Mason County Master Gardeners
Narrator: Steve Edmondson, Mason County Master Gardener
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Getting Great Christmas Color with Cactus
In order to bloom, forest cacti need both a resting period when water and warmth are decreased and during the summer, the cacti will benefit from being put outdoors. They need bright light but should be kept out of direct sun. Fertilize every two to three weeks with a dilute houseplant fertilizer and watered when the top of the soil begins to dry out during active growth. To ensure bud set for late December bloom, reduce watering and keep the plant where it will receive cool night temperatures (50-55 degrees), and 12-14 hours or darkness per night during November. Once the flower buds set increase water and temperature.
A similar plant, Rhipsalidopsis gaertneri or Thanksgiving cactus is easily confused with a Christmas cactus, and often sold at the same time. The edges of the leaf-like stem segments of the Christmas cactus have pointed projections where the Thanksgiving cactus is more scalloped. Not surprisingly they normally bloom bit earlier, around Thanksgiving. They require the same culture as a Christmas cactus but don't seem to need the long night treatment in order to bloom. Both have spectacular blooms often in vivid pinks and reds, as well as white. Once done flowering both need a resting period where they are kept cool, and watered less frequently.
Use room temperature water, and keep in mind that during the winter, for most houseplants, growth slows down the plant doesn't use as much water. Check once a week and only water as needed, perhaps twice a month or even less for plants like clivia and jade plant. They need to stay completely dry for December and January.
Information from WSU Master Gardeners/Gardening in Western Washington
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