2008-02-01 / Columnists

The Diary Of A Green Thumb

How Can I Make My Christmas Cactus Bloom Again?
Commentary By Danielle McShane Danielle's Rockaway Florist

DANIELLE McSHANE DANIELLE McSHANE The Christmas cactus is a succulent whose greens stay full all year long, with surprisingly fragile and colorful flowers that bloom between November and December. I had received a letter from a local reader, and inquiries from a handful of customers in the florist shop asking how to make their Christmas cactus re-bloom. As any other plant, it is best to learn about its natural growing habitat and mimic the same environment to achieve its best performance.

To simulate these conditions, keep the soil dry, and set in a room where it can receive ample sunlight during the day, and the lights are kept off at night. Cacti need about 13 hours of darkness to trigger blooming. It is best to keep the temperature around 55 degrees. They respond well to prolonged periods of cool temperatures, so if they're kept closer to 70, the plants may not rebloom.

In its natural habitat, the cacti go through a dry rest period, followed by a rainy season before the buds begin to form. Since your cactus has had cool, dry conditions for most of the year, water it a bit more come September. After the buds set and become swollen, move the plant to a warmer, brighter room, and give it plenty of water and indirect light.

Continue to water the plant regularly while the flowers are in bloom, otherwise they may fall off. After all of the blooms fade, return it to a cool room where it is kept dry for a while, storing energy to re-bloom again next year.

If you find that the roots are growing from the drainage hole on the bottom of the container, it is time to repot your cactus. This won't help much to promote the blooms, but by repotting the plant into a container one size larger, it will give the roots nutrients and room to grow so that next year, the cactus will be fuller and healthier.

Feel free to write to us with your gardening tips or questions, or visit us at Danielle's Rockaway Florist: 436 Beach 129 Street, Belle Harbor, N.Y. 11694.

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