Do you have a holiday cactus? Have you been puzzling over its poor performance during that oh-so-magical flowering period? Are your flights of floriferous fancy infringing on your focus? Then gear up and get excited because it’s time for a Holiday Cactus Hootenanny! We’ll share some tips and tricks to boost your plant’s flower power.
For our purposes it’s not important which Schlumbergera you have (truncata or bridgesii; Thanksgiving cactus and Christmas cactus, respectively) or whether it’s a Hatiora gaertneri (Easter cactus). Each of these plants will benefit from the same treatment. So where do we start in order to excite our epiphytes the way growers do?
Let the light in! Light is a major component to all parts of plant life and is the base energy source used for their biological functions. Holiday cacti do best in west- and south-facing windows or under full-spectrum grow lights. While they can survive in east-facing windows, flowering will be greatly diminished. On the other hand, darkness plays an equally important role in flowering by telling the plant what season it is via the day & darkness lengths. Your plant needs between 12-14 hours of darkness to stimulate flowering. If your natural darkness is impeded by street or porch lights you can place a paper bag (think thick, like a grocery bag) or other covering on your plant overnight, making sure to remove it in the morning to allow the plant to soak up some solar sustenance.
Along the same seasonality line, tweaking temperatures to simulate the cold season will also markedly improve blooming. Target temps tend to fall between 45°-60°F. If your plant is placed in a windowsill, reaching these temps here in Colorado shouldn’t be a challenge. If you need to create these temps in your home you may find that closing the vents and door to a north- or east-facing room gets you within range, especially at night. You’ll need to keep up with the light and temperature conditioning for 3-6 weeks to properly prepare your plant to pop.
Another advantageous act for flowering is postponing repotting until the last possible minute. Holiday cacti tend to flower more freely when their roots are pot-bound so wait until after the seasonal show to up pot your plant. At long last, procrastination pays off!
The final force in flower power is fertilizer. As autumn arrives you can change your fertilizer type from growth focused to flower focused in order to assure your plant has the necessary nutrients to nourish its next endeavor. If you’re not sure what your fertilizer is geared towards take a quick look at the N-P-K numbers which are the three numbers on the face of the packaging. Phosphorus (the P in NPK and the middle number) focuses energy on strong root development and flowers, fruits and seeds, while also helping plants use other nutrients efficiently. A fertilizer with a higher middle number will bolster your plant’s ability to flower as well as process other nutrients. Follow the dilution instructions on packaging.
There you have it! With these tips you can rest assured that your foliar friend will flower freely.