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Thread: Watering a christmas cactus

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jun 2001
    Location
    Marlborough, ma
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    719

    Question Watering a christmas cactus

    Here's hoping we have some gardeners handy... I have a Christmas Cactus that I've had for about 3 years now. Finally, this year it seems to be blooming really well. Last year it looked like it was going to start blooming, but all the flowers fell off before they opened up. This year, a bunch of them are already opened. Here's my question...what do I do about watering it? I've heard with some plants that once they start blooming you really don't want to water them (maybe because all their energy then goes into growing and not flowering?). However, maybe this plant is one that needs moisture to continue blooming?

    Anyway...since these flowers are a once a year thing, I don't want to mess up and do the wrong thing -- it looks so great right now and I'd like to enjoy it for the next month or so. It was last watered about 2-3 weeks ago (normally I water it about every 4-6 weeks -- remember, it's a cactus). I searched google, but couldn't find any good information. Can anyone help?

    TIA!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Apr 2001
    Location
    Massachusetts
    Posts
    533
    I'd hold out for a more expert opinion, but when my buds fell off last year, I'm pretty sure it was from overwatering. I'm also curious to hear what others have to say. In the meantime, I'll check my plant books.

    Hope yours continues to look beautiful.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jul 2000
    Location
    Massachusetts
    Posts
    345

    cactus

    Tracey, I have had cactus for several years and they always bloom for T-day and not at Christmas time. I could postone them, but I don't. The way to postone them would be, starting in Sept. they should have 12 hrs. darkness and 12 hrs of light. Anyway, I water my cactus, once a week and very lightly. I continue to water this way, all year around. BTW, my cactus bloom twice a year, the second time will be around April. They are all in very bright windows where they get direct sunlight about 3-6 hrs a day. I have peach flowers and one drk pink, one. Good luck.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Feb 2001
    Location
    Washington, IN USA
    Posts
    553
    My Thanksgiving/Christmas cactus is just staring to show buds. It gets watered when the soil looks dry, which is about once a week with a diluted fertilizer water. (all my house plants get this treatment) I have found in the past that if I move the cactus close to the time of blooming that all the buds will fall off. It gets a lot of light all year long. So having said that, my recommendation is to find it a spot with lots of light out of direct sun light and drafts, fertilize/water when dry and don't move it. If you have to move it wait until after blooming is done. I've also had success putting it outside in the summer, bringing it inside in August.
    To love what you do and feel that it matters...how could anything be more fun! Katherine Graham

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Apr 2001
    Location
    wilbraham,MA
    Posts
    1,757
    Tracey,
    I have decided that after about 20 years with this Christmas cactus that it really is a Thanksgiving cactus and it is just getting ready to bloom.
    I have never had a problem with this, the most neglected plant imaginagble. I water it about every week or two when it starts looking really dry or when I remember it.. I should give it more respect.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jun 2001
    Location
    Marlborough, ma
    Posts
    719
    Thanks everyone!! So it sounds like it might be safe to water it, but maybe I'll water less than I normally do (and a little more frequently). I am a little worried though because I did move it. Normally it sits in a corner where it isn't seen much, but since it looks so nice now I moved it to another room where I can see it all the time. Hmmm...maybe I should move it back...

    yes Maizey...I think you're right...it really is a thanksgiving cactus That's fine with me though -- I don't care when it blooms, I just want to be able to enjoy that time for as long as possible.

  7. #7
    Plants are funny things. They get comfortable in a spot, and when we move them, they have to sort of acclimate. If there is good sunlight where you have it now (the new spot), it should be fine.

    I water mine when the leaves (branches?) thin out a bit. They're a succulent, so when they lose moisture, they get thin. That's when I know it needs water.

    I am ultra-cautious when it comes to watering. My feeling: best to under-water a succulent, rather than over-water. I had a piece of a Christmas cactus that was well over 100 years old, handed down from several family members past. It exploded, got really large and full of buds, but then it started to crumble. I gave it to my sister-in-law, a green thumb if ever I saw one (and the one who has the mother to my baby). She took it apart, took the soil off the roots, and found that I had watered it so much, it rotted the roots.

    Not only that, but I was watering it with tap water, which is softened (read: salt).

    She has since started another "shoot" for me, and now I know how to better take care of these little gems.

    Good luck!

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jun 2001
    Location
    Marlborough, ma
    Posts
    719
    Thanks Sandy for your good explanation of things. The new place where I moved my plant gets about the same amount of light as the old one so maybe it will be okay.

    And I water mine exactly when you do -- when it starts looking "thin" And when I do water it, I really soak it. I got this tip from some gardening show or book and this is how I do it: I put the plant in a larger container and then fill that container with water (while also watering the actual soil in my pot). I then let this sit for about 20 minutes before taking my plant and pot out of the larger container, and then I let it drain in the kitchen sink for as long as necessary. This may sound like over-watering, but really it's just making sure that all the soil is evenly soaked, as well as giving the pot a good "drink" (it's terra cotta so it steals alot of water from the soil anyway). The pot has a good drainage hole so I know that all the extra water is coming out. So far this technique has worked really well and enables me to water it less than once a month (which is good for someone like me who sorely neglects her little green friends).

    BTW Sandy, I'm glad your SIL was able to start another shoot for you and keep the 100-year cactus thriving! Gotta love those green-thumb people!

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Sep 2000
    Location
    Keizer, Oregon
    Posts
    635
    I have several different holiday cacti. I water once a week with weak fertilizer. Another thing that I suspect causes bud drop is temperature change. Mine stay on our deck from spring to fall. The coolness of the fall seems to set the buds. When I brought them straight into the house from the outdoors, I think the temperature change caused the bud drop. Now I bring them into the garage for about a week. Then as they start blooming, I bring them inside and enjoy them. I've had good luck for several years now.

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