Most garden blooms are gone before the winter holidays arrive. If you wish for blooms inside during Thanksgiving and Christmas and want something other than Poinsettia and cut flowers, consider the Schlumbergera family.
This family will include the Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter cactus; all of which may be persuaded to bloom for the holidays. Perhaps you already have one of these cactus and it has not bloomed for you or has bloomed, but not during the holidays. Maybe you got one as a gift and it has not bloomed since. These plants can be forced to bloom near the right holiday by following this schedule:
Fall and Winter
If there are little buds on the end of the leaves, place the cactus in bright filtered light. Follow these steps to ensure bloom. Water thoroughly and feed with a balanced houseplant fertilizer (blue, water soluble) mixed at half strength. When buds begin to show color locate the plant where you wish it to be when in flower. Flowering plants that are moved tend to drop blooms. Place away from drafts and vents. Continue to water when dry and fertilize every two weeks until blooms are spent.
If your holiday cactus has bloomed, move it to a low to partially lit area and treat like a houseplant for the rest of the cold season. Withhold fertilizer and limit watering so the plant may rest for the winter. Water thoroughly when the soil is dry two inches down.
Begin acclimatizing for an outdoor move by placing the plant in low filtered light, gradually increasing to a brightly filtered area of light.
This is usually a good time to repot the young Schlumbergera. Use a well draining soil and move up one pot size. Soil for succulents is appropriate, as this specimen is not really a cactus. If the older holiday cactus appears happy in the pot, repotting is not necessary.
As temperatures outside warm, move the plant to an outdoor, shaded location. Continue watering when top of soil is dry; fertilize occasionally.
In autumn, about ten weeks before you wish the cactus to bloom, you may:
• Place the plant in an area where temperatures hover around 50 degrees, such as a garage or basement.
• Or place the plant in a location where it will get total darkness for 12 hours each night. A rarely used closet may be a good option for you. Even one interruption of darkness can decrease blooms.
Eight weeks later, bring your plant into a warm, well lit area. Water and resume the feeding regime. Blooms should appear on the holiday cactus within two weeks by closely following this schedule.
Care for your holiday cactus properly year round and it may last and bloom for many years. Those as old as 50 years have been noted and passed down from generation to generation.
Book: the Complete Houseplant Survival Manual, Barbara Pleasant, 2005