Most people are under the impression that a cactus would probably be a weird plant to keep at the center during the Christmas period, but it is definitely a welcoming sight during the winter months, when it starts to bloom.
All you need to do is provide it with some basic care, and the plant is going to bloom all on its own accord.
But, there is a chance that the plant may not bloom during the holidays. If you want to make sure that your cactus blooms in all its full glory during the Christmas period, you might have to force it.
The plant needs to be forced into full dormancy for at least two months before you want it to bloom. Thankfully though, it doesn’t require as much effort as you might think. You only need to remember to do it in a timely manner.
Cacti need to be put into dormancy around the month of October if you want it to bloom around Christmas time. Ideally, you need to follow the steps given below around mid-fall. Usually, this starts around mid-October, so it might be a wise idea to get started then.
But, before you get started with putting the plant into dormancy, you need to understand that the plant has a specific blooming cycle, and you need to know this before you get to work. Usually, the plant tends to bloom around the end of October, and the bloom continues until the first couple weeks of November.
Many of the plants that you will find in the market that are sold as “Christmas cacti” aren’t actually Christmas Cacti.
In fact, you can get the same plants that are marketed as Thanksgiving Cacti or even Easter Cacti. The care instructions remain the same for all of them, but the schedule changes depending on the time of the season.
The best way to distinguish these plants is by checking the leaves. Christmas and Easter cacti usually have well-rounded leaves, whereas the Thanksgiving Cacti have pointed ones.
A common mistake that many people make is that they do not estimate the right time for buying the plant.
When Should You Buy One?
As always, when you go to buy a plant, you should look for one that is healthy.
Take a close look at the plant and see if there are any signs of disease before you decide to buy the plant. However, the most important thing that you need to look for when buying a plant is to check whether it is in the right stage of dormancy.
If you are going to buy a Christmas cactus around October or November, you need to make sure that it is in the correct dormancy stage, otherwise the plant won’t bloom around Christmas time.
For instance, if you are buying the plant after October, always look for one that has visible buds on it. Similarly, if you are going to buy a Christmas plant before October, you should choose one that has no visible buds on it.
It is of the utmost importance that you choose the right plant if you want it to bloom on time.
The Right Soil
More importantly, you need to know that the right type of soil is very important. The right kind of soil will ensure that the plant continues to grow and blooms on time, and if you are unable to create an appropriate potting mix, there are chances that the plant might succumb to a number of other problems.
Most people pot their Christmas plants, so it’s important that you choose a well-draining pot. The soil mix should be one that is made appropriately for cacti and succulents.
You need to understand that these plants thrive in environments that are relatively dry, so most people usually wait until the soil dries out completely until they decide to water the plant again.
The ideal soil for such plants is usually made from light and airy materials that have the best drainage. If you want to create your own potting mix, you should consider mixing one part compost, one part sand, one part pumice, and the last part should be ground bark.
Fertilizing the plant during the fall season is a terrible idea; you should always fertilize the plant during the summer months. Holiday cacti require a considerable amount of humidity, which is usually difficult indoors.
The air usually remains quite dry inside the house, so you have to make sure that the plant gets an appropriate amount of humidity.
Ideally, if you want the plant to bloom on time, you need to give it lots of humidity. To make sure that the plant gets enough humidity, you need to water it regularly.
Make sure that the soil never actually dries out, and to ensure that the leaves remain wet, you should use a water sprayer and spritz the plant regularly too.
However, it’s important to understand that overwatering the plant can actually cause root rot. Take a close look at the buds before they are about to bloom. If the buds tend to fall off before the plant blooms, it’s a clear sign that the plant has been overwatered.
You need to reduce the misting and the watering to make sure that the plant doesn’t die off. Remember, the amount of water that the plant requires during its dormancy phase is relatively low, so make sure you follow an appropriate watering regimen.
Now that you understand the basics, it’s time to talk about the active steps you should take to make the plant bloom.
During the middle of October, you need to significantly reduce the amount of water that your Christmas cactus is getting. You should only water the plant when the soil feels a bit dry about an inch under the surface.
When you are trying to force the plant into dormancy, you should avoid using any kind of fertilizer.
Christmas cacti have very specific requirements for temperature. You need to make sure that the plant remains cool if you want it to bloom during the Christmas period.
Ideally, you should make sure that the temperature remains around 12 degrees Celsius, or between 50 and 55 degrees Fahrenheit.
The next step is to control the amount of light that your plant receives. You can keep the plant in an area that receives indirect light around the daytime, but as the night falls, you should take it away. Ideally, the plant should receive around 14 hours of darkness each night.
This is incredibly important, because it will allow the flower buds to develop in time for Christmas. If the room isn’t around the ideal temperature, you might want to give it a couple of extra hours in the darkness to compensate for the temperature difference.
The best way to do this is to keep the plant in an area where it won’t be disturbed in the night or in the morning. For instance, you can keep it in a closet or in a room that isn’t opened at night.
Remember, the light that gets under the door is also damaging, and you might need to cover that up.
If a bit of sunlight still enters through the room, you can just use a large cloth and cover the plant in its entirety. You will need to provide this treatment to the plant for around six to eight weeks.
By the time you take it out, you will notice that the flower buds will start to develop on your Christmas cactus.
As soon as you begin to see the flower buds develop on your Christmas cactus, you need to take it out of the darkness. Keep it near a window that receives plenty of sunlight. Remember, if the area where you have kept the plant receives drafts, the buds are going to fall off.
Keep in mind that Christmas cacti are usually native to tropical rainforests, and they aren’t similar to the desert-loving plants that you might know of. If you want to encourage more stems from your Christmas cactus, you should use it as a hanging plant.
You can also place it in an area where it can drape. There’s no need for you to worry about scraping against the plant; the Christmas cacti doesn’t have any thorns on it.
More importantly, you should know that the plant tends to bloom even better if it is kept bound to a pot. After the flowering is complete, you should consider pruning the plant ever so slightly. It’s going to re-energize the plant.
You can also propagate even more Christmas cacti by cutting and planting the clippings from the plant.
A simple tip that you should keep in mind is that there’s no need to fuss over the plant. This plant grows best in the background, and it will do great on its own; just get the conditions right!
Growing up with a mom who filled her home (inside and out) with all sorts of plants, Lisa got her start in gardening at a young age. Living now on her own with a home and yard full of plants (including an indoor greenhouse), she shares all the gardening tips she’s gained over the years.