Holiday cactus can rebloom

Q. I received a lovely Christmas cactus this year. Is there a way to get it to bloom again next year?

Mary from Columbiana

A. Holiday cacti are easy to care for but are not the sun-loving, drought-loving cacti of the desert. Their native habitat is the rainforest of the Organ Mountains of Brazil. As epiphytes, they live in tree branches happily rooted in accumulated organic debris with rainfall amounts varying from a whopping 17 inches per month in December through March to just 3 inches per month in the subsequent dry season.

Once flowers fade, continue to grow it as a houseplant. Soil should be well drained. Fertilize monthly between April and October with a complete houseplant fertilizer. Prune in June to encourage branching and more flowers. Just remove a few sections of each stem with your fingers or a sharp knife. The removed pieces can be rooted in moist vermiculite to make more plants.

While it can adapt to low light, more abundant blooms are produced on plants that have been exposed to high light intensity. Keep it in a sunny location indoors. It can be moved outdoors in summer, but to a shady or semi-shady location. Too much direct sunlight can burn the leaves. The naturally longer nights and cool temperatures in late summer will encourage flower development. When temperatures drop below 50 degrees, bring it back inside. Slowly adjust it to indoor conditions by gradually increasing the number of hours it spends indoors each day. These are short-day plants and bloom when nights are 12-14 hours long. To guarantee Christmas bloom, begin placing it in a closet for 12 hours per day in mid-October. Once in flower, it should be kept in bright, indirect light away from drafts from heat vents, fireplaces or other hot air sources. Drafts and temperature extremes can cause the flower buds to drop before they open. Day temps of 70 and evening temps of 60-65 are ideal. Water thoroughly, but let top half of soil dry slightly between waterings. Do not let soil dry too much during flowering.

Today’s answer provided by Sara Scudier, OSU Ext. master gardener volunteer and certified volunteer naturalist. Call the office hotline at 330-533-5538 from 9 a.m. to noon Mondays and Thursdays to submit your questions.

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