored flowers
that appear during the Christmas season. Schlumbergera can be distinguished
from the other epiphytic cacti; S. gaertneri and Zygocactus truncatus in
that its stem segments have scalloped margins and the blooms form only
at the stem tips.
Light: Christmas Cactus prefer to grow in very bright light
conditions with at least two hours of winter sunlight, but no direct sun
Watering: Water thoroughly when the top few inches of soil
feels completely dry. After 15 minutes remove all excess water from the
Temperature: Low night temperatures are preferable in growing
Christmas cactus. To encourage Christmas cactus to set buds in autumn,
keep the night temperature between 45° and 55°F. If the night temperature
can be kept consistently low, flower buds will be produced regardless of
day length provided.
To prevent bud drop, avoid drafts and large temperature fluctuations,
keep humidity high and water correctly. Avoid moving plants from one site
Humidity: Unlike desert cacti, the jungle cacti thrive when
extra humidity is provided. To achieve more moisture, stand the plants
on a tray of pebbles that are kept moistened and/or use a humidifier.
Feeding: During the growing season, between March and September,
Christmas cactus benefits from weekly feedings of a dilute soluble fertilizer
high in potassium. When flower buds have formed, discontinue fertilizing.
Transplanting: Christmas cactus grows best in clay pots. Re-pot
only when necessary into a pot that is 1-1½" larger in diameter.
The best soil mix is one part shredded peat moss, one part sterilized houseplant
potting soil, and one part sand.
Propagation: Take 3-4" stem cuttings in spring or summer.
Remove the cuttings from the tips down and allow them to harden off for
a few days. Dip the hardened-off cuttings into rooting hormone and plant
into a moistened light soil mix. After cuttings develop 1-2" roots pot
them individually into 3" pots.
Maintenance: Remove the dead flowers after flowering and the
stem tips to encourage branching and more flowers to develop at the ends
of each stem.
Special Note: Since flowering is related to day length and
night temperature, the Christmas cactus can be coaxed into bloom. If the
plant is kept outdoors for the summer, the cool night temperatures (50-55°F)
of early fall will usually force buds to set before you bring it indoors.
On those plants kept indoors, flower buds will form if the night temperature
is maintained at 50-55°F. If the temperature is between
55 and 70°F, 13 hours of uninterrupted darkness will produce
buds. In order to accomplish the dark periods; cover the plants with a
black cloth during the night from 6pm to 7am daily. Placing the plant in
a totally dark closet is another possibility but the temperature may be
over 70°F. In order to induce flowering, the darkness must be maintained
for 6-9 weeks.
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