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Decorating for the Holidays With a Christmas Cactus

Updated on July 24, 2013
Source
Winter Rose 2007
Winter Rose 2007 | Source

Christmas Cactus Has More Than One Alias

The Christmas Cactus goes by many names. It is also called a Thanksgiving Cactus, Holiday Cactus and Crab Cactus. The genus is Schlumbergera, a cactus with six species originating on the coastal mountains in Brazil. The blooms flower in several colors; white, orange, yellow, pink, red and violet. They grow in their natural environment on trees or rocks and may get large enough to form shrubs. The flowers are pollinated by hummingbirds and require cross pollination to seed.The Christmas Cactus was first cultivated in Europe in 1818 and used as decorative greenhouse vegetation. Their popularity overseas did not spread until the 1950's.

The Christmas Cactus became a popular holiday plant because it blooms from the beginning of September to February. The blooms have festive colored flowers which appeal to people when decorating. The Christmas Cactus can be displayed nicely in festive pots as a centerpiece for a holiday table. It drapes well in hanging pots and white or red blooms go nicely with holiday decor. It is also becoming a holiday tradition because it is easy to care for and blooms are easily forced to coincide with Christmas. Although the poinsettia is one of the most commonly purchased plants during the holidays, Christmas Cactus is becoming a traditional holiday plant as well. Unlike a poinsettia, Christmas Cactus is not poisonous to cats or dogs. According to ASPCA.org the Schlumbergera or Christmas cactus is non-toxic to dogs and also non-toxic to cats.

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When to Force Blooms

Start to force blooms in October or the early beginning November. When you want to force a Christmas cactus to bloom begin by limiting the amount of water the plant receives. Cut down on watering just enough to allow the soil to remain slightly moist. Water only when the topmost layer of soil is dry when touched. Dormancy is critical for getting a Christmas cactus to bloom. To further force a Christmas cactus to bloom, you’ll need to move the plant where it will receive about 12-14 hours of darkness. Bright and indirect light during the day is ok, however, a Christmas cactus requires at least 12 hours of darkness at night in order to encourage bud development. Placing it in a closet for 12 hours is a helpful tip.

Enjoy giving and receiving Christmas Cactus. They are festive holiday plant that is enjoyed by many and is a welcome plant since it will not poison a family cat or dog. Make a Christmas Cactus a fantastic poinsetta replacement this holiday season.

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