Schlumbergera, or Christmas Cactus, belongs to a small family of Cactus plants native to the South-Eastern Brazilian coastal mountains. It has been called Crab Cactus (because of the pointed edges of its slender stems when they bend towards the earth) by different communities of propagators.
They’re also called Thanksgiving Cactus or Holiday Cactus because many consider them a wonderful gift to offer your colleagues, friends, and family during Thanksgiving or Christmas holidays.
I decided I’m also having these beautiful night bloomers in my home garden after receiving a pot as a gift, and boy, they’re awesome. Seeing them in their many colors throughout the place fills the environment with so much life and beauty.
What is the best way to Propagate Crab Cactus?
They’re best propagated by rooting their stem cuttings in water or directly in a potting mix enriched with perlite or peat.
Preparing the Christmas Cactus Cuttings for Rooting
- First, select the healthiest-looking stems for the proposed cuttings. Each branch should have mature leaves and 2-3 segments attached.
- Next, make a neat Y-shaped cutting off the stems from the mother plant.
- The stem cuttings should be placed on a dry and warm surface for 2-3 days until the wounded edges are appropriately healed.
Your stem cuttings are now ready for the rooting process.
How to Root Christmas Cactus Cuttings in Water
- Prepare your water glass jug by dropping some aquarium or smooth pebbles in a glass jar and filling it with water. The water should only be filled up to 2/3 of the glass jar’s total volume.
- Now place your cuttings into the water jar ensuring the edges are fully immersed while the leaves are well above the water level.
- Ensure the water is changed regularly, as soon as it gets cloudy, to avoid contamination of the set-up.
- The set-up should be well positioned to receive up to 6 hours of indirect sunlight daily, and your cuttings will be fully rooted within 2-3 weeks of setting them in the water jar.
- Once fully rooted, you can transplant by gently removing the rooted cuttings and planting them in a soil mix potting.
How to Root Christmas Cactus Cuttings in a Potting Mix
This is the easiest method of propagating Christmas Cactus Cuttings for newbie propagators. The first step is to get your desired potting mix ready for the new cuttings.
- Fill the pot with some of the soil mixes until it’s almost 2/3 its volume.
- Make shallow holes up to 2 inches into the surface of the soil and insert the cuttings with their leaves above the soil surface.
- Now fill up the spaces in the pot with more soil mix.
- Allow the set-up for a day before watering. Water it after a day very lightly, and then once a week until it begins to grow new leaves.
- Place the pot under indirect sunlight for up to 6 hours daily. It takes an average of 4 weeks for the cuttings to be fully rooted in a Potting Mix.
Rooting Christmas Cactus Cuttings in Soil or Water: Which is Better?
Both methods have their benefits. I prefer to root my cuttings in water. That way, I can monitor their development and quickly detect if there’s progress. Christmas Cactus Cuttings also root faster in water than in a Potting Mix.
But it’s safer to root your cuttings in soil potting if you’re doing it for the first time, and that’s because cuttings rooted in water will eventually need to be transplanted in a soil mix potting for further development.
Some of the rooted cuttings may get easily damaged or broken in transplanting them, setting you back a few weeks of rooting again.
The safest approach is to adopt both methods simultaneously; that way, you experience both processes without wasting any further time.
How to Water Schlumberger Plants?
Christmas Cactus is best watered from the roots, and absorbed water in the soil is delivered evenly to all sections of the plant.
The best watering strategy to keep them shiny and happy, however, is Misting. Spraying the leaves daily will do a lot of good, and the soil should only be watered when it appears dry and loose.
Mineral water or tap water can be used as a substitute for untreated natural water. However, the water should be left open overnight or boiled to reduce its hardness.
Choose a perfect time to water them, such as after 10 pm during the hot summer or late evening during autumn.
Soil Mix Requirements of Christmas Cactus Plants
They’re best suited to be propagated in clay pots, like other succulent plants. The clay pottery has excellent air and water retention properties with good drainage, not holding too much water for too long.
Christmas Cactus thrives in well-aerated loamy soil with a good concentration of organic compounds such as compost. Adding small pebbles and fine sand can improve the aeration of the soil mix.
You can also prepare a homemade lightweight soilless potting mix comprising of a part horticultural pumice, a part orchid mix, and a part of the cactus mix, all blended with fine sand and gravel.
The clay pottery should be well drained with holes punched at the bottom and sides for proper drainage.
How much Sunshine do Holiday Cactus need?
Holiday Cactus like to avoid Sunshine as much as necessary and should not be placed under direct sunlight.
Their tender stems and fragile leaves don’t do well at high temperatures, so avoid drafts, AC radiators, or other similar positions. Their best Lighting Condition should be under moderate shade, such as behind windows in the home.
By paying attention to the growing buds, you can tell if your Christmas Cactus plants are getting too much Sunshine or water. When the buds begin to fall off, it’s a sign the water or sunlight is more than needed.
Can I Propagate Christmas Cactus Plants from Buds?
A mature Christmas Cactus plant develops buds (known as outgrowths or offsets) that can also be propagated into a new plant.
The trick is to wait until the buds grow attached to developing foliage on a plant segment.
Make a neat Y-shaped cutting of the bud from its stem, careful not to damage the leaves. You can now propagate using water or soil rooting methods.
How to make Christmas Cactus Bloom
Christmas Cactus plants bloom magnificently whenever the conditions are favorable. When they do, they produce brightly colored Yellow, Orange, white, red, blue, purple, or pink flowers that are irresistible.
When they’re in full bloom covering a wide area of land, I consider them one of the world’s many wonders.
Although it takes quite some effort to get them blooming because you’ll need to keep them in a cool environment with 8 hours of continuous sunlight and 16 hours of sunset for a minimum of 8 days, you’ll be glad you made an effort when they eventually reward you with their multicolor superior blooming wonders.
I do my blooming by creating artificial lighting and dark environments for them. It’s best to bloom in September or early October.
You can bloom your Christmas Cactus plants by putting them in a dark room for 12-16 hours daily and letting them receive Sunshine for up to 6 hours within the day.
Doing this continually will eventually alter their night and day circles, and you should start seeing them bud within 6-8 weeks, after which it will take another 9-12 weeks for the full bloom to develop.
If you want them to bloom during Christmas, you should begin the process within 10-12 weeks before your targeted dates.
Should I Propagate Christmas Cactus while it’s Blooming?
It will be counterproductive to propagate Christmas Cactus plants in their blooming season for a few reasons.
- They prefer a different growing season. They usually start growing again once the blooming season is completed, so you should prepare for propagation one or two months after their blooming cycle and avoid their flowering season altogether.
- Seeing them bloom is excellent, like the ultimate reward for your efforts and labor on them over the months. Why will you want to miss such an opportunity to fill your garden with its varieties of blooming colors and shades? Especially when it’s best to propagate them afterward.
How long does Christmas Cactus Live?
They’re a fantastic colony of beauty; you see them in their many flowering colors, especially during holidays.
Their minimal nutritional and conditional requirements classify them among the most straightforward home garden plants to propagate; in the right environment, they’re also transgenerational, thriving, and blooming for decades.
They can live for up to 100 years, in most cases outliving their original propagators, and they’re not toxic to domestic pets such as cats and dogs, making them an ideal home-beautifying addition.