Care of the Christmas Cactus: After the Holidays

Published 9:13 am Thursday, January 26, 2023

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By Cynthia Wagoner

Gates County Extension

Master Gardener

Approximately three years ago while in Virginia Beach at a nursery, there was a table in their greenhouse full of yellow Christmas Cacti. YELLOW! (Yellow is among the rarest varieties). I bought two: one for my friend, Ruth, and the other one for me. My goal was to propagate this plant and give to others, as well as sell at the Master Gardener Spring Garden Show every April for their scholarship fund.

Thorn-free, the Christmas cactus is easy to care for year round. After the holiday blooms have wilted away, careful pruning of each stem will result in a much fuller plant for the next year. Keep in mind that each cutting can be rooted either in water or put directly into a small pot with potting soil. This type of cacti does not need direct sunlight, and will flourish in an eastern or northern window, and likes a good night’s rest with no light for about 13 hours, not even light from headlights or a lamppost.

Today, the modern Christmas cactus has flowers that are larger than grandmother’s plants and blooms both in the spring and the winter. They will bloom best while root-bound and kept evenly moist, allowing them to dry out between waterings. Christmas Cacti will resent having their roots kept wet, and will decay rapidly.

Temperature requirement is between 60 and 80 degrees. It can be put outside in the shade in the spring after frost threat is over. In the fall, repot your cactus in a slightly larger pot every two to three years using fresh potting soil. This blooming succulent can live to be 100 years old when taken care of properly!

If the green “leaves” turn yellowish, something is amiss. Problems can be overwatering, sunlight/darkness needs are not being met, or temperature range is too hot or cold. Plants are like people, they can either thrive or just survive if they are not happy.

TIP: While making hard-boiled eggs, allow the water from boiling the eggs to cool, and water your cacti with the calcium-rich leftover water!

SAVE THE DATE: Saturday, April 29, 2023: the Spring Garden Show at the Perquimans County Rec Center, Hertford, NC. The event serves as a Master Gardeners’ fundraiser for scholarships! Hope to have yellow Christmas cacti for sale! See you there!!