Friday, January 27, 2023
Jan. 27, 2023

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Gardening with Allen: Christmas cactus great gardener gift


Do you think Christmas cactus is a good gift for some one who enjoys gardening?

I believe that a Christmas cactus plant would be an excellent gift for a gardener who does not already have one. In fact it would be a nice gift for anyone who has even mild interest in plants. You can find plants just starting to bloom this time of year. Flower colors include red, red and white, salmon pink, pale pink, hot pink and white.

Christmas cactus is not really a cactus but is a succulent that likes growing conditions similar to cactus. The plants originated in the shady, humid forests of Brazil and actually grow as epiphytes (also known as air plants) in trees where the branches meet. Christmas cactus is a long lived plant that lasts for years and is even passed down from one generation to the next. It is also easy to start new plants from existing ones to grow on and share with others.

Christmas cactus grows best in strong indirect light but can tolerate direct window light this time of year when the sky is usually cloudy. If placed near a west- or south-facing window, make sure to filter the light with a sheer curtain by March. Plants like humidity, so if your house is dry indoors in winter, put it near a tray of pebbles with water, or place it near other plants.

It will grow well in any soil that drains quickly. Like other succulents, it is more likely to be overwatered than underwatered. Make sure the soil is dry on top before watering.

Almost any fertilizer can be used. I prefer a timed-release fertilizer like Osmocote. It releases a little fertilizer every time a plant is watered. That way I can fertilize about once every three months and forget about it.

Growing plants can be left in a pot for over a year because they prefer to have their roots somewhat constricted. When moving to a larger pot, choose one that is only an inch or two larger in diameter.