Did you know the Christmas Cactus (Schlumberga x buckleyi,) is originally from the tropical rain forests in Southeast Brazil? They lived in the treetops, branch hollows and decayed leaves above the ground. So not the hot, dry conditions of the desert as the word ‘cactus’ might make us think.
Christmas cactus grow better when they are “pot bound”, or when the container and root system are about the same size. They should also have organic, humus-rich soil. They require bright, indirect light or filtered light and enough moister that potting material does not dry out, but don’t over water. Rainwater or snow melted to room temperature is the best to prevent mineral and salt buildups.
So, enjoy the beautiful plant, keep it in bright window light (with partial sun, too much can burn the leaves) and water it moderately over the holidays. The cactus requires frequent and thorough watering, during its active growth in spring and summer, keeping the soil slightly moist. Allow Christmas cactus moisture levels to drop and dry out some between watering intervals, but never completely, and never let the plant sit in water, as this will lead to root and stem rot.
Re-potting should be done once a year in a little larger pot with clean organic soil, preferably in the spring. When new growth starts in the spring add a diluted solution of houseplant fertilizer every two to three weeks until the new growth has finished (around mid summer).
If you would like your Christmas cactus to bloom again, around mid-September or October you are going to have to start paying attention to temperature and light. Keep the plant at cool nighttime temperatures (10-12˚C) and then warmer daytime (around 15˚C) and you should see buds by December. The plant needs continuous, uninterrupted darkness for 12-14 hours (that means no artificial light at all) and bright to medium window exposure for the remaining hours. But, if the plant is in a room where the lights are even turned on for a short period of time, the flowers might not come. This is why you might see a cactus with blooms on only one part of it.
When you start to see buds, the plant can then remain in the window for display and watering you increase. Remember to keep the soil moist but not soggy.
Photo: World Of Succulents