Care For Christmas Cactus|Space Gardening

Good Christmas cactus care will ensure beautiful blooms in time for the holidays.

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This tropical cactus does not exist in the wild. It is a hybrid of Schlumbergera truncata and Schlumbergera russelliana that grow as epiphytes in the rain forests of South America.

Schlumbergera bridgesii has dark-green flattened stems composed of segments joined in a scalloped pattern. Flowers appear at the tips of the stems and are available in shades of pink, red, purple, yellow, and white. Newer cultivars bring together two colors, offering some exciting new combinations.

After your Christmas Cactus is through flowering for the season, it needs about a one-month rest. Water sparingly and stop fertilizing until new growth begins in spring.

Regular pruning will encourage the plant to branch out where the stem was cut, creating a fuller plant. Spring is the best time to prune it back, when it begins actively growing again.

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How to Get Christmas Cactus to Bloom Again

Growing this plant is easy, but there are a few things you should do to make it bloom before the holidays.

  • Shorter, cooler days and nights for about 8-10 weeks are needed for the plant to set buds. Moving it outdoors in fall is ideal, just keep it out of direct sun. Bring the plant back inside before the first frost.
  • Keep soil barely moist, but not too dry. Shriveled, limp stems are a sign that it’s too dry.
  • Once it starts budding, keep the plant in the same location. Changes in light and temperature by moving it around will cause it to drop its buds and flowers. Also keep it away from drafty areas like doorways and heat vents.

Repotting Christmas cactus plant is usually only necessary every 2 to 3 years. It prefers to be slightly pot-bound and blooms best this way. Wait till spring or early summer to repot — never while it’s blooming.

Christmas Cactus Care Tips

Origin: Hybrid with parents native to Brazil

Height: To 2 ft (60 cm)

Light: Bright indirect light

Water: Keep the soil moist, but not soggy while plant is growing. After flowering, water sparingly until new growth begins in spring.

Humidity: Moderate — about 50-60% relative humidity. Stand the pot on a dish of wet pebbles.

Temperature: To set flower buds, the plant needs cool 60-65°F/16-18°C days and 45-55°F/7-13°C nights. Once buds set, 70-75°F/21-24°C days and 60-70°F/16-21°C nights.

Soil: Well-drained potting medium is essential. Mix 1 part potting mix and 1 part fine-grade fir bark.

Fertilizer: Feed every 2 weeks with a balanced liquid fertilizer diluted by half. After blooms have dropped, stop fertilizing for a month.

Propagation: Take stem segments in spring and place upright in moist perlite.

Indoor Desert Garden|Space Gardening

Cacti Grouping Resembles Desert Scene

 

When to Start: Spring

At Its Best: Early Summer

Time to Complete: 1 1/2 hours

Materials Needed:

  • shallow planting bowl
  • pebbles
  • cacti soil
  • sand
  • newspaper
  • spoon
  • heavy-duty gloves
  • watering can
  • miniature cacti; this selection includes: silver torch cactus, Mammillaria, elephant-ear pricklypear and Rebutia

Before You Start

Cacti famously survive on little water, but if you want them to grow and flower they should actually be watered regularly during the growing season. Giving them a thorough watering before planting will help the roots make good contact with the new soil, and they should grow very well.

Cacti Care

Aid Drainage

All cacti hate to sit in water, so make sure it will run freely through the growing medium, and out of the bottom of the pot. The container should have lots of drainage holes, covered by a layer of pebbles, to prevent the soil from clogging up the holes.

Cacti Need Drainage Holes with Pebbles on Bottom

Set Out the Plants

Put on your protective gloves and start arranging your plants. If you have chosen the position for each of your cacti before you start, planting will be easier and you are more likely to end up with a good overall effect. It makes sense to put smaller ones at the front and larger ones at the back, but also consider planting those with different habits, textures and flower color next to each other.

Cacti Variety

Planting Tips

Wrap a folded strip of newspaper around the top of the plant. This will help you slide it out of its pot and maneuver it into the larger planter without getting spines or fine hairs in your fingers. It also protects the plant.

Wrap Cacti in Newspaper Before Transplanting

Fill in the Gaps

Once the plants are in position, use a spoon to carefully fill the gaps between them with a cacti soil. Add small amounts of soil at a time and keep firming it down with the back of a spoon to ensure that there are no air holes left around the plant roots.

Pack Cacti Soil Around Plants to Eliminate Air Gap

Brush Off Soil

No matter how careful you are, some soil will inevitably get caught in the cactus spines and hairs. Use a soft brush to remove it and to keep the plants looking clean and neat.

Remove Soil from Cactus Spines With a Soft Brush

Water the Plants

Water all the plants in well. In summer, they can be watered whenever the surface of the soil dries out. In winter, they should be left dry; start watering again sparingly when you see signs of growth in spring.

Watering Cactus in Pots

Apply a Sand Mulch

Use the spoon to spread fine sand around the surface of the planter. This helps water quickly drain away from the surface, preventing rot, and gives the planter an authentic desertlike appearance. Set your arrangement in a bright, sunny position.

Authentic Desert Atmosphere

Top Tip: Watering Crowded Pots

Cacti are often sold when the plants are almost overflowing the sides of their pots, making it tricky to water them properly before planting. Sit these in a container of water until the root ball is damp.

Dampen a Cacti's Root Ball

Cactus & Succulent Terrarium|Space Gardening

Terrariums are like mini-ecosystems, so for those of us who love deserts and see beauty in the harsh nature of those environments, recreating these worlds on a miniature scale holds a special sort of appeal.

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Better yet, they’re easy to grow, seriously low maintenance and offer great architectural aesthetics for the modern home.

What you’ll need

  • A glass vessel with a wide opening
  • Activated charcoal
  • Succulent soil
  • A spoon
  • A chopstick
  • Tweezers
  • Fine mist spray bottle
  • Decorative stones, sand or figurines
  • Various succulents

Selecting the right plants

  • Find plants that will fit the dimensions of your container;
  • Choose plants that will be good neighbors. Some succulents are thirsty, others prefer more sun or shade;
  • Avoid plants where growth is thin and pale colored – this suggests they’ve been kept in poor light conditions.

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Let’s get started

Step 1

Create the first layer by pouring decorative pebbles into your container.

Good drainage is essential for success. Fill no more than one third high.

Step 2

Using the spoon, create a thin layer of charcoal over the top of the first layer (0.5-1cm).

Step 3

Begin to spoon the soil into your container. Be more generous with this layer than the first, as your plant needs sufficient soil matter to grow – some succulents actually grow extensive root systems.

Pat it down with your fingers.

Step 4

Using your chopstick, create indentations in the soil for where you want your plants to go (a long thin tool like a chopstick allows for more control when planting).

Step 5

Remove the plants from their pots and gently loosen their root systems.

DIY-Instructions

Step 6

Pop your plants in.If your plants and container are quite small, the tweezers will help you position all the elements.

Use the fat end of your chopstick to tamp down the soil around the base of your plants.

Be sure to keep the succulents away from the sides of your terrarium because they’re liable to burn on a hot day.

Step 7

Sprinkle a final layer of decorative pebbles or sand, and add some cool figurines for a bit of atmosphere (dinosaurs look ace).

Step 8

Find a well-lit, sheltered location inside your home.

Step 9

Be gone, dirty glass – simply shoot water on the inside walls to wash off residual soil.

Common terrarium mistakes

Overwatering – succulents HATE wet feet. If the roots rot it can kill the entire plant. So let the soil dry out between waterings and gently mist around once a week.

Underwatering – while succulents can tolerate long periods without water, they do enjoy an infrequent shower. If you notice leaf shrinkage, mist 2-3 times a week.

Cactus

 

Growing succulents in closed terrariums – the environment is far too humid.

Sunburn/Heatburn – remember, the glass in a terrarium will radiate and amplify the sun’s rays onto your little plants. Sure, succulents need light but you’d be surprised how badly a cacti reacts to being cooked. Don’t put them near a heater either. Ensure they get both light and shade in moderate quantities.

Combining succulents with non-desert dwelling plants – standard indoor plants have different nutrient, sun, and water requirements to succulents. I’ve seen many fancy new terrariums, landscaped to look like mini-rainforests that also feature succulents for decoration. Within weeks the succulents are dead and the owner is left wondering what they did wrong. Too little sunlight and too much water/humidity are the likely culprits.