Christmas Cactus: RHS advises on looking after plant
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Christmas cacti (schlumbergera) are the perfect festive plant. They will continue to look great into January but may need some special care as the year draws on. Michael Perry, also known as Mr Plant Geek, has shared his tips for caring for the popular festive houseplant.
Mr Plant Geek is a “hortpreneur”, speaker and gardening expert who often appears on television to share his plant expertise.
In a video for the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) in 2019, Michael shared how to repot and encourage your Christmas cactus to re-bloom next year.
Mr Plant Geek said you need to repot your plants once a year or every two years if you can’t do it that often.
The plant expert advised Christmas cactus owners to do this at the end of March, at the beginning of their growing season.
When you’re repotting, you will also need to use a cactus compost.
Michael explained: “The compost to use is a standard cactus compost such as John Innes number two.
“You need to add some grit for drainage though as well choose a slightly larger container than the plants already in.
“But don’t go up too many sizes because the plants enjoy being a little bit snug.”
Getting your plant to re-bloom requires patience and time.
The key to a re-flowering Christmas is two resting periods.
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He said: “If you want your plants to re-bloom, they actually need resting periods through the year – once in winter and once in the autumn.
“From late January to March, reduce the watering of your plants to only occasional moisture.
“Don’t let the compost dry out fully but just keep it just moist and move it into a position of around 15C.
“So a much much cooler room of the home.
“During the growing season, which is April to September, start to water more often.
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“Start to feed the plants as well with a houseplant liquid feed and maintain a temperature of around 20C – so a slightly warmer room during the summer months.”
Going into the summer months, the houseplant can actually be placed outside.
In early summer and up until August, there’s no risk of frost so the plant will thrive outdoors in the sunshine.
“This will help to ripen the new growth on your plants and encourage that flowering,” Michael added.
However, you will need to make sure you keep the plant in a shady spot of the garden and protect them from slugs and snails which are attracted to the succulent foliage.
The flower buds on your Christmas cactus will then start to form in September.
Mr Plant Geek said you will then need to rest the plant again.
He said: “At that point, reduce the temperature and the watering because they’re then going into this second resting period.
“Once the flower buds have then developed, you can increase the temperature and the watering and you’ll find that there will be a lot of buds on your plants.
“If your Christmas cactus is kept happy it will flower for at least two months even longer in some circumstances.”
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