One of the many joys this time of year is seeing the blooms of Christmas cacti. So how do we keep these beautiful plants, from deep in the jungles of South America, growing and blooming year after year in Kansas?
Our common household temperatures are fine, and the plants prefer indirect sunlight. Too much sun can result in yellow leaves. The soil should be kept constantly moist, but not waterlogged. Give cacti a light fertilization every other week and they will normally bloom until late winter or early spring.
You can place the plants outside in the summer, but be sure they are not in the hot Kansas sun. They need to be in a sheltered place, away from direct sunlight and drying winds and you must be sure to keep the plants moist.
Fall is the time to ready the plants for blooming again at Christmas. These cacti need eight weeks of special care to prepare for bloom. During this time you should not fertilize, you should decrease watering and you must shield the plants from indoor night lighting.
Christmas cacti need eight to 12 hours of complete darkness, for a minimum of 25 consecutive nights, to allow them to reset their blooms in time for Christmas. This is best accomplished by moving the plants to a closet or room which is not used in the evening hours or by covering the plants with a cardboard box each night.
Since a home's indoor lighting will affect the plant's ability to recreate its blooms, it is important to ensure that the plant is in complete darkness during night hours.
During the days, move the plants to bright, indirect sunlight, and in a few weeks you should begin to see buds forming. After the plant sets buds, don't disturb or move it or the buds may fall off. Your Christmas cacti will be ready to bring their beautiful blooms back to your home for another joyous season.
-- The Garden Calendar is sponsored by K-State Research and Extension-Douglas County office and written this week by Master Gardener Bill Padgett. For more information call the Extension Office, 843-7058, Monday-Friday, between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m.