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Christmas Cacti? You're joking!


By balcony


Christmas Cacti? You’re joking!

As I have not written a blog about these lovely little plants before I thought I’d do one today.

Pink & white one flowering on our living room table

I have had one or two plants in flower for the last month – therefore the title of this blog!

Christmas Cactus with dying flowers in the living room

This was the very first plant to start flowering this autumn.

I got the original plants many years ago from leaf cutting, bits of the leaf pad that easily break off the main plant & will usually root very well & quite quickly when put into a little compost. These pieces I found in the flower & plants section of the supermarket were my wife works. Knowing how easily they root I collected up some leaves that would otherwise have ended up in the waste bin. That no longer happens any more as the plants always come in a protective plastic sleeve but 10 years ago or more they didn’t do that, at least not for the plants in the supermarket.

Christmas Cacti with buds in our kitchen:

As we live in a flat there isn’t all that much room for plants, at least not big plants but some small plants can be accommodated! These plants are very fragile so I keep them very small, they always grow in small square 2 & 1/2" pots or sometimes in 3" round pots. They are never transplanted, though they do get some tomato fertilizer in the summer, (in fact ALL my plants do, even the ones grown only for their leaves! It does them no harm), & they flourish on pure neglect!

Pink & white flowering on the living room table

Pink & white & red flowering on our living room table

The red ones are in the middle but they don’t show up very well, besides they were mainly buds rather than open flowers.

Red Christmas Cactus that was flowering in March this year!:

They are actually a very dark red – usually that is! The light may have made it look more a dark pink rather than red! As I have two dripping with deep red flowers I’ll have to take a couple of photos & include them here.

Here are a trio of the promised photos:

They spend their lives, when not in flower, on the windowsill in our kitchen which is about 3m long & faces Southwest.

I also have a number of Easter Cacti that share the same place as well. I obtained them by the same method as the Christmas Cacti & they get the same treatment – that is “pure neglect”! They don’t mind either as they also flower every year & live in the same pots as the others.

Easter Cactus flowering in our living room window:

Here is a close up of an Easter Cactus flower:

Easter Cactus flowering on balcony during July!:

I fertilize them all with tomato feed during the summer & they give me this wonderful display in the autumn.

Edited to include a note on cultivation which I’ve condensed from the RHS A-Z Encyclopedia of Garden Plants:

“They are plants from the tropical rain forests of Brazil where they live on trees & require very little soil, that’s probably the reason they can exist for so long in tiny pots! They need a high potash feed every 4 weeks while they are growing & moderate humidity in the air & in the soil. They should be grown in bright, indirect light. They should be repotted every 3-4 years in the spring.”

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Mines in flower too Balcony, I put it outside in the shade for the summer and it has repaid me by being covered in flowers, I think it will need to be repotted but would you just feed it?

Your collection is lovely, such a long flowering season

14 Nov, 2013


Thank you Pam! :-))

I've added the promised photos which I took this morning. I notice that the flowers still don't look like the dark red they actually are! :-((

14 Nov, 2013


I can only describe mine as shocking pink!
I think it enjoyed its summer in the garden, other years its been too
cold and wet.

14 Nov, 2013


Lovely! I try to get mine to flower at Christmas but mistimed it this year with the first one as I watered it by mistake and it came into bud immediately. The others are being held back so we get flowers for longer. They spend a lot of the summer outside so started their drying off period a bit late.
The only problem with keeping them outside is keeping the slugs away though.So what's new...

14 Nov, 2013


I've never thought about a "timing period" like with the Amaryllis bulbs. I water them whenever they seem too dry or whenever I water the other plants. They get no differential attention form the rest of my plants & have always flowered about November time.

I did get one early in October but the rest have flowered at the end of October beginning of November.

Although I garden on a balcony I have trouble with snails - not slugs. I have seen their silvery trails all over the walls of the balcony when the sun's angle is right! I've found some of my Amaryllis, especially seedlings, with their leaves almost chewed off! Yet down on the allotment they are left mostly alone! They aren't on/in the ground it's true but then neither are they on the balcony!

14 Nov, 2013


It's nice to see them ... but they seem to flower whenever they like, so I don't know why they're called 'Christmas' cactus ...
You have a few nice ones.

15 Nov, 2013


Thanks, Hywel. They do look good don't they? I used to have a white one as well but it must have died at some point. During the period without flowers they are all identical so unless you have marked them somehow there is no way of telling them apart - if you have more than one colour of course!

I put a plastic plant marker in the red ones last year so all summer I knew which would be pink & which would be red. "Simples!" LOL!

16 Nov, 2013


Balcony, isn't it amazing how high snails will climb? Surprising that they knew there was going to be something to chomp at the summit!

Its interesting that other people's cacti flower regardless of a watering schedule - maybe my efforts are a waste of effort! Its always worked for me though.

16 Nov, 2013


It IS amazing how high they will climb alright! I don't believe slugs are so "ambitious"!

My Christmas Cacti are still flowering & it looks like they will continue for another week! The pink & white one is coming to an end but the 2 red ones are still going strong! :-))

I've edited my blog above to include a note on cultivation.

21 Nov, 2013


I was in a supermarket about a week ago looking at the flowers on the shelves when I noticed something I've not seen in years - leaves of Christmas Cactus lying on the shelf! I quickly picked them up & now I've put them in a pot of compost. They will probably root quite quickly & I'll have another couple of plants to add to my collection! LOL! :-))

I've still got a few flowers on a couple of my plants!

5 Dec, 2013


Good on yer Balcony! When I started collecting cacti in my teens i used to scrounge around cactus displays in places like Woolworths and its was surprising how many odd bits I managed to pick up, and they mostly did root. Most obliging plants for kids without much money.

6 Dec, 2013


I'm ALWAYS on the look out for scraps of plants I might be able to propagate! With the plastic wrapping that comes around most house plants in the supermarkets nowadays it's not nearly as common to find odd pieces broken off of the plants.

I couldn't believe my luck when I came across these leaves just lying around on the shelf - especially as I'd only written about finding pieces a few days before!!!

When we lived in Cuenca, Spain, I'd often wander the streets of our neighbourhood on the look out for branches - of Geraniums especially - that had been broken off of plants on people's balconies during the summer thunder storms! On the odd occasion I've found whole plants blown down, still in their broken pots, on the pavements!

I've even had a few of my plants blown off the window sills on the outside of windows when a restraining wooden bar had broken! They were Coleus plants that had got very big in small pots. They were big because I'd made sure they were always well watered & well fed even though they were in pots several sizes too small for them. They were probably blown off & then "floated away" as there was no sign of them on the pavement below our flat when we got home from having spent the afternoon-evening at my parent's-in-law's! So many big leaves would have acted like a parachute & the very strong winds would have carried them quite some way off. I never did see any sign of them around our area again!

10 Dec, 2013


As they were big and beautiful they probably found new homes quite quickly! next time put the pots side by side in a trough and beat the wind!

10 Dec, 2013

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