Although you could receive many different gifts this Christmas, a Christmas cactus is one that is truly unique. It’s a relatively common house plant that tends to bloom at the end of December but it is beautiful all year long. It also comes in a variety of colors, so there is a lot to appreciate about it. That appreciation would include these 10 facts about Christmas cacti that will help you love this gift even more.
1. It’s called a cactus but it does great in cold temperatures – according to Purdue University Extension Service, the Christmas cacti should be kept away from heat sources. They say that the cactus will bloom longer when it is exposed to only cool temperatures. Put the cactus in a cool place for best results and keep it away from fireplaces or heaters. You should also avoid frequent drafts. If the temperature changes too drastically, the blossoms may drop before they open. Optimally, the temperature should be at 68°F.
2. You need light for the Christmas cacti to bloom – The Purdue University Extension recommends keeping the plant in a sunny location inside the home to keep the blooms going as long as possible. If you do have to move the plant outside during the summer, choose a partially shaded location to avoid burning the leaves from direct sunlight.
3. The Christmas cacti come from Brazil – this particular plant grows on top of other plants and is known as an epiphyte. You will find them in the Brazilian rain forest and according to Clemson University Cooperative extension, they are nestled among the tree branches. They prefer humid weather since they are tropical plants.
4. Christmas cacti need to rest – at the Cheyenne botanic Gardens, the horticulture experts say that the Christmas cactus should be in a room that stays dark at night. The flower buds will set if the plants get 14 hours or more of continual darkness daily. Once the flowers blossom, you can have some light at night.
5. The Christmas cacti are not toxic to animals, unlike the poinsettia – most people were are of the poisonous nature of poinsettia for your pets. According to the ASPCA, however, your pet should not have a negative reaction to eating a Christmas cactus.
6. A Christmas cactus can live up to 30 years – according to the old Farmer’s almanac, the Christmas cacti may live anywhere from 20-30 years if you take care of it properly. Providing long nights starting the beginning of October forces the cactus to bloom each and every year. It would also benefit from cooler night temperatures.
7. Mist the cacti daily but don’t overwater – a horticulturist with the Oregon State University extension service recommends that the soil should be dry to the touch before you water a Christmas cactus. Walter Reeves, the Georgia Gardener, a gardening expert, and radio host says you should mist the leaves of the cactus daily to keep the humidity at the right level.
8. Fungus gnats, flower thrips, and root mealybugs could cause problems for your Christmas cacti – overwatering is not the only problem to affect the Christmas cacti. You should also consider preventative care, including discarding infected plants to care for any other problems. Commercial growers may also offer pesticides but home gardeners may have difficulty getting them.
9. 5 Diseases That Can Affect a Christmas Cacti – there is a fact sheet available from Penn State University extension that talks about the most common diseases to affect the Christmas cacti. Their list includes basal stem rot, botrytis blight, impatiens necrotic spot virus, phytophthora root rot, and pythium root rot.
10. Beware of fake Christmas cactus – according to U-Mass Extension Service, “Most commercial cultivars of holiday cactus are actually Schlumbergera truncata, commonly known as Thanksgiving cactus or Zygocactus. True Christmas cactus is an interspecific hybrid of Schlumbergera truncata and Schlumbergera russelliana that originated about 150 years ago in England. It’s a common houseplant but not often grown commercially.” Who knew?