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How to Grow and Care for a Red Orchid Cactus (Disocactus ackermannii)

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Disocactus ackermannii, commonly known as Red Orchid Cactus, is an epiphytic cactus from tropical forests in the states of Veracruz and Oaxaca, Mexico. Despite the name cactus, it enjoys water. Natural growth periods are in the spring and fall only. Red Orchid Cactus is a flat-stemmed cactus notable for its scarlet flowers,. The are funnel shaped, up to 5.6 inches (14 cm) long and up to 6 inches (15 cm) in diameter. Flowering doesn't come easy for this fickle cactus, which requires specific cultural conditions in order to thrive. Gardeners who have labored over the cactus with no results should note that it may take 10 to 15 years before the cactus is large enough to produce flowers.

Temperature

Orchid Cacti do best in temperatures that stay consistently between 45 and 70 °F (7 and 21 °C), though in shady, humid situations they tolerate extreme heat. Do not allow Red Orchid Cactus to be in a temperature below 35 °F (2 °C), even in winter, because it will die back. An east- or west-facing windowsill with indirect sunlight or filtered light is ideal for an indoor plant. Red Orchid Cactus should have bright-green, healthy stems. If its growth appears wilted or yellowish, then the cactus receives too much light. If its growth is leggy and weak, the cactus does not receive enough light. Outdoors, It is hardy in only USDA plant hardiness zones 10 through 11.

Photo via davesgarden.com

Potting and Repotting

These cacti perform best when they are root bound, meaning their roots fill their container or other growing space completely. A cactus planted in a 4-inch (10 cm) pot will flower quicker than one in an 8-inch (20 cm) pot. If your Red Orchid Cactus is in a pot, then repot it every 7 years by removing the cactus from its container, tapping excess soil from its roots and placing the cactus in a larger pot with fresh, well-draining potting soil. Wait about one week before watering the plant's soil. If the cactus has flowered, wait one month after it blooms before repotting it. Only a pot with a bottom drainage hole should be used.

Watering

Although cacti can be killed easily by excessive watering, it is important to water a Red Orchid Cactus year round because a long dry spell can discourage it from flowering. Water whenever the top 1/3 of the soil has dried out, but do not let all of the plant's soil dry out. Water the soil surface deeply. If the cactus is in a pot, water until water drips from the pot's bottom. The plant shouldn't be splashed with water during the process. In winter, when Red Orchid Cactus is dormant, water its soil about every few weeks. If you grow your cactus from a cutting, then do not allow the cutting to dry out. Water a rooted cutting about once each week in the growing season and once each month in winter.

Fertilizing

During the growing season, fertilize Red Orchid Cactus once each month with a water-soluble, 10-10-10 fertilizer. Dilute the fertilizer with water, using about 1 teaspoon of fertilizer per 1 gallon of water. Avoid using fertilizer with a nitrogen content higher than 10 percent. Switch to a 2-10-10 fertilizer, which has less nitrogen, in early spring and again in late fall to encourage flowering.

Source: sfgate.com

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