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Post-bloom care of Christmas cactus

During the pre-Christmas season, it was hard to resist purchasing one of the many small Christmas cactus plants. There were specimens with red-orange blooms, others with white blossoms with just a hint of pink in the centre, and bright-red ones, as well as plants with the traditional cerise-coloured flowers. Whether you bought one for yourself or as a gift for someone else, the time comes when the blooms fade and you have to care for the plant so that it will reward you again at a later date. Many Christmas cacti rebloom in early spring — around Easter, so some TLC will produce good dividends.

Expose your cactus to strong light; it should receive some direct sunlight. Allow the planting medium to dry out between waterings. I find that if the soil is kept too wet, the plant will not set buds for a second round of bloom. If the plant is in a rather small pot with a small amount of soil, you might consider repotting the plant. Up the pot by one size and use a good-quality planting medium that contains some perlite and sand — all cacti like a very porous soil.

Feed your Christmas cactus a half-strength solution of a soluble 20-20-20 fertilizer every three weeks; this will promote development of more buds. Keeping the plant in a cool location will also promote bud set. Christmas cacti are photosensitive plants that set bud in response to a long, dark period at night. For this reason, you will have greater success getting the cactus to rebloom if you locate it where there is no artificial light at night. With a bit of luck and a good helping of TLC, you may be able to enjoy blooms from your Christmas cactus again during the Easter season.

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