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Thread: Christmas cactus

  1. #1
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    Christmas cactus

    Ann,
    How do you do christmas castus? Like africian violets?
    Happy Growing,
    Vicki in West. Mich.

  2. #2
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    Vicki,

    It is slightly different...

    I have some started, so I will have to take a couple of pictures for you today and explain how!

    They are easy, and they are FUN!

    I'll post them here when I get the pictures loaded....
    Ann B.
    Zone 9a
    Gulf Coast


  3. #3
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    Christmas Cactus Propagation

    Vicki,

    Here is how I do it:

    First, remove a section of leaves...



    Then gently twist each leaf apart...



    If you are careful, there will be a small tip toward the bottom of the leaf. This is ideal, but it isn't a problem if it doesn't happen that way.




    Separate each leaf in this method, and be sure to twist off any blooms and just throw the blooms in the compost or trash.





    Plant them with the bottoms of the stems about 1/8 to 1/4 inch below the soil in a well draining potting mix. I use peat, vermiculite and perlite. You can just lay them on top of the soil, but it is best to insert them.




    In a few weeks, a gentle tug will tell you that they have rooted. You can fertilize them with a diluted balanced fertilizer if you wish. The followiing have not been fertilized and will be what your new plants should look like in 4-6 months.




    Note that there is no need to use rooting hormone. It may help, but I choose not to do so. These are receiving a lot of light this morning, but until the leaves fall off the pecan trees, they received very little light. That is why most of them are leaning toward the light.

    You can leave them in the cell paks until you are ready to pot them up, and at that time, you may want to put more than one in a pot. The decision as to how many depends on how full you want your container and how quickly.

    Your newly rooted leaves should start blooming at the same time the mother plant blooms, certainly well within a year's time frame. In this case, they are starting to bloom in less than 6 months.

    This plant is so very easy. It is an excellent one to use to teach children to propagate.

    Enjoy, and I hope that helps!
    Ann B.
    Zone 9a
    Gulf Coast


  4. #4
    Join Date
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    What Now?

    Ann,

    You did a good job explaing that process, I think even I could do it now. But there must be some other 'secrets' about that plant that I have yet to discover. I can start them, just don't seem to be able to keep them going, or get them to bloom right. Sure, I get a few flowers sometimes, but mostly they are here today, and gone tomorrow, and then the plant starts into an irreversable decline. Just booted the last one and thats it for me. As you may have detected, I don't have much time for things that don't work for me.

    You try it Vicki, get some really good pictures, and I'll just enjoy yours! Deal?
    Tom W
    Aching Back Farm

  5. #5
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    Tom,

    What a shame... The secret is that they require very little care! I just take mine outdoors after the last frost and let them live under my pecan trees. Then when the first frost arrives, I bring them indoors for protection. I actually give mine very little, if any, fertilizer.

    The only time that I have to water them is if we go many days without rain, and that does happen from time to time. Actually, they like to dry out slightly, but do not seem to mind our excessive rainfalls.

    Like many other plants, I think it actually helps them to branch out if they are 'pruned'. I prefer mine to have many short stems so that it will be more 'full' in appearance. Nearly each outer leaf will produce a bloom this time of the year.

    They bloom when the nights get longer. I never bother with trying to force mine. I like for them to bloom about Christmas time, and they are true to their name...

    You are correct in that the blooms do not last a very long time, but gee, it is nice to have blooms indoors!

    It's okay, though, Tom! Not all plants are for all people... I tend to like succulent type plants, though, especially the blooming ones.
    Ann B.
    Zone 9a
    Gulf Coast


  6. #6
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    Deal!

    Sure it's a deal Tom, if I can get a start from my Mother-in-law, and if I can get them to root, and then to bloom. Well............we'll see.
    Happy Growing,
    Vicki in West. Mich.

  7. #7
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    Deal!

    Sure it's a deal Tom, if I can get a start from my Mother-in-law, and if I can get them to root, and then to bloom. Well............we'll see.

    Great job, Ann. I think even I can follow those directions. They are quite expensive here, and Mom is the only one I know who has one I might get a start from.
    Happy Growing,
    Vicki in West. Mich.

  8. #8
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    Oops!

    Vicki and Tom,

    I forgot to mention one other thing....

    This year, I am having to keep my Christmas Cacti in the garage because of Hunter's kittens being in the house. Unfortunately, the garage is so very crowded that they are not getting much light at all. Yet, they seem to be holding onto their blooms quite well.

    I have numerous colors, and I also have a couple of Easter Cacti, but I find the latter to not be quite as easy to grow. The blooms on the Easter Cactus are more doubled. Their leaves are smaller and somewhat thicker with a slightly rougher texture. Obviously, they bloom at Easter rather than Christmas.

    There is also one called a 'Thanksgiving' Cactus. It blooms, yes, you've got it, at Thanksgiving, but I do not have one of those.

    The blooms on my Christmas Cacti are not quite open yet, but I thought I might share some pictures with you. Please ignore the pecan leaves stuck between the Christmas Cacti leaves. I didn't have much time when I hauled these into the garage and leaves were falling like crazy!

    Several bunched together....



    This one has peachy colored blooms...

    Ann B.
    Zone 9a
    Gulf Coast


  9. #9
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    northeast Tennessee
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    Christmas cactus

    Christmas Cactus Like more water during their growing season and less when not actively growing(winter). This seems to be true of most cacti.
    I have a strange looking cactus I bought from a guy at (where else) the flea market. He called it a lifesaver cactus and sure enough the bloom looks just like a big lifesaver. But behind the bloom is a star shape that is yello with burgundy stripes. Looks like tiger fur print. It is very unique and bloomed all summer. I have been really getting into cactus and succulent propagation lately. It is fairly easy and lots of fun since I keep them in the house. It gives me something to work on when its cold outside.
    tennessee sue

  10. #10
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    Sue,

    Log Cabin Pat is our resident succulent expert. Maybe, she can help identify this for you...

    And thanks for the tip on not watering the Christmas Cacti in the winter. Perhaps that is why mine do so well. I am one of those people who tends to water plants too little, rather than too much!

    Oh, and Vicki, I forgot to mention that the Christmas Cacti are rather expensive here, too. I don't remember their being so expensive, but the price tags on them have really gone up in the last few years, especially the small hanging baskets.

    I am not sure why because they do so well here, and they are so very easy to propagate and grow relatively fast for a succulent.
    Ann B.
    Zone 9a
    Gulf Coast


  11. #11
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    Sue,

    Check this link out and see if it is the 'Lifesaver' Cactus that you have.

    Huernia confusa- Lifesaver Cactus

    Please let me know....
    Ann B.
    Zone 9a
    Gulf Coast


  12. #12
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    lifesaver cactus

    Ann that is indeed the cactus I have. I had looked it up once but forgot its name. It is easy to proagate.
    Christmas cactus are only about 2.50 here for a small pot with a pretty good sized plant.
    tennessee sue

  13. #13
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    Sue,

    The 3.5 inch pots in plain plastic pots are selling for $3.99. The 5-6" hanging baskets are selling for either $8.97 or $10.97. I can't remember which...

    Thanks!
    Ann B.
    Zone 9a
    Gulf Coast


  14. #14
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    Merry Christmas, Tom! This One is for YOU!

    Remember the one I described as the one with peachy colored blooms? The one I took a picture of on Dec. 11, 2002? Well, look at it now!

    Christmas Day.... 2002!



    They are FUN, and Beautiful, so try it again, My Friend!

    And next time, just keep it in your garage till Christmas Day!

    What JOY!

    Merry Christmas!
    Ann B.
    Zone 9a
    Gulf Coast


  15. #15
    Join Date
    Oct 2002
    Location
    Southern Oregon
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    Info from a gardening newsletter I get

    Everyone knows that the Poinsettia plant is the number one favorite during the holiday season. But did you know there is another plant that blooms with vivid, spectacular colors during the Christmas season, and continues to grow long after the poinsettia has been discarded.
    Christmas Cactus, the tropical rain forest plant with sectioned stems, is at its peak during Christmas. It is a native of Brazil and has since been cultivated into many hybrids that offer an array of wonderful colors to choose from. Today you can find varieties such as 'Snowflake', a soft white, 'Gold Charm', world's first yellow and Old Fashion Christmas which has cerise blooms. The oldest variety, 'Le Vesuv' is a purple-red. These are just a few of the many colors available to you.
    Although the Christmas Cactus is part of the cacti family, it cannot be grown the same way. It is important to keep the plant out of direct summer sun from May to September. You can grow the Christmas Cactus in a south or west window, so long as some type of filtered light can be provided. Bright light is a much better choice as direct sun can scorch the leaves.
    From October on, keep the plant where temperatures of 60-65F can be maintained at night. This temperature is important during the cactus' rest period, the time between the end of flowering to re-budding. We will talk about this later. Having the right soil is essential. Using a commercial cactus soil is fine as long as the medium drains well and is light in texture. Watering correctly is very important to the health of the plant. Too much water at the wrong time can result in no buds being set. Christmas Cactus is also prone to root rot, which is caused by excessive watering. When watering is needed, water when the top half of the pot feels dry to the touch. Allow the water to drain well and do not water until the top half of the pot feels dry once again. Feeding is done in the spring when new growth is seen. Use a half strength houseplant fertilizer every two to three weeks.
    The Christmas Cactus has an annual cycle it must go through in order to re-flower the following year. February through March is when most of the flowering period is over. The plant now needs to rest. During this time water sparingly; just enough to keep the plant moist. Try to move the plant to a window that receives bright light and cool temperatures.
    In the beginning of April start to water the plant a little more often, as the winter part of the cycle is over. New shoots should have started to grow and can be seen at the tips of each stem. If your Christmas Cactus pot is filled with roots, you can re-pot the plant at this time. Use a standard cactus soil mix that will allow the water to drain easily. Too wet a soil will cause the roots to rot. Feed about every three weeks from April through June.
    July starts a second rest period. You need to reduce watering again. Remember; water only enough to keep the leaves from shriveling. Try to find a nice warm spot in your garden to place your Christmas Cactus. Make sure you shelter the cactus from direct summer sun.
    In September, you will be bringing the plant in for the winter. Gradually accustom the Christmas Cactus to the indoors by increasing the number of hours the plant spends inside each day. This is the time when preparations begin for the re-flowering stage. Place the plant in a cool area, 50F -55F and out of direct sun. Water sparingly, just enough to keep the leaves from shriveling.
    During October do not water at all. In November, resume watering, only sparingly. The minute you see any sign of flower buds, increase the frequency of your watering. A very important note at this time; make sure that the cactus never lacks water and is not moved around while it is in the bud producing cycle. These two critical factors can result in all the buds dropping off.
    Once the buds open and the cactus is in full flower, you can move the plant to a brightly lit area. Temperatures during the day of 70F and night of 65F are ideal. Do not over water while the plant is in its full flowering stage and do not feed at all. You will know when the Christmas Cactus is finished flowering-all the flowers fall off. Once this happens you may be tempted to discard the entire plant thinking it is not worth keeping any longer. But it sure is, grow it as a houseplant and begin the steps needed, as mentioned above, to bring about flowering again next year.
    Problems do sometimes occur, as is the case with any plant. If the cactus starts to shrivel during its rest period, give it a little more water. You can give it a really good soaking, but make sure all the water drains through. Too much movement during the bud setting stage can cause bud drop. As soon as the buds are seen, place the Christmas Cactus in a good spot and leave it there.
    The Christmas Cactus is a somewhat demanding plant, however, with careful attention to cultural needs, and following the annual cycle steps, the Christmas Cactus will bloom Christmas after Christmas. A couple in New York owned a Christmas Cactus that they adopted. They owned it for twelve years and lovingly cared for it. The plant grew and flowered over the course of those twelve years until it reached 4 feet around and weighed 40 pounds. So as you can see, with careful attention and a little patience, the Christmas Cactus will reward you for all of your hard work. And who knows, maybe your plant will become the next family heirloom. Click here to see a wonderful assortment of Christmas Cactus from J. de Vries Potplantencultures b.v. in the Netherlands.

    MONTH-BY-MONTH CARE AT A GLANCE

    February - March: Rest period. Water sparingly. Bright light, cool temperatures.

    April: Tip growth. Increase water. Repot if needed.

    April - June: Feed every three weeks.

    July - August: Rest period. Reduce watering. Move outdoors, if desired, but out of direct sun.

    September: Gradually accustom to indoors. Water sparingly. Cool temperatures, no direct sun.

    October: No water at all. Cool nighttime temperatures.

    November: Water sparingly till buds appear; then increase. Keep well watered and do not move!

    December - January: Full flower to bud drop. Move to bright location. Moderate temperatures. Water sparingly. Do not overfeed.
    Linda-So. Oregon, Zones 6/7

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