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Now browsing: Hometown News > Gardening > Garden Nook

How to get the most out of Christmas cactus
Rating: 2.38 / 5 (24 votes)  
Posted: 2012 Nov 23 - 08:54

One of the greatest joys of the holiday season is the colorful Christmas cactus. These majestic plants come in a variety of colors including red, white, pink, magenta, yellow and orange.

These plants are a popular commodity at most retail outlets during the holidays and usually will sell out fast. The individual flowers can add a burst of color to your décor for a week or more, while a single plant's blooming cycle can continue for a month or more.

Christmas cacti, or schlumbergera russelliana, are not true cacti so they will not tolerate totally dry conditions for long periods of time. These plants are native to Brazil and normally grow up in the trees and thrive on organic materials such as mold and rotting leaves.

Since they enjoy the shade of the tropical forest, they will not tolerate direct sun or dry conditions. These plants can last for many years under the right conditions and with a little TLC.

When the plants mature, the leaves tend to form a cascading burst of color that looks great in a hanging basket. You can also easily propagate the plants by taking cuttings and planting them directly in a high quality potting soil that is light in texture.

Christmas cacti are fairly easy to grow in an indoor home atmosphere. They have a great ability top withstand cool temperatures and short periods of dry spells. As easy as it is for these plants to grow, it will take a little extra TLC to get the bountiful flowers that are their trademark.

One important factor in the flowering process is to start allowing the soil to dry out between watering cycles as winter approaches. It is also very important to place the plants in an area that will have less than 12 hours of natural or artificial light for at least six weeks.

Also, it is important to keep the temperature cool during this process. Once you have your flowers started, you can resume your normal watering schedule along with your normal room temperatures.

As you can see, with a little TLC and some special care, you can have beautiful flowering Christmas cacti year after year without the cost of having to replace your plants every year.

If you buy poinsettias for the holidays, one of the most common pest problems you might encounter is the whitefly. If you shake the leaves of the plant and you see little white specs flying around the plant, your poinsettia is infested with whiteflies.

Whiteflies are typically very hard to control but with this quick tip, you can avoid dangerous insecticides. You can use a handheld vacuum to get rid of these pests, simply disturb the leaves of the plant (carefully) with one hand while you vacuum the whiteflies away with a sweeping motion around the plant. This process can also be used for other houseplants that might acquire these pests.

Joe Zelenak has more than 30 years experience in gardening and landscape. Send emails to hometowngarden@gmail.com or visit his website www.hometowngarden.com.

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