Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Christmas Cactus

Every Christmas I marvel at this cactus. It came to me a as a gift from a friend and colleague at least a decade ago. I have re potted it twice. When it starts to bloom I give it cactus food. But the rest of the year ... well, neglect would be a kind word to describe how I treat it. In May I put it on a shaded back deck to face the trials of a Washington summer with nothing but the rain God chooses to bestow upon it. In November, when I return, I rescue it just before the frosts and without the least bit of prompting from me, it starts its Christmas show.


Thomas said...

WOW, look at all of those blooms! I purchased a small christmas cactus for my office a few weeks ago but most of the young blooms fell off. Oh well. How often should I be watering it?

Leslie said...

Thomas, the answer to that question is "it depends on the time of year." From January to the early fall water it when the top inch of soil has dried out. To avoid the blossom drop you spoke of, put it in a cool place in October and November and water it even less. It will need 12 -14 hours of total darkness and a temp of 50 degrees in the months leading up to bloom. But it WANTS light, so don't put it in the garage or basement. And it will need some humidity ... it is an epiphyte, not a cactus, so if the house is dry put a saucer of water near it. In late November I start giving it a 0-10-10 fertilizer, and when it is in full bloom, I make sure it doesn't dry out. Let it rest in January, then give it a regular houseplant fertilizer starting in February.

My guess is you over watered it at a time when it needs to be its driest.

Anonymous said...

your cmas cactus is decked out- kinda like an overdressed I of P.
Wondered if your trip from island down coast was on stormy day.
Good to see evidence you got there and are thriving with december's doings.
Had trouble at first recognizing face and hands on ms patience brewster artichoke
miss you.