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How to get your Christmas cactus to bloom

By Ann Bauer-Lasiewicz

The best and most fun part of caring for a Christmas cactus is getting it to rebloom. Now is the time to take some necessary steps. Triggering dormancy is the vital step to getting your plant to rebloom.

To do this, begin by cutting back slightly on water and light. These plants are extremely sensitive to any light, especially when trying to get buds to set. Keep your plant in the dark for 12 to 14 hours a day. A dark closet with the door closed or a black cloth cover will do the trick.

Keep your plant in a cool spot where the temperature is about 50 to 55 degrees at all times. Continue the light and temperature control for at least six to eight weeks, or until you see buds begin to form. Once this happens, move your plant back to its original location with indirect sunlight, making sure to protect it from cold drafts or warm air. Resume regular watering, keeping in mind that too much water can cause buds to drop. Be patient. It can take up to 12 weeks to bloom once the buds have formed.

To keep life interesting, most “Christmas cactus” seen in stores during the holiday season are actually Thanksgiving cactus (Schlumbergera truncata) because they bloom slightly earlier than true Christmas cactus (S. bridgesii or S. xbuckleyi). Both are often referred to as holiday cactus or Zygocactus, but their care is the same.

If you’re interested in telling them apart, the Christmas cactus has stem segments with rounded tips. The flowers have pink pollen and hang below the stem segment. The Thanksgiving cactus has stem segments with pointed tips, the flowers have yellow pollen and are held horizontally. Both are native to the rain forests of Brazil, can reach a spread of 2 feet and last for decades.

Now, how badly do you want the thing to bloom?

Ann Bauer-Lasiewicz is a Colorado master gardener and La Plata County resident. Get Growing, written by the La Plata County Extension Office’s Master Gardener Program, provides timely tips and suggestions for your garden and landscape.