Christmas Cactus Repotting
A friend from church and a reader a few weeks ago wanted me to talk about the possibility of repotting some Christmas cactus or Schlumbergia truncata, which is an issue in a number of different ways. These forest and jungle plants need special care this time of year because the blooms on the plants are so delicate and slight adjustments they will shed their flowers.
My grandmother kept a few of these Christmas cactus for as long as I can remember. She was amazing with plants and she got these two plants to bloom every year. I remember grandma breaking one of these leaf-stems and giving them to her friends, which were 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. Mother still has some of the original plants from these cacti and still has the flowers. Mom and grandma would take some extra time with these plants and they looked really good over the years, but they knew some tricks to get these plants to bloom well, or which really aren’t tricks. One of the things that I have learned as a gardener and a landscaper is that 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. This knowledge of these cacti being jungle and forest plants means that they are going to need an atmosphere that has some humidity in it and a lower amount of sunlight, in other words don’t let this plant dry out much. You would find mom’s plants in where she has the hot tub so the humidity is in the air. Here is a little information on what I use to do. Cookie sheets with shallow sides and a layer of gravel where you can place the cactus on top of the gravel and keeping water in the bottom of pan will provide enough moisture for the atmosphere around the plant.
Over the years and the way that I’ve been trained is that 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 finishes blooming in the spring is the best time you could have to prune and thin out this plant. This delicate cactus needs to shed its blooms naturally and then we can look at repotting.
So here is a part of how to get them to bloom. After the blooms have come off this cactus they need to have a period of rest and kept in a medium light condition at about 55 degrees and only water intermittently, mid-January and March this rest takes place. In April and May you want to increase watering and let the surface of the soil just get a little dry. From the beginning of June to the middle of September you are going to want to place the plant outside in a shady area and protect them from slugs. Here is one of the tricks from the middle of September to the middle of November just before the flowers come, you are going to want to reduce watering and lean towards the dry side. The flower buds need to keep cooler to help them to form. Once they have formed you also need to increase the water and temperature. To get these cacti to bloom you are going to need to also do some light manipulation, which is a whole different situation.
I hope you enjoy the plants that you have in your home this year and that if you have any problems that you would e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also see this column on my blog after you have found the link to my website http://www.mikriscoop.com . I shall do the best I can to help you solve the problem.