When you think of a Christmas Cactus, do you picture a Saguaro with a Santa Hat? While that might be a popular visual landscaping in Phoenix, there is actually a plant called the Christmas Cactus!
The Christmas Cactus is an extremely unique cactus. It originates from South-Eastern Brazil. It grows on trees or rocks, specifically in areas where decayed leaves and other natural debris have accumulated. It is a great Christmas gift, especially to give to a party host/ hostess.
The Christmas Cactus is generally grown as a houseplant. While landscaping Phoenix, however, I have seen it grown outdoors here as well. It is a leafless plant and produces flowers that can be white, pink, yellow, orange, red or purple.
The cactus does best if pot bound. It should not be over or under watered. The soil should be kept moist. Generally, if the top inch of soil is dry to the touch, then it should be watered. As the cactus is from the tropics, it thrives on humidity. It is good practice to place a glass, vase or tray of water near the plant. As the water evaporates, it will provide humidity. Do not place the cactus near a door, fireplace or any drafty area. Do place the plant in a well lit area.
To help encourage flowering for the holidays, it is vital to place the plant in total darkness for 12 hours each night for about 6 to 8 weeks, beginning in early October. This is best achieved by placing the plant in a closet, unused bathroom or simply covering.
Landscaping Phoenix, I have seen these plants grown in pots outdoors in the shade. Our climate is well suited for the Christmas Cactus. It is important to remember though that this Cactus is unique and requires more water than other varieties of Cacti. Make sure to check its soil often. Also, bring the plant indoors in freezing conditions.
The Christmas cactus can be propagated. Simply twist off short pieces of its stem (one to three segments long) and allow to dry for one to seven days. Plant the cactus in an open growing medium when temperatures are between 70° and 81° F in the Spring or Fall.
The Christmas Cactus should bloom several times throughout the year. Prune it about one month after blooming to encourage the plant to branch out. By providing the proper care to your Christmas Cactus, it should last for many years! Pass it down through the generations. Start new plants with it. Spread the holiday cheer in a unique way!