It was bought impulsively; one of those corner market jobs that catches your fancy from out of the corner of your eye. And it did, and I did, while walking home slightly inebriated from a decadent restaurant meal. (Worse things have happened under the influence of alcohol, I am sure.)
It shouldn’t have been outside in such cold weather, but that’s how they get you. And let’s face it, I can’t walk past a plant display without looking, no matter where it is and no matter the condition of the plants. And sometimes because of their condition.
“I will save you poor, mistreated plant!”
I always look. Always. And if I don’t stop to look, I at least scan. I am an expert scanner and can spot a diamond in the rough from across the street. I was reared on Midnight Madness Blue Light Special and have decades of thrift store shopping under the belt.
Like all corner market plants, the variety name is unknown. No tag or ID. Not meant to last. Enjoy it while it is in bloom and then toss it once the embarrassment of its ragged condition is enough to outweigh the guilt. Which is too bad really, since they are not terribly difficult to keep and can last decades, generations if you’re determined.
Here’s how to keep a Christmas Cactus (Schlumbergera) and even get it to rebloom:
- These are epiphytic cacti that are native to the jungles of South America. For that reason they require good soil drainage but steady moisture. Allow the top layer of soil to dry out slightly between watering, but not as you would for a regular cactus.
- When you bring it home from the store in bloom, set it in indirect light, away from a sunny window.
- While blooming, keep the plant in a cool spot with steady temperatures. Too much heat (or cold) can cause the blooms to drop prematurely.
- After blooming, move the plant to a spot where it will receive bright, indirect sun. Lots of sun helps make it healthy for reblooming next year, but too much sun can burn the leaves.
- Prune the plant back after blooming to help create a fuller, bushier plant. Simply twist off a few stems at an obvious junction. Larger cuttings can be used to propagate new plants if you like.
- Next September, reduce watering significantly, only giving enough to keep the plant from shrivelling up.
- Do not fertilize during this period.
- Blooming is induced by a decrease in night temperatures plus the decrease in daylight hours that occurs in the fall (about equal day and night hours). The best way to easily provide the cool night temperatures they require is to keep the plant outside in the late summer and bring it in just before frost. If it gets too much light outdoors, you can try keeping it indoors in a cool, unheated porch (about 50F). Cover it at night with a dark cloth or shift it to a a dark room like a bathroom.
- As soon as flower buds appear, resume watering. Keep the soil consistently moist. Don’t let it dry out.
- Sometimes plants don’t rebloom because they are too pampered. Keep the plant rootbound so that it is crowded in its pot. You can go too far with this. If a potbound plant stops blooming it may be time to move it to a bigger pot.