Early Bloomer

Dear Charlotte,

“The Christmas cactus from my grandmother is getting ready to bloom, what did I do wrong? – Martha

Hi Martha,

I also have a “Christmas” cactus blooming right now.  I’m embracing the blooms and calling it my winter cactus. These hardy tropical plants need a little help to bloom on cue here in Missouri. Back in their native Brazil, they have weather triggers to get them to bloom in December, the beginning of the South American summer.

Your cactus may be the older, true Christmas cactus if it came from your grandmother. Most cactuses sold on the market today are actually Thanksgiving cacti, which explains why they tend to bloom end of November.

To determine what kind of cactus you have, look at the green fronds. The original Christmas cactuses (Schlumbergera bridgesii) have smooth, round edges, while Thanksgiving cacti (Schlumbergera truncata) have pointy, jagged ones.

Mine started to bloom because I had it outside on my back porch last fall. Thanksgiving and Christmas cacti are called “short day plants,” meaning in order to produce flower buds, they require fewer daylight hours and/or cool night temperatures. Our shorter fall days and cooler nights signal to the plants it is time to produce buds.

To get your Christmas cactus to bloom when you want the blooms, locate it indoors in a cool, bright location where daytime temperatures are 65-70° F and evening temperatures are 55-65° F. If plants are exposed to cooler night temperatures of 55° F, plants will bloom in approximately 5-6 weeks, sometimes regardless of the day length.

Charlotte Ekker Wiggins is a gardener, beekeeper, and sometimes cook.  For more, visit gardeningcharlotte.com. Published by Kaleidoscope Weekly with permission. Copyright 2018, all rights reserved. This column may not be copied, published, reprinted, rewritten, or redistributed. Contact Charlotte at gardeningcharlotte@gmail.com.

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