Along with poinsettias, Christmas cactus is one of the most popular plants that bloom at Christmas. Actually, some bloom at Thanksgiving. There is also a variety of cactus that blooms during the spring. The Christmas cactus popularity comes from the fact that it has beautiful cascading red, pink or whitish blooms. It is also a plant that thrives on neglect. Here’s some growing and rooting hints:

Growing: I place my plants outside, in the shade, after the frost is over in March and I bring them inside in mid October. Inside, I place the plants so they get bright, indirect light during the day, but complete darkness at night. I keep the plants slightly moist while they are in bud and flower, and I don’t let the plants rest in a saucer of water. After they bloom, I decrease the watering and let the plants rest until March. I water only when the top 2 or 3 inches of the soil is dry to the touch.

Rooting: Cuttings root easily, so the Christmas cactus makes a great pass-along plant—a gift that can be shared for years. Here’s how:

Take a 3 or 4 stem segment, twisting each one off the mother plant.

Allow the cuttings to dry at least 24 hours, so they can seal over.

Plant the cuttings in a mixture of moistened 1/2 peat moss and 1/2 perlite. Spray mist with water, don’t water directly while they are rooting.

Don’t worry when the cuttings wilt—they will come back to life with roots and start producing small green leaves. Then it is time to start watering the new plants.

The Smith County Master Gardener program is a volunteer organization in connection with the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service.

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