Got a call a few years ago from a reader and friend about the possibility of getting Christmas cactus or Schlumbergia truncata, to re-bloom, which is an issue in a number of different ways. These forest and jungle plants need special care because the blossom can be very delicate, and plants will shed their flowers quickly.
In the wild these jungle cactus plants will be pollinated by hummingbirds.
My grandmother kept a few Christmas cacti for as long as I can remember. She was amazing with all plants, and she got the two plants to bloom every year. I remember Grandma breaking one of the leaf-stems and giving them to friends. They are easy to start. She always said, don’t thank me for the plant when she would give someone a piece. Seriously, I never really knew why but she did.
One of the things I have learned as a gardener and a landscaper is if you want a plant of any sort to do well is to imitate the conditions in which you find the plant in nature, and take care of the plant. Most Christmas cactus and Thanksgiving cactus are jungle plants.
Over the years and the way I’ve been trained is you can do serious work like pruning or thinning or transplanting just after the blooms come off the plant for the least amount of shock to the plant. For instance, when a Rhododendron finish blooming in the spring, it is the best time to prune and thin it out. The delicate cactus needs to shed its blooms naturally and then we can look at repotting.
After blooming the cactus need a time of rest
So here is a part of how to get them to bloom. After the blooms have come off the cacti they need to have a period of rest and kept in a medium light condition at about 55 degrees, only watering intermittently. The resting period is mid-January through March. In April and May, increase watering and let the surface of the soil get a little dry. From the beginning of June to the middle of September place the plant outside in a shady area and protect it from slugs.
Here is one of the tricks, from the middle of September to the middle of November just before the flowers come, reduce watering and lean toward the dry side. The flower buds need to keep cooler to help them to form. Once they have formed increase the water and temperature. To get the cacti to bloom you will need to do some light and temperature manipulation.
You will need to have 12 hours of light and 12 hours of complete darkness for six-eight weeks to get the buds to set. The temperature also is critical in setting buds. You need to maintain a 55-degree temperature for the same length of time. To get the buds to bloom you are going to need to have another 12 weeks of this same light and dark treatment with the temperatures as stated.
Once the Cactus has bloomed you need to move the plant into a bright window but no direct sunlight with no drafts for the bloom to be maintained for an extended period of time.
I hope you enjoy the plants you have in your home this year, and if you have any problems, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. You will be able to find my column in a blog with a link to my website www.ohiohealthyfoodcooperative.org.
Eric Lawson of Jeromesville is a veteran landscaper and gardening enthusiast and a founding board member of the Ohio Chapter of Association of Professional Landscape Designers.
This article originally appeared on Mansfield News Journal: Need to report a Christmas cactus? Here's how to do it