cactus-food

Cactus Food on Your Breakfast Table

Everybody knows that cactuses are prickly. However, the fact that they are also an important source of food is far less popular. Stems, fruits and seeds of cactus have been have been More »

fear-and-loathing-cactus

Psychedelic Cactus Adventure

We are human beings and, as the Eden’s incident proves it, it’s typical for all of us to cherish a desire for something forbidden and adventurous within. How about growing a plant More »

mountain-cacti-big

Mountain cacti

Have you ever been to or have you ever seen the pictures of the Andes or the Cordilleras? These are the places of such cactus types as astrophytum, cleistocactus, echinopsis, lobivia, notocactus, More »

Prickly-pear-cactus

Did you know these prickly things?

We all got used to cactuses as original and beautiful houseplants. So when we hear the word “cactus” we usually think of those natty prickly green things in small pots on our More »

saguaro-cactus

Taking care of saguaro cactus

When you hear the word “saguaro” you probably imagine a large, tree-sized cactus with a mighty ribbed stalk that grows in the Caribbee coastwise. I also once thought that all representatives of More »

Tag Archives: Christmas Cactus

Rainforest cacti

Types of cactus: EpiphyllumHave you ever heard about such cactus types as epiphyllum, rhipsalis or schlumbergera? Certainly, you did. These epiphytic cacti of rainforests grow in moist and sultry woods on forks of branches, in hollows and on stubs. They settle on leaf humus, so their roots are short, but very branchy and clutch at any crack or a ledge on a tree bark. These cactus plants grow all year long, because there are no seasons of droughts and colds in the rainforests.

Thick leaves always cover these types of cactus from the sun, causing shading, that’s why they don’t need to have such means of protection against overheat of the stalk like a thick skin, a wax bloom or fuzz.

Epiphytic cactus types grow in damp atmosphere and they have no need at all to save water. They absorb it from the moist air around thanks to a bulk of stomae on their wide stalks. You can always recognize these cactus types: their stalks consist of many thin sprouts, and they look like dendritic leaf-shaped plates. They are bare and unprotected and need warmth and moisture the whole year round. Following the advice of many cactus specialists I’ve placed my schlumbergera bridgesii (Christmas cactus) in the aquarium covered by glass.

Arranging greenhouse at home: cactuses and succulents

Hanging cactus typesEvery year different types of cactus plants and succulents become more and more popular as house-plants. And it can be easily understood: the variety of extraordinary forms of these plants, their slow growth, their unpretentiousness and relative resistance to insects and disease have contributed to their popularity in flats and houses.

Well, I’ve already pointed it out in What’s Cactus? that all these different cactus types are succulents, but not all succulents are cactuses, and we should keep that in mind. A succulent is any plant that can keep water either in its roots, leaf or stem.

Most types of cactus and succulents can be raised on a window-sill. As a matter of fact, succulent plants need bright light and should be exposed to sun at least 4-5 hours a day. It is advisable to turn the plant and change its place every few days. But remember, the so called tropic cactus types, such as Thanksgiving, Easter, or Christmas cactus, should only be raised in filtered light. For such succulents as Gasterias, Aloes and Haworthias direct sun is also nit recommended.

One more important tip to remember – never let succulents and cactuses stand in water. They should be watered only if soil is dry.  The planting pots should have good drainage with good soil and sand.  Never fertilize soil in winter, when the plant rests.  Soil should be fertilized only in late March to October.  Different types of cactus plants should be repotted once a year.  New post should be clean and contain new potting soil.  Nevertheless, cactus and succulent plants can be planted in the same pot, but be careful to take plants with the same light and water demands. You can look more “fast tips” in ABC of  Cactus Care.

Tropic cactus types as well and many other succulents look marvelous in hanging baskets. These cacti usually flower in the short days of fall and winter. Holiday cacti (Christmas, Easter and Thanksgiving cactus) planted that way will be the best decoration of your house especially if there’s not sufficient amount of space. Look around. It often happens that there’s an empty corner or window-sill in your living room, bedroom or sitting room that needs “something.” Cactus and succulent plants are undoubtedly that “something” that you might need!

Taking care of Christmas cactus

The first thing that you should admit about Christmas cactus is that it’s more like a houseplant than a cactus in terms of care. I mean to say, that it’s traditionally believed that cactuses (these prickly and round:)) require much sun and rare watering. Well, in case of Christmas cactus it’s on the other way around. Though it’s still a succulent plant and can store some amount of water in its leaves, it is not that drought tolerant and needs more watering than other cactus plants. I remember how my friend from whom I “inherited” this cactus warned me about keeping the soil moist all the time. As for me, it was quite difficult to find this golden middle and it always seemed that I either overwatered or underwatered it. My Christmas cactus’s flower buds began to drop from the very beginning. Later on I came to the conclusion that it happened mainly because of the change of the environment – lighting, air temperature, humidity – but not my fault as a waterer.

As for lighting, Christmas cactus needs quite average amount of sun. First I kept it in the strong sun, but, sadly enough, it turned yellow. So I realized that the best option is keep it indoors in the partial shade as too much of direct sunrays may burn its leaves. Mind that Christmas cactus is very sensitive to changing lighting conditions. So if you rearrange it try to preserve the same position relative to the source of light.

As for temperature, Christmas cactus likes warmth. They say, the best option is to grow this cactus species at temperatures between 70 to 80 °F. But you should bear in mind that too much warmth can cause flower buds dropping (what probably happened in my case as it was pretty stuffy in that small room I used to live then). Now I try to maintain the temperature between 55 and 65 °F throughout the whole year and my lovely Schlumbergera bridgesii feels good.

Soil is also a very important point in caring for Christmas cactus. Well-drained soil is essential for it. There are commercially packaged potting mixes for cactus plants on the market that are quite good, but I got used to mix my own soil. Well, I take leaf mold, garden loam, and clean coarse sand in equal parts and add a quart of wood ashes per bushel of this mix. I also fertilize the soil every month with a liquid houseplant fertilizer rich in potassium or add old dry cow manure. I usually stop feeding about a month before buds appear (appr. in the end of October).

In the next posts I’ll tell you about my experience in Christmas cactus repotting and propagation. And of course, about Christmas cactus flowering that is certainly a special occasion!

First acquaintance with Christmas cactus

Among the most popular cactus plants is, beyond all doubts, the so called Christmas cactus. The cactus collection that was handed over to me by my friend contained one of these plants, so I had to deal with Christmas cactus from the very beginning. Well, I’m frequently asked how to raise, care, maintain and make it bloom. Therefore, I made up my mind to dedicate a separate category to this cactus species. Moreover, this is one of my favourites.

Christmas cactusJust have a look at this marvellous and charming cactus! You can see it in bloom around the Christmas season (that’s why it has this name). Its beautiful intricate flowers range in color from yellow, salmon, pink, fuschia and white or there may be combinations of these colors. What a nice present it could be for a dear person on the Christmas eve!

Christmas cactus is included in the group of holiday cacti (it has been kept as a holiday plant since 1800′s) which also comprises the Thanksgiving cactus and the Easter cactus. In terms of taxonomy this cactus plant belongs to the subfamily Cactoideae (see Three cactus subfamilies). Its botanical name is Schlumbergera bridgesii, i.e. it belongs to the genus Schlumbergera and its species name is bridgesii. Breeders crossed Schlumbergera truncata with Schlumbergera russelliana creating the beginnings of the hybrid plants that we can see today. Let’s have a close look.

The height of Christmas cactus ranges between 18 to 24 inches and its spacing is about 24-36 inches. Its foliage is evergreen and smoothly textured. As I have already said, it blooms in early winter with flowers of different colors and a fancifull shape. Christmas cactus propagates from leaf cuttings. It can be grown indoors in the acidic or mildly acidic soil. Christmas cactus needs average amount of water but it should be watered regularly. It requires direct Sunrays but can be also kept in patial shade.

Next time I’m going to tell you about how to take care of Christmas cactus in detail. You will see it’s not that difficult to raise and keep this miraculous plant at home.