by Nadine Champlin, Landscape Designer
The Christmas Cactus has been a favorite houseplant for me for many years. It isn’t unusual for a single plant to be passed down from generations because it is tough and survives with neglect. This is the kind of houseplants people need that have busy lives. I have read much information on the care of this plant and to be honest you don’t have to worry about placing it in the dark certain times of the year or moving it out into the light after so many weeks so it will bloom. It really isn’t that complicated!
I grow this plant near an east window and I don’t move it. I have had success with this plant after moving in several different houses , as long as it is near an east window. The morning light is enough to keep it healthy and green and with the change of the seasons the light also changes and thus the temperature for the plant changes. It is amazing that it will start forming flower buds in October and bloom by Thanksgiving. I call it my holiday cactus since it continues to bloom through Christmas. The old blooms drop away and new buds keep forming. It goes dormant for a few months and mine tends to bloom again in full force by Easter!
It is important to fertilize it regularly. Water sparingly when in the dormant stage (not blooming) and water more often when the buds appear and while it is blooming to keep the blooms from drying out and the buds from aborting and dropping off. I use Nature’s Source (formerly called Daniel’s Plant Food) that Grimm’s Gardens keeps stocked in a convenient jug. I put a teaspoon in a quart watering can whenever I water so it is constantly getting nourishment each time I water, which is never more often than once a week. Make sure the top inch is dry before watering again. Nature’s Source is an organic plant food (10-4-3) and is natural nutrition derived from plant seeds. I used it for all my houseplants and in the garden as well.
Purchase a healthy plant to start with or obtain one from a friend. They are very easy to propagate. Just cut off or break at a joint – an appendage of new growth about 3 inches long. Place the cut end in potting soil in a small cup with drainage holes. Water thoroughly and place it in a zip-loc bag and keep it sealed for the 6 weeks. This becomes a mini-greenhouse. Place in an east window and only add water if you see it has dried out. After 6 weeks you can pull on it to see that it is well rooted. Then plant in a little larger container.
Enjoy your cactus during the year and be amazed when it suddenly blooms around the holidays to greet you with vibrant color during the drab winter months!
About the Author
Nadine Champlin is the Owner and Landscape Designer for Prairie Place Designs LLC. and works closely with Grimm’s Gardens to provide creative landscape designs. Nadine graduated in the fall of 2000 from Northwest Missouri State University with a degree in Horticulture Science with emphasis in Landscape Design. She has worked as a Landscape Designer at Trees, Shrubs and More in Bellevue, Nebraska; as Nursery Manager for Old Mill Garden Center in St. Joseph, Missouri; as a Landscape Designer for Jarboe’s Nursery; and started her own Design Company in 2005. She is passionate about using native plants in landscapes and enjoys making landscapes fun and easy to care for. She presently serves on the Board of the Kansas Native Plant Society and is a Certified Nurseryman with the Kansas Nursery & Landscape Association. She currently lives in the country west of Sabetha with her husband and has 3 married children and 4 grandchildren. Her hobbies include gardening and touring the state of Kansas by biking and hiking.