holiday cactus

Also known as “Christmas Cactus,” this easy-to-grow houseplant can reach 24 inches in height and 36 inches wide. It’s attractive in a hanging basket or on a plant stand, even when not in bloom.

Native to Brazil, holiday cactus grows in the mountains near Rio de Janeiro. Imagine a carnival of hummingbirds partying from one plant to the next, drinking from the long tube-shaped flowers, helping to pollinate the plants in the process. Although hybrids have enlarged the colors available to white, yellow and orange, the colors found most often are white with pink, salmon and hot pink, reddish purple or magenta, and reddish rose with white.

Holiday cactus need soil that drains well — rich, porous and slightly acidic. Soil should be kept evenly damp; drier in winter. Locate your plants where they will receive bright, but not direct, light. Plants need to be partially shaded in summer when they may be placed
outdoors.

Ideally, water with tap water and feed every week during the growing season with a liquid fertilizer such a liquid 20-20-20. Follow flowering with a “rest” period of less water and no fertilizer. After 8 weeks, return to regular care. For holiday (Christmas time) blooms, keep your plants in temperatures of 50-55ºF during November and keep them in the dark for 10 to 14 hours a day to initiate flower buds. Plants may not flower if kept permanently in too dark a location or are given artificial light in autumn. Lack of blooms also can occur when they have been transplanted into too large a container.