How To Propagate A Christmas Cactus To Add Pops Of Cheerful Color To Your Space

The Christmas cactus (Schlumbergera) gets its name because, unlike many plants, it naturally blooms around Christmas in the northern hemisphere. This unique plant is an epiphyte in its native habitat in Brazil. Instead of requiring soil, epiphytes harmlessly attach themselves to trees or bushes, where they collect nutrients and moisture from the air and decomposing organic debris. Although this is how they grow in the wild, they also do well indoors when grown in high-quality potting soil. As epiphytes, their ability to grow air roots makes them exceptionally easy to propagate.

Although red Christmas cactus blooms are the most common, this cultivar is available in many different varieties to add cheerful color to your home during the dark winter months. Fuschia, white, and orange are just a few options available. If you are feeling really creative, you can plant multiple colors in one container for a gorgeous array of blooms that can last up to six weeks.

Propagating a Christmas cactus

To propagate a Christmas cactus from cuttings, wait until the plant has finished blooming so it can use all its energy to grow strong roots. This plant consists entirely of stem segments rather than leaves, and each segment can produce roots. Gently break a piece of one of the stems off below the third segment by bending or twisting it. Do not cut the segment off because this will damage the tissue needed to develop roots.

It may seem too simple, but all you need to do with your new "cutting" is place it in fresh, damp soil, burying the bottom segment about halfway. Keep the soil consistently moist but not soggy, and roots will form within a few weeks. A space that stays around 70 degrees with bright, indirect light (which can come from a grow light, if necessary) will help your new plant grow more quickly. You can propagate several segments together in one pot, so you have a nice, full plant by the time it blooms.

How to encourage blooming

A common complaint among Christmas cactus owners is that they will not bloom. While the greenery of the plant is lovely by itself, the blooms can really put on a show. Ensure you get those beautiful pops of color by mimicking the plant's natural habitat, triggering it to set buds. If you want it to bloom around Christmas, start this process about eight weeks before you want it to begin producing flowers.

The right temperature, light, and water conditions are the keys to kicking off the blooming process. Christmas cacti need between 12 and 16 hours of complete darkness each day in a closet or a cool room that's about 60 degrees Fahrenheit. During this time, bring the plant out for about eight hours of light daily. If you work during the day, bring your plant out of the closet before you leave for work, and put it away again when you get home. Let the soil dry out, and only water if it's dry one inch below the soil's surface. Continue this process until you see buds start to form. Once they appear, keep the soil consistently moist and place it where it will get natural light.