Gift of the Cacti
One of our favorite Christmastime plants is the Christmas cactus, its red flowers popping out this time of the year, a flowery indicator that the holiday season is upon us. The Thanksgiving cactus is also common during this season as it usually blooms at, of course, Thanksgiving – a few weeks before the Christmas cactus, according to the Clemson Cooperative Extension.
These houseplants are native to Brazil and can flower for several weeks if kept warm (about 68 degrees). They make great hanging baskets for the holiday season as the flowers spill over the sides of the pot. If you happen to have a great flowering cactus, consider propagating it and giving it as a gift next year.
The Clemson site suggests propagating by cuttings in May or June (hey, just think about the jump you can get on your holiday gift list!). Simply pinch off sections of stems with three to five stem segments (called phylloclades). Place the cuttings outdoors in the shade for a day or two so they will callus. Next, place three cuttings about 1 inch deep in potting soil of a 4-inch container.
Water plants well and then cover with a clear plastic secured with a rubber band, creating a little greenhouse that fosters humidity and enhances rooting. Keep the pot in the sun until the roots form (about three to eight weeks). Then remove the plastic bag and fertilize lightly at watering.
Here’s some more information on growing Christmas cacti locally in this column from The Post and Courier.
Do you have a Christmas cactus blooming at your house? Share a photo on our Facebook page and let’s see whose plant is the largest!