Poinsettias may be the traditional plant you think of when the holidays roll around, but if you're looking for something different to liven up your home this winter, you may want to consider a Christmas cactus instead. (And no, we don't mean a cactus wrapped in colorful lights!)
The Christmas cactus is a unique kind of cacti that blooms close to the holiday in early winter, hence its name. It often has bright pink or orange flowers, but can also have white and red, and pretty much any combination of those hues. And fun fact: there are also Easter and Thanksgiving cacti, which are similar to Christmas cacti, but both sprout close to their respective namesake holidays instead.
If you're investing in a Christmas cactus to celebrate the holidays with (or just to add a pop of color to your home this winter), here's everything you need to know about taking care of it.
How Do I Care for a Christmas Cactus?
Unlike most cacti, which typically grow in arid environments, Christmas cacti are native to the rain forests of Brazil, where they grow high up within the tree branches. Because of their native habitat, these plants prefer a more humid climate than other cacti, so you should be regularly watering your Christmas cactus to keep it in tip-top shape.
If the top inch of soil is dry to the touch, you'll want to water your cactus ASAP. That means you'll also want to keep it in a pot that has plenty of drainage. Once the water runs through the drainage holes at the bottom of the pot, discard the water leftover in the tray so the plant isn't left sitting in it—that can lead to root rot, which can kill your new plant.
The Farmers' Almanac suggests feeding your Christmas cactus every two weeks from the spring to early fall using a complete houseplant fertilizer—during the fall and winter, you can scale back to feeding it monthly. And to encourage more flowers to bloom when the time arrives, you should prune the plant in June—all you need to do is cut off a few sections of each stem.
Where Should I Place a Christmas Cactus?
You'll need to keep your new Christmas cacti out of direct sunlight–while they like bright light, it needs to be indirect. Also, their ideal temperature is around 70 degrees during the day and around 60 degrees at night for optimal growth. Cooler temperatures will allow them to bloom even more flowers.
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