Schlumbergera bridgesii, commonly known as Christmas Cactus, is a very popular cactus with flattened stems divided into leaf-like segments and beautiful fuchsia-like flowers. No other plant seems to be equal for its odd beauty or the number of questions from frustrated owners about its care. With a Christmas Cactus, the million-dollar question is not how to grow it, but how to make it bloom.
Place the plant in a bright place away from direct noonday sun and drafts. Try to make this spot almost permanent, as the Christmas Cactus does not like to be moved. Choose an east or west window as the best location for the plant. A south window with some shading is next best.
Intense artificial light on it at night will retard the bloom. If you must turn on the lights where the plant is, cover it with a double sheet of newspaper, sheet, or towel. Watering at this time, when the buds are formed, is decreased. If the plant receives no artificial light from sundown to sunup, it will justify its name by blooming approximately at Christmas.
Being a jungle plant, it needs more moisture and shade than most other cacti. But the term "more moisture" is relative. The soil should be moist but not too much so. Never set the plant in a saucer of water. Too much water causes the roots to rot. Let the soil dry out occasionally well down into the pot to prevent the soil from going sour.
Weeks without water would not harm it. In fact, too much care is dangerous to the plant.
New leaf growth starts in the spring. When it does, you can start fertilizing it about every two weeks with a good liquid fertilizer, following directions on the package.
Potting and repotting
The soil itself should be a little richer than that used for other cacti, but since the plant likes a slightly acid soil, avoid lime or bone meal. A mixture of 2 parts good cactus potting mix, 1 part coarse builder's sand, and 1 part peat moss is excellent.
Use a pot not much larger than the diameter of the plant. Put in a handful of soil. Set in the plant, spreading the roots. Now fill the pot to within a half-inch (1.3 cm) of the rim and press the soil down firmly with your fingers.
Late spring is the best time for repotting, should that be needed. Transfer the plant into a pot that is one size larger than what it is in now. Then set it in the shade outdoors for the summer.
When nights start to get cool in early fall, bring the plant inside and give it a 30-day nap. Place it in a cool, dim location and do not water it for about a month. Then gradually expose it to full sunlight and increase the water supply over what it had when it was outside.
Christmas Cactus is a short-day plant. As the days get shorter, its buds are formed. This is when most of the mistakes are made that delay its blooming or stop it altogether.
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