The Q&A Archives: Reviving Christmas Cactus

Question: How can I revive a Christmas cactus that I have recently inherited? Most of the sections are a purple - wilted color. However there is a section that is the healthy green. Should I trim off all the purple sections and leave only the green? Can I do this at this time of year or should I wait til spring? I don't believe it has flowered in recent history. It has however perked up tremendously in the few weeks that I have taken care of it. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

Answer: I'd cut the plant back now, leaving only the green growth. The lack of bloom probably has to do with the special treatment the plant needs in order to bloom. Here are some basic hints on how to care for your plant: Christmas Cactus is a tropical plant that requires a highly organic soil mixture and lots of moisture. The plant likes bright light and average household temperatures. You can take your Christmas Cactus outdoors during the summer and fertilize it monthly with a diluted houseplant food. Then bring it back indoors at the end of September and provide total darkness for 16 hours each day so the plant can set flower buds. The easiest way to accomplish this is to place it in a bright room for 8 hours and then either put a box over it, or put it in a closet for 16 hours. It needs absolute darkness; even a short burst of daylight will retard the formation of flower buds. During this bud forcing period, keep the temperature between 60F and 70F, and do not fertilize the plant. In early December your Christmas Cactus can be brought into ordinary light and will bloom in a few weeks.

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