Christmas cactus (Schumbergera bridgesi) is a departure from the stereotypical prickly, sun-loving, dry weather, desert plant, as Christmas cactus is tropical and has different growing requirements. Although Christmas cactus appreciates bright sunlight, it blooms best with moist soil and cooler temperatures. Christmas cactus isn't a demanding plant, and with proper care, it will reward you with colourful blooms in time for the winter holidays. Propagate Christmas cactus by rooting sections of stem in May or June.
- Skill level:
Things you need
- Sharp, clean knife
- Paper plate
- Container with drainage hole
- Clear plastic bag
- Rubber band or twist tie
- Planting container with drainage hole and drainage saucer
- Soluble fertiliser
Select a joint between stem segments, and pinch it with your fingernails or cut it with a clean, sharp knife. The cut stem must have at least three to five stem segments.
Place the stem on a paper plate or paper towel, then set it aside to dry for about a day, but possibly as long as two weeks. The amount of drying time needed will depend on the size of the cut surface. Once the cut end has formed a callus, which will prevent the stem from rotting, the stem will be ready for planting. Because the Christmas cactus stores water, drying won't hurt the stem, but don't wait so long that it becomes shrivelled.
Fill a planting container with moistened perlite. Use a container with a drainage hole, as Christmas cactus rots in poorly drained, soggy soil.
Plant the stem about an inch deep in the perlite. Water lightly to settle the perlite around the stem, then cover the container with a clear plastic bag. Seal the bag with a rubber band or twist tie.
Place the container where the Christmas cactus cutting is exposed to bright, indirect light. Check the container two or three times every week, and add a small amount of water if the perlite feels dry. If condensation forms inside the bag, open the bag for an hour or two to provide ventilation. The stem should root in approximately six to eight weeks.
Lift the Christmas cactus cutting from the soil using an old spoon. If the roots are at least an inch long, repot the stem in a fresh pot filled with a commercial potting soil for cactus or succulents. If the roots are less than an inch, replace the stem in the original container, and allow the roots to grow for a few more days before repotting.
Place your new Christmas cactus in bright, indirect light away from draughty doors or windows, air conditioners, heat vents or fireplaces. Water your Christmas cactus whenever the top inch of the soil feels dry, adding water until it drips through the drainage hole. Allow the pot to drain thoroughly before replacing the plant on the drainage saucer.
Fertilise your Christmas cactus once every month during the summer, using a soluble fertiliser.
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