But as an adult I struggled to even keep my own Christmas cactus (Schlumbergera truncate) alive from one Christmas to the other. Fortunately, as years have gone by I’ve learned some of Grandma’s tips about Christmas Cactus to pass along.
Christmas Cactus Quirks:
*Christmas cactus prefer humid conditions (they are native to tropical rain forests)
*Start preparing the Christmas Cactus about 8 weeks beforehand to encourage plant blooming between Thanksgiving and Christmas.
*In order for flower buds to form, Christmas cactus need either cool night temperatures between 50-55 degrees, 13 hours of uninterrupted darkness if the temperature is between 55 and 70 degrees, or 15 hours of darkness if the temperature is about 70 degrees. (So those stories of folks putting their cactus in the basement or closet at night to get them to bloom has some validity).
*Don’t overwater (top inch of soil should feel dry to touch; look for soil to start to pull away from the pot before watering) and don’t fertilize during the bud-forming stage. Once buds begin to flower, use a liquid fertilizer that is recommend for indoor flowering plants and follow the recommended application.
*Buds will drop from sudden changes in temperature, moving the pots around, when the soil is allowed to dry out completely, or if they get too much water. (Make sure your plant is in a pot with good drainage. During the blooming season, water when the top of the soil feels dry to touch.)
*Christmas cactus like to be misted!
*Allow for some direct eastern exposure sunlight during the cool months but protect from from midday sun during the warmer months.
*Christmas cactus will bloom from four to six weeks. After the plant quits blooming, keep the plants cool (55-65 degrees) and continue a regular schedule of fertilizing during this growing season until time to encourage buds again.
*Transplant your cactus once a year after they bloom.