Brighten Your Home with this Colorful Holiday Plant
The pretty little plant is showing up everywhere, just in time to brighten your home for the holidays. But what IS it? Branching stems of leaves, looks a bit like a succulent but has bright flowers yet they call it a cactus.
The Christmas Cactus is indeed a succulent. Native to Brazil it grows along the coast and enjoys a humid environment that most cacti would not appreciate. The flowers are a good three inches long and feature tiers of petals in a variety of colors: red, white, pink, an almost apricot, even purple. If properly cared for the plant may bloom more than once a year although its most prolific bloom period will occur around the holidays – any time between Thanksgiving and Christmas.
How do you properly care for this cheerful little plant so it will brighten your home this holiday season and for years to come?
A lack of water and dramatic temperature swings can cause flower buds to drop more rapidly than the two to three weeks of flowering that will occur under ideal conditions. You can maximize your specimen's blooming period by paying attention to six key factors:
- Soil: Use a quality soil rich in humus and other nutrients – a cactus specific blend is perfect and preferred but a good potting soil will also work.
- Temperature: Maintain an optimal climate of 65 degrees or warmer.
- Watering: Keep the soil evenly moist while your plant is blooming, misting it frequently. A good, even watering once a week at minimum.
- Light: Place the cactus in an east-facing window for moderate light and some direct sun but not too much or the leaves will burn. Don’t make the mistake of thinking because it is a member of the cactus family it wants bright full sun.
- Fertilization: Apply a high-potassium fertilizer every two weeks once buds form through the blooming period.
- Transplantation: Repot your cactus each year after flowering. This isn’t essential but it will help your plant continue to grow and thrive.
While there are more things you can do to encourage bigger blooms and more frequent blooming, the Christmas Cactus really doesn’t need much more than an east facing window, regular watering and an environment of 65 degrees or warmer to bring a splash of color into your home in the winter.
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Sources: Good Housekeeping