Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Christmas Cactus

The topic seems reasonable, for the time of year.

A lot of people have questions about how to make various plants bloom. Amarylis and christmas cactus are two that I hear questions about most often (and aside from that, I have both).

The important thing to remember with christmas cactus is that they are southern hemisphere transplants. They bloom during the southern summer and fall, when the days are shorter.

I have a white christmas cactus (which is actually pale pink) that bloomed for the first time this year. Because of where it grows, half of it is in the sun most of the day and half in the shade. The half that is in the sun is covered with blooms, while the other side has none. The CC beside it is completely in the shade most of the day and only has a few small blossoms on it.

I know from experience that the plants in the shade won't bloom as profusely or as early--I'll get full bloom from them around the beginning of February.

To make either amarylis or christmas cactus bloom, you need to simulate their normal blossoming conditions. The amarylis is a bulb, meaning it needs a dormant period each year. Letting it continue to grow and hoping for a flower (or scape) is usually not effective. Once the plant has bloomed (or after the leaves die back, depending on the variety) put the amarylis in a dark place until the leaves die completely and dry up. Removing the bulb from the soil is not usually necessary, although it will prevent dirt on the floor if the pot falls over. If you have questions of whether your amarylis bulb is still alive--if it's still hard, plant it.

The main point is to trick the plant into thinking it's spring, when the days are longer and the soil starts to warm from the sun.

The christmas cactus, being a lower level cacti (generally living in shaded and very humid areas), will bloom when the light reaches the appropriate level and the days are shorter. If you move a christmas cactus into a more shady area or into a dark closet for a month or so, then move it into the light, that should trigger the blooms.

Just don't forget about it.

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