Their natural habit is one of an epiphyte (just like orchids!) living in tree branches in the rain forests of Brazil! In other words, they prefer a humid climate, not a dry one, so it’s important to water these cacti more regularly than desert cacti.
TOXICITY-Non-toxic. Ingesting mass quantities could cause digestive upset.
LIGHT-Place a Christmas cactus in bright indirect light but never direct sun. Christmas cactus can live in medium or low light, but flower buds may drop off or never form at all.
WATER-Allow the top 50% of the soil to dry out before watering. Buds fall off if the soil is too dry. Over-watering a Christmas cactus causes root rot. Reduce water after a Christmas Cactus has finished blooming. Start watering again normally once the plant starts to produce new leaves.
FERTILIZER-Feed every two weeks in the spring and summer with a liquid indoor plant food diluted tc 1/2 the recommended strength. Never feed a Christmas Cactus after October 1st.
TEMPERATURE-The correct temperature is important if you want a Christmas Cactus to produce flowers. To set flower buds, the plant needs cool temperatures of 60-65°F (16-18°C) during the day and even cooler temperatures of 45°-55°F (7°-13°C) at night. Once buds have developed, Christmas Cactus like warm temperatures of 70°F-75°F (21°C-24°C) during the day and about 10°F (-12.2°C) cooler at night. Cool temperatures between 65°F-70°F (18.3°C-21.2°C) help Christmas cactus flowers last longer.
HUMIDITY-Christmas cactus plants like moderate household humidity.
FLOWERING-Blooms develop when days are short and temperatures are low. Starting in early fall, place a Christmas cactus in total darkness 12 hours a day. Keeping a Christmas cactus plant in a cool area, 60°F-65°F (15.6°C-18.3°C) helps the flowers form by Christmas.
PESTS-Christmas Cactus pests are Mealy Bugs and scale. When treating Plant Pest problems, avoid getting any sprays on the flowers.
DISEASES-Christmas cactus with necrotic spot virus get spotted, yellow or wilted leaves and stems. Over-watering causes bacterial root rot.
SOIL-Use a rich acidic soil that drains well. Christmas Cactus love leftover tea.
POT SIZE-Christmas cactus grow better and bloom more when they are slightly root-bound in smaller pots. If a Christmas cactus needs to be re-potted, usually only every few years, wait until it has finished flowering in the spring. Never re-pot a Christmas cactus when it is in bloom.
PRUNING-Pruning helps the plant become a full bushy and produce more blooms during the holiday season. The best time to prune a Christmas cactus is about a month after it has finished blooming. This brief rest encourages the Christmas Cactus to produce new growth and branch out. You should never prune a Christmas Cactus once summer has begun.
PROPAGATION- Christmas cactus is easily propagated using Stem Cuttings during the spring. Use a segment that has at least three segments, taken from a healthy stem. Allow the Stem Cuttings to dry out for a few hours before planting them to avoid stem rot.
HOW TO TELL HOLIDAY CACTI APART
There are several types of holiday cacti: Easter, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. They typically bloom closest to the holiday that they’re named after. Pay attention to the leaf shapes and flowers.
· Thanksgiving cacti (Schlumbergera truncata) have flattened leaves with pointed teeth.
· Easter cacti (Hatiora gaertneri)also have flattened leaves with rounded teeth, but their flowers are broader and almost daisy-like, whereas the flowers of the other cacti are more tube-shaped.
· Christmas cacti (Schlumbergera bridgesii) have flattened leaves with rounded teeth on the margins of the leaves.