Part of the epiphytic cacti family, Christmas Cactus is the most commonly known name for them. They are a striking and exotic looking type of houseplant and the botanical name is ‘Schlumbergera’. They produce red, pink, white or purple flowers from around November and often well into January which is where the name ‘Christmas Cactus’ derives from. Easy to grow and care for, they make excellent seasonal gifts and are very easy to propagate and take cuttings from. There so easy in fact, they make great plants for children to grow and even help take the cuttings.
When to take a cutting
Take cuttings around May when they are actively growing ensuring that the plant is healthy.
How to take a cutting
Taking the cuttings is very easy, and as long as they don’t rot off, they usually nearly always take root.
1. Firstly take a cutting from one of the lower branch sections ensuring the cutting is made up of at least three sections. Leave the cuttings somewhere cool until the wound (also known as the basal) has dried and begun to heal. By doing this, it will reduce the likelihood of the cutting rotting off or getting infected.
2. While you wait for the wound to heal, mix some peat or seed compost with around 50% grit sand to improve drainage and this is what you will use to propagate your cutting in a seed tray.
3. Now that you have taken the cutting, simply place them in a light position but not in direct sunlight as this can scorch the new growth. Water sparingly until they have rooted, this usually takes around three to twelve weeks depending on the temperature. Ideally they want to be kept at a temperature of 18-24°C (65-69°F).
Potting on cuttings
After the cuttings have taken root and have nice healthy strong roots they can be carefully potted on. Either use cactus compost or mix 50% compost with 50% grit sand and pot on into either a 7cm or 9cm pot and place in a light position (as before) but not in direct sunlight. They will probably need potting on every year around March into a slightly larger pot as they grow.
Tips for Growing Christmas Cactus
They originate from jungle-type environments and grow attached to trees, similar to the way orchids do. As such, they will grow in a partially shady spot but prefer a bright position but not in direct sunlight as it damages the leaves.
When they are actively growing from around March onwards, the soil is best kept moist but not wet and they prefer a humid environment. To help achieve this, fill a saucer with small pebbles and fill with water to just below the top of the pebbles and place the Christmas Cactus on top.
After flowering, usually from around February it is time to move the plant to a cooler position if possible ideally around 12-15°C (55-59°F). Reduce watering and only water when the soil becomes drier which may be only every few weeks. Around March water again as before keeping the soil moist but not wet.
Feeding – Feed plants when they are actively growing from around March to September with any houseplant feed as directed in the instructions.
Moving outdoors in summer
We recommend that you move your plants outdoors once the risk of frost as passed, this is usually around the end of May in most parts of the UK. Growing them outside during the summer will help new growth to mature and will encourage more flowers in winter. Remember to choose a shady spot where they are protected from direct sunlight.
Around September the buds should start to form, bring them back indoors into a cooler room and reduce watering as you did after flowering. Once the buds have formed move them back into a warmer room ideally around 18-20°C (65-69°F) and start watering again keeping the soil moist.
If you follow these few steps you should be rewarded with masses of beautiful flowers.
Easy to follow steps
- Begin watering sparingly around March and keep soil moist, but not wet and pot up any plants that need to be.
- In May, take cuttings from healthy growth ensuring they have at least three sections.
- Place outdoors in a shady spot around the end of May when the risk of frost has passed.
- June to September, keep soil moist while being grown outdoors.
- Buds will start to form in September, bring indoors into a cooler room and water less.
- When buds have formed, which usually around November, move to a warmer room and start to water sparingly again keeping the soil moist.
- Keep watering and enjoy flowers from November to January
- When flowers have finished, move to a cooler room and only water when soil becomes dry.