ALL ABOUT CHRISTMAS CACTI – Marilyn Armstrong

More About The Christmas Cactus – Nov. 27, 2018

In the course of growing my Christmas Cactus, I get a lot of questions. Mostly, people whose cacti aren’t budding or blooming want to know why mine are budding and blooming.

Almost ready to bloom

There are a couple of things you need to know about Christmas Cacti.

First, they don’t do well in artificially lit rooms. They need to be near a window in a room that is not frequently used. In this case, it’s our dining room. We don’t do a lot of dinners anymore and it feels a little weird, just Garry and I at the big table. So we eat while we watch TV. It doesn’t limit the amount of cooking I do, but it’s a little more cozy, a little less formal.

Thinking about flowering

This means that the dining room is mostly used for … tada … growing plants. I’ve got a set of French doors where most of the plants grow, and the aloe is doing very well on top of the organ which no one plays — probably because it’s old, wheezy, and many of the keys don’t work.

I also have a big Philodendron in the kitchen. It’s the only plant that gets watered regularly. It virtually never flowers, though it is rather interesting when it does.

That’s the second part of forcing your Christmas Cacti to bloom.

Lots of buds!

Flowers are what plants create when they think they are going to die. It’s how they create new seeds for the next season. A plant that is well cared for and frequently watered doesn’t produce flowers. This is not only true of a Christmas cactus. It’s true of all flowering plants. Think about it. When a plant flowers, unless it’s a shrub, it dies back. Our daylilies bloom like mad and then, they die. They come back the following year, but blooming is the finale of their season.

But the cactus blooms and then continues to grow and will bloom again, rather more like a shrub than a flower.

This is going to be a pretty heavy bloom this year!

So to make your Christmas Cactus bloom, you need to keep it in a bright window. Not sunny, but bright. Water it ONLY when it is dry as a bone. Really dry. No dampness in the soil. If you water it when it’s got buds on it, they may very well fall off, so you have to control your normal human gardener’s instinct to nurture them.

A little impressionistic

Christmas Cactus are cactus. They need dry, sandy earth and very little water. This is true for all cactus and other succulent plants, as well as many plants that have succulent roots, like the dracaena, for example.

As for when they will bloom? Mine usually bloom together, but this year, one is full of buds and the other has none at all. It will bloom, but probably a few weeks after the larger one blooms. Why?

In bloom!

I don’t know. Despite all the discussion, they can bloom pretty much any time of the year and sometimes, several times a year. One of the really important things to know is that they don’t like being moved from a window where they bloomed to a different window. If they are happy where they are, try to leave them there.

Mostly, leave them alone. Very few houseplants die of underwatering, but many plants die of over-watering, too much re-potting, too much fertilizer, too much handling.

The truth about growing plants is so much simpler than people think. Find a window they like — bright but not full sun.Β  Water them when they get dry. Don’t water them when they are not dry. Mud does not provide oxygen to roots. Mud will make the roots of your plants rot.

Then, enjoy them. It isn’t hard to grow plants — even the recalcitrant cactus — but it can be really hard to leave them alone!

And if we ever get a sunny day, I may get some better pictures. We haven’t had a bright day in more than a week.

Author: Marilyn Armstrong

Writer, photography, blogger. Previously, technical writer. I am retired and delighted to be so. May I live long and write frequently.

21 thoughts on “ALL ABOUT CHRISTMAS CACTI – Marilyn Armstrong”

    1. Just make sure it gets natural light and only water it when it is completely dry. Also, remember, they have their own schedule, so you may get your flowers in July or February πŸ˜€

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  1. All good advice! Mine are putting on new leaves at the moment – they flowered early spring ( July).
    Hopefully we’ll get another bloom end of our Summer – we have NO problem letting them dry out completely, they are outside in smallish pots and they can be bone dry inside of a day!

    Hope you get some more Sun soon!

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      1. Hmmmmm… 18 inches? We haven’t even had that many MILLI-metres in Nov – and this has been the wettest year we have had for a long time!

        I suspect you have not seen the worst yet and i’m not hopeful that our Summer will be as mild as our Winter has been….. far from it. 😦

        Chin up!

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          1. A-men! πŸ˜‰

            Once the permafrost reaches tipping point and the oceans release more stored CO two it won’t be up to our chins – it’ll be up to the tree tops.

            You should be safe-ish in the mountains. If you had coastal property i’d strongly recommend a SELL. πŸ˜‰

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  2. Oh gosh. Mine is hanging in a bright window where we are all the time. Most of our house is that way. It is dry and watered occasionally. It had one bloom last year when it was in the entry way maybe I need to move it back.

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  3. Do tell me more about your organ, Marilyn. My father used to have an organ in the basement when I was a little kid. I think it was a pump organ that he had hopes of repairing at some point. Later we went through a series of electronic organs until he finally got his pipe organ. The pipe organ would hit you right in the chest it was so powerful and what a sound.
    Leslie

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    1. This one is just old and was never properly cared for. I got it from someone who has MS and needed it to have a home because she couldn’t give it away, so I wound up owning it. I can’t get rid of it either. It’s at least 30 years old and probably so full of dust and crud … and you can’t even read the number or letter on the keys. they’ve worn off!

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  4. How interesting. I agree about keeping them dry. Here in California the current wisdom is to put your Christmas Cactus in a dark place 2 weeks before you want it to bloom. It will force buds and bloom as soon as it comes back into the light. The more I ignore mine the more thy bloom. πŸ€·πŸΌβ€β™€οΈ

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    1. I’ve heard that too, but I think that’s desperation if it has been in a room where the lights are used at night. Our dining room is pretty much lighted by a window, so it isn’t usually necessary. But yeah. I can see that as a final desperate resort πŸ™‚ Not everyone has a room that is lighted only by window light.

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