Care of Your Christmas Cactus

       Easy to grow, Christmas Cacti often do better when neglected rather than lots of attention.

 They can live a long time, and even get passed down through the generations. 

Soil Mixture

      Grow your Christmas cactus in a well drained soil mix, rich in organic matter. For a good mix,

combine one part potting soil, two parts peat moss or compost, and one part sharp sand, perlite,

or vermiculite.  This mix holds moisture nicely but also drains the excess water.
     Keep the soil evenly moist from spring through summer, but allow it to go dry before watering from fall through spring.  Fertilize your cactus when new growth starts from the branch tips in late winter or early spring, and monthly through summer.  Use a one quarter strength solution of soluble plant fertilizer or an organic fertilizer.  A strong fertilizer solution can damage your Christmas cactus fine scant root system.

Light

     Your Christmas cactus needs lots of light during winter, but it should be indirect during the summer. Too much direct light is not good for the plant.

Watering

     Your cactus needs a rest in fall to encourage it to produce flower buds.  In mid to late September, let the soil dry out thoroughly before you water.  This is the right time to move your plant to a sunnier area if you've had it in indirect light during the summer.  Always remember, your Christmas cactus needs a cooler location in fall in order to set flower buds.

Problems

     Flower bud drop is a common problem with Christmas cactus for many reasons.  Avoid this by making sure you water properly, especially while it's blooming. Letting soil dry too much or over watering can both cause bud drop.  Also, even slight environmental changes can make the buds fall so don't move your Christmas cactus to another site if it has buds or open flowers.

Multiplying Your Cactus

      If you want to grow more Christmas cacti to pass on to family or friends, try rooting some from cuttings. Make the cuttings at least two stem segments long and let them dry for several days before you plant them.  The drying lets the cut end form a callus which prevents rotting.  Put your Christmas cactus cutting in sharp sand, vermiculite, or a mix of seventy percent perlite and thirty percent peat moss.  Once it takes root, plant it in the recommended soil mix.