Monday, April 26, 2010

Christmas Cactus - Propagating

This may be the easiest plant ever to propagate. But first, a story about the Christmas cactus in this photo.

About 10 years ago, during the holiday season, my son asked for a Christmas cactus. The request kind of surprised me because he was only 8-9 years old at the time. Anyway, I wanted to fulfill his request but for some reason Christmas cactuses were hard to come by that year. I searched and searched and finally found a small Christmas cactus that was almost dead and had zero blooms on it - it was at a nursery and was tucked back in a corner of their greenhouse. It was priced at $6 or $7 but I asked them if they would take a couple of bucks for it since it was so pitiful looking. They said yes and I brought the plant home.

I have to tell you, my son was not impressed! hahaha I watered the plant and parked it in my kitchen/dining area which gets bright sun from a westward-facing window.

That little plant flourished! And after a couple of years it bloomed - in the middle of summer. It has bloomed at Easter. It has bloomed at Valentine's. It has bloomed in September. It finally seems to have itself straightened out and now blooms between Thanksgiving and Christmas. The plant now measures a little over 36" across and puts on a spectacular show during the first bloom. It is blooming again now, for the 3rd time this year.

Propagating these plants - simply break off a 2 or 3 piece segment and plant the cutting in moist vermiculite (I use styrofoam coffee cups for the pots). Do this in May and keep the vermiculite damp. I place all of the cuttings outside in the shade garden and they just walk the dog. By the first part of September they are rootbound in their little 3" pots and I repot them in 5" pots with Miracle Grow soil where they continue to grow at an amazing pace. Most of the cuttings I propagate bloom the first year - I guess bringing them in from the outside to the sunroom simulates the environment they need for blooming.

I have a collection of 5 different colors of Christmas cactus and love to plant 3-5 colors in each pot - when they bloom it's a pretty and interesting show.

Last year I propagated 20 pots of Christmas cactuses and gave them all away as gifts except for one. This year I plan to do at least 25. The adult cactuses benefit from the pruning.

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