CHRISTMAS CACTUS CARE
A beautiful holiday plant, the Christmas Cactus blooms at Christmas time if cared for properly. A month prior to Christmas you will be able to watch the tips of the leaves beginning to grow.
Keep the plant in a well-lit location (like near a window) away from direct sunlight (which can stunt growth and burn the leaves), drafts, heat vents, fireplaces or other sources of hot air. Move an indoors plant outdoors in summer to a shady location.
Provide a source of humidity if you live in a dry environment.
Water a Christmas Cactus with care. Care must be taken not to underwater it. Unlike many cacti, this variety cannot tolerate completely dry soil. If the soil gets too dry, the flowers buds will drop, and the plant will wilt. Too much watering will cause spots from white rot to appear on the leaves, and the leaves will likely fall off. The soil should be evenly moist for best growth. The rule of thumb is, less water is better than too much water. When watering, thoroughly water the plant. Before attempting to water the plant again, check to see that the top inch of soil has dried thoroughly first. Mist leaves as well as watering the soil. During the fall and winter months, the plants should be watered less frequently in order to promote blooming.
Plants that are actively growing should be given a blooming houseplant-type fertilizer. Generally, it should be fertilized 2-4 times a year with a 20-20-20 feed, but stop feeding about a month before the buds appear (this usually means stopping by the end of October).
The key to getting Christmas cactus to flower during the holiday season is proper light exposure, correct temperatures and limited watering.
It will set buds when day length is about equal to night length and when the temperature drops to 50 to 60 degrees for several weeks. Keep in a dark bathroom for the night. During the fall months, the Christmas Cactus should be placed in a spot where it receives indoor indirect, bright light during the daylight hours but total darkness at night (absolutely no artificial light). The Christmas Cactus requires long, uninterrupted dark periods, about 12 or more hours each night. Begin the dark treatments in about mid-October to have plants in full bloom by the holidays. Place the plants in a dark area from about 12 or more hours each night for 6-8 weeks or until you see buds forming. From September and October, the Christmas Cactus should be kept in a cool room where temperatures will remain around 50 degrees, give or take a few degrees. Plants should be blooming for the holidays if cool treatments are started by early November. Be especially careful with watering at this time. Reduce the watering slightly. Do not soak the soil after a dry period; only moisten the top few inches, since buds, flowers and even leaves can fall off if the roots are suddenly saturated.
Prune the Christmas cactus about a month after blooming.