Holiday cactus can provide years of color

  • Published: Wednesday, Dec. 17, 2008

COLUMBIA, Mo. - While poinsettias are the most popular blooming holiday plant, if you are looking for a plant that can bloom for many years to come, try a holiday cactus, said a University of Missouri horticulturist.

"Given proper care, the holiday cacti have been known outlive their caretakers and provide years of brilliant color around Christmas," said David Trinklein. "The small effort required by these plants is well worth it when you consider the reward of seeing an 'heirloom' plant bloom year after year."

Holiday cacti can tolerate low light, but they do best in bright, indirect light. If you're going to put them outdoors during the summer, be sure to keep them in a shady or semi-shady location.

Like most cacti, holiday cacti tolerate too little water better than too much water. Water only when the growing medium is dry to the touch. If you place a saucer under the pot to collect drainage, empty the saucer regularly and do not allow excess water to wick back into the pot, which can cause root rot.

Fertilize only during the growth period of early spring through late summer. Apply a regular fertilizer at one-quarter strength or a houseplant fertilizer according to the label directions.

Keep holiday cacti slightly pot-bound to induce prolific flowering. You may need to repot about every three years. The growing medium should be very porous and well-drained.

The most prolific blooming occurs when the plant can dry out and have at least 13 hours of darkness each night in cool temperatures, beginning in mid-October.

Writer: Robert Thomas

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David Trinklein

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