Merry Christmas (cactus)

This is a Christmas cactus that my grandfather gave me as a cutting. (There may be some genetic basis for my joy of growing). There are several species all in the genus (Schlumbergera) and native to the South American tropics. The green, flattened, leaf-like structures that make up the majority of a Christmas cactus are actually modified stem segments called cladodes. In most cacti, the leaves have been modified into spines which have many different functions for the plant, or as in the Christmas cactus, the leaves / spines are absent.

The plants flower around the winter solstice (Christmas time) because like with many plants the longer period of darkness, not the length of light, signals the flowering times. In fact many of our favorite holiday flowers are "short-day" plants meaning they require at least 12 hours of uninterrupted darkness to stimulate flowering

You should never over water a plant but Christmas cactus like to be moist, so water as soon as the top of the soil is dry. To add more humidity around a plant that is growing in a dry winter home atmosphere, place the pot on a tray of pebbles and keep the pebbles moist. Christmas cacti grow well in a bright location out of direct sunlight. Apply a general fertilizer (like 10-10-10) every month. You could use a higher flowering fertilizer (high in phosphorus) starting in September to maximize flowering.

Good Growing,
Dr. E.R. Myers

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