Move over poinsettia, and make way for Christmas cactus!
There is nothing wrong with the poinsettia as a classic Christmas plant, with its green and red colourings, but why follow the crowd when you can revert to the original classic Christmas plant — the aptly named Christmas cactus?
Poinsettias are Wonderful, But Have Downsides
- Poinsettias are two-month wonders.
- Poinsettias are hard to grow for the average person, and are quite picky about what kind of light, warmth, fertilizer and water they need. Who needs high-maintenance plants to think about during the hectic holidays?
Christmas Cactus is a Great Contender for Best Holiday Plant
Christmas cactus, on the other hand, is an equally lovely plant, with staying power. These plants live for YEARS and give beautiful yellow blooms.
- Most Christmas Cactus are bright red, and bloom just before Christmas.
- Variations of schlumbergera are the Thanksgiving or Easter cactus, also named for their blooming timing.
- Another thing the Christmas cactus has going for it, is it grows easily in a typical indoor environment. Unlike regular cacti, the Christmas cactus likes water every two weeks, as long as the soil is allowed to dry between waterings.
- Christmas cactus tolerates relatively low-light locations in the house: north window? No problem. A west-facing window with full afternoon sun is a bit much for the Christmas cactus, though.
- The plant does not suffer from pests and is not a heavy feeder. To improve vigour, add a mild formula of flowering pot fertilizer during the spring and summer growth periods. The plant has a small root system and will only need to be repotted when it becomes top heavy.
Recommended pro care tips: Through spring and summer, place the Christmas cactus in an east-facing window, watering every two weeks or so. In early October, take the plant and place it in the corner of a garage or room where it will be ignored but protected from frost. In early December, put the plant back in the east-facing window and resume its watering schedule. Ta-da! Blooms galore to enjoy in time for Christmas.
Multiply the Joy
If one plant is not enough, you can buy more or propagate new ones by taking short cuttings from the fresh new growth of healthy stems with a sharp knife.
Place a cluster of four or five stems in a four-inch diameter pot filled with sharp sand.
Water frequently, making sure the sand stays damp.
Within a few weeks, cuttings should have short while roots that ought to be transplanted in a new four-inch diameter pot and filled with potting soil.
You may pot all the cuttings together in one pot (spaced out appropriately) to ensure dense growth.