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Replanting Christmas Cactus
by Barb Foster
by Barb Foster


Inspired to nuture, Barb Foster took up gardening over a decade ago. She has a particular passion for this areas hardy perennials.

Barb collects her own seeds, grows seedlings in a greenhouse and has 500 sq ft of growing beds plus numerous perennial flower beds in her Zone 1b garden in Chetwynd, B.C.

Barb writes weekly for the Chetwynd Echo.

January 23, 2011

Louise asks for tips on replanting a Christmas cactus…when replanting Christmas cactus, the best soil to use would be a rich porous loam with plenty of leaf mold and sand.

Our friend Louise has also asked for tips on repotting a huge old Christmas cactus. She would like to divide the plant too. I've not had much experience with Christmas cactus so if any of our readers can help out please do.

What is a Christmas cactus anyway? Researching the subject, I found that the plant is properly named Schlumbergera bridgesii. The Easter Cactus /Schlumbergera gaertneri a.k.a. Rhipsalidopsis and Crab Cactus / Schlumbergera truncata a.k.a. Zygocactus, are similar plants with their main differences being in flower colour, and bloom times.

To insure Christmas blooms on the Christmas Cactus the plant should be kept at 50-55 degrees F. at night, and receive 12-14 hours of darkness each night for the month of November. Once the Christmas Cactus has set buds the plant should not be moved or the buds may drop.

In their natural home in Brazil, these Cacti grow on other plants like many Orchids, but they differ in that they do not take nourishment from the host plant.

The Schlumbergera Cacti (named for Frederick Schlumberg), all have similar cultural requirements. They grow upright or spreading with segmented, scalloped edges and spineless, pendant, green flattened stems. The flower, usually red or purple/red, sometimes white, pink, salmon or orange, grows from the end of the stems in a series of loose petaled trumpet shaped tubes, stacked one inside the other.

Being from the jungle these Cacti require rich, porous soil, with added leaf mold and sand. Feed with liquid cactus fertilizer every week during growth and blooming periods. They will grow best in an east or west facing window. Constantly moist soil well drained and occasional spray misting is good, they are not a desert cacti, and do require warmth, shade and moisture.

Propagation can be done by rooting cuttings.

Schlumbergera Cacti root easily from sections of the segmented stem. Cut off a two or three segment piece from the end of a stem - the junction between two segments is inserted in the soil and the junction point is where new roots will grow. Use a moist mix of equal part builders sand and fine peat moss. Use a container with good drainage. Place the potted cutting container and all inside a clear plastic bag, insert a straw or stick in the soil to keep the plastic from touching the cutting, tie the plastic bag closed, and poke a few holes in the plastic for ventilation. Place in a warm shaded spot, keep moist, and wait for new growth.

To repot a large plant use a pot one inch larger than the one the plant is currently growing in. Use sterilized potting soil. One especially for Christmas Cactus if you can find one. Place pot shards over the drainage hole and gravel in the bottom of the new pot to be sure of good drainage. Spread soil over the gravel and place the plant in the new pot with its current soil level about one inch below the top of the new pot. Fill in with soil to plants current soil level and around the sides of the pot leaving no air pockets. Water well and the job is done.
Having found no information about dividing Christmas Cactus I would say it is probably not a good idea.


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