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Christmas Cactus

A cactus in full bloom is guaranteed to lift one’s spirits.

christmas cactus2

Photo: by buttersweet (flickr)

Christmas cactus in bloom.

The Christmas cactus likes to spend the summers outdoors and makes a wonderful and easy houseplant when it comes indoors in the fall.

This plant sets its buds when the night time temperature is between 55-60 degrees (F) since cooler temperatures and longer periods of darkness trigger the bloom time. The plants do best in indirect light indoors but in light shade when they are outdoors. An inside east or north window sill is excellent in the house to avoid too much direct sun. They can, however, be placed in a room with other exposures if they are placed further away from the window. Some plants will bloom earlier and are commonly called Thanksgiving cactus when this occurs.

Let the soil dry out between before watering it, as the plant hates wet feet. It is also a plant that does not mind being pot bound, so repot infrequently. Since this Brazilian native needs good drainage and will die if overwatered it is a good candidate for a regular schedule. Therefore, pick a day of the week convenient for you and only water it on that day routinely. A water deprived cactus, will have leaves that wrinkle and feel limp.

Do not move a plant once it has set its buds, as it prefers to sit still. Just wait for it to put on its annual performance when it covers itself with lustrous flowers, usually they will be white, pink or salmon colored. A cactus in full bloom is guaranteed to lift one’s spirits.

Moya Andrews

, originally from Queensland, Australia, served as Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and Dean of the Faculties at Indiana University until 2004. In the same year, Moya began hosting Focus on Flowers for WFIU. In addition, Moya does interviews for Profiles, is a member of the Bloomington Hospital Board, and authored Perennials Short and Tall from Indiana University Press.

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