Ask a Question forum: Christmas cactus

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Bend Oregon
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svanamburg0816
Nov 17, 2013 11:30 AM CST
I have a client consultation today. She is worried about her Christmas cactus. No bug issues, but this plant is 50+ yrs old. I need to know if repotting or trimming is a good idea this time of year. I don't want to hurt her plant. I am up for both if it going to help the plant. I hear February- April is the best for both, but I do want to help this person troubleshoot threw her options. We have discussed trimming to propagate, but I'm concerned with disturbing this plant in its peak blooming season. Love to hear some info:)


Name: woofie
NE WA (Zone 5a)
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woofie
Nov 17, 2013 11:52 AM CST
There is a brief discussion regarding taking cuttings here:
The thread "Christmas Cacti" in Ask a Question forum
Perhaps @plantladylin or maybe @JB could offer some advice.
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Name: Lin
Florida (Zone 9b)
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plantladylin
Nov 17, 2013 2:37 PM CST
I don't know a lot about these plants; I have two that I've managed to keep alive for five or six years but I've never had luck with cuttings because I'm lazy and don't take proper care of them. Smiling I'm curious to know what your clients worries are. She should be able to take cuttings at any time of year but this is the normal time for Holiday Cactus to be budding up in preparation for those beautiful blooms that appear around Thanksgiving and Christmas so if she prunes now she will probably be foregoing blooms on the mother plant this year.
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Name: Jacquie (JB) Berger
Wrightstown, New Jersey (Zone 6b)

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JB
Nov 17, 2013 4:27 PM CST
Hi, here I am, checking in with my two cents. I personally do not take cuttings until the blooming season is over and the plant has rested. My cutting times will depend on how long the blooms last. Most of the time I begin taking them in February or March, the Schlumbergera Truncata that are blooming now will no doubt keep blooming off and on until February or March and that is why I wait as long as I do. It depends on the plants and their caregivers methods.

I always say this is what works for me and I can not guarantee it is the best or correct way, but I have to do what works for me since this is what I do. The End. Rolling on the floor laughing
Name: Lin
Florida (Zone 9b)
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plantladylin
Nov 17, 2013 5:13 PM CST
svanamburg0816: I forgot to say Welcome! to ATP!
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Name: Tiffany
Opp, AL (Zone 8b)
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purpleinopp
Nov 18, 2013 8:29 AM CST
Why is this person worried about her plant?
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Name: Jacquie (JB) Berger
Wrightstown, New Jersey (Zone 6b)

Charter ATP Member I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Region: United States of America Region: New Jersey Cactus and Succulents Tropicals
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JB
Nov 18, 2013 9:08 AM CST
Hi again.
Here is pretty much my schedule for my CC/TC/HC or whatever you want to call the Zygocactus or Schlumbergera.
January - Still flowering
Feb. and March - resting ( 60-70 deg. very little watering) Can be cooler if you have a place to put them. Begin to take cuttings end of Feb.
April and May. Begin to water thoroughly when they are dry.
June to August - Put some outside in shade or partly shade...not full sun .
Sept. to Oct. Reduce daylight hours because buds are getting ready to form. Keep on the dry side and cool until the buds form, then increase the water and the temperature.

Hope this helps you get on a schedule that makes your plants happy.
[Last edited by JB - Nov 18, 2013 9:09 AM (+)]
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Name: Jacquie (JB) Berger
Wrightstown, New Jersey (Zone 6b)

Charter ATP Member I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Region: United States of America Region: New Jersey Cactus and Succulents Tropicals
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JB
Nov 18, 2013 9:11 AM CST
oops sorry, Welcome! Welcome! Welcome! Welcome!
Bend Oregon
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svanamburg0816
Nov 18, 2013 11:36 AM CST

Thumb of 2013-11-18/svanamburg0816/28beca


Thumb of 2013-11-18/svanamburg0816/b4f657

Thanks for the helpful words. I wanted to share the pics of the plant to help with troubleshooting. The poor plant is blooming all over but the leaves are not holding any water. It went down hill in the past 3 months. I was so happy to see this woman already had propagated 2 plants off her 50 yr old plant. I'm pretty sure it has been over watered, but I am repotting it and pruning it tomarrow. I'll see what the roots look like. Again thanks
Bend Oregon
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svanamburg0816
Nov 19, 2013 4:08 PM CST
Well I learned the issue, it was root rot. I tried to get it out of the original pot and it fell apart. This poor gal intrusted some people take care of it while she was gone on vacation. I'm going to save as much as I can for her. I share all this in hopes to help troubleshooting for another in need:)
Name: Jacquie (JB) Berger
Wrightstown, New Jersey (Zone 6b)

Charter ATP Member I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Region: United States of America Region: New Jersey Cactus and Succulents Tropicals
Container Gardener Hummingbirder Farmer Keeps Horses Dog Lover Birds
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JB
Nov 19, 2013 4:28 PM CST
Very good. You may be able to save some of it for her if you find some of the stronger stems you can cut them and then try and root them again. It may be too late but I hope not for her sake. I bet that was a beautiful plant. That happens so often when people want to take care of a plant and give it too much water. I hope we were helpful, but in this case the patient died. So sad. Please feel free to stay around and join us if you have time. We are here and there and I am sure you can find one of us. We are always available for questions.
Name: Rick R.
near Minneapolis, MN zone 4a
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Leftwood
Nov 19, 2013 8:04 PM CST
overwatering (and root rot) can cause the same above ground symptoms as lack of water, i.e. wilting. This is because roots are not functioning correctly and water is not brought up to the leaves. When you take cuttings, I would leave them lay in a pan of water so water can be absorbed through all the cuttings' surfaces. Remember, it's the roots that got overwatered, not the leaves and stems. I would leave them in the pan for one to two days. Don't use softened water out of the tap. Rehydration will be best with distilled water, rain water (next best), or purified water (third best).
Name: Rick Corey
Everett WA 98204 (Zone 8a)
Sunset Zone 5. Koppen Csb. Eco 2f
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RickCorey
Nov 19, 2013 9:11 PM CST
i don't know if it would help all plants, or all plant sitters, but I found that a capillary mat helped me to over-water my plants less. If the soilless mix is very sandy and gritty it might not wick well enough for bottom watering. You would have to test it out before going on vacation.

I use cotton flannel, but a piece of toweling or Tee shirt should work as well.
The mix has to extend all the way through the hole in the bottom of the pot to make contact with the flannel (there has to be a continuous capillary path from the soil in th4e pot to the flannel in the saucer).

Tell them NOT to pour water on top of the soil.
Only add water to the flannel.
only add water if the flannel is dry.
Don't add more than this much on any one day (give them a shot glass or small liqueur glass).

One advantage is that, if the pot IS too wet, the flannel will help pull perched water down OUT of the pot. It's as if the capillary attraction between water and flannel is added to the force of gravity in pulling water AWAY from the soilless mix.

Name: Arlene
Grantville, GA (Zone 8a)
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abhege
Nov 19, 2013 9:14 PM CST
I just thought of something Rick. I believe the soil in the pot has to be wet first, before it can wick up any more moisture? I know when I have used the capillary mats before the instructions were to make sure the soil was moist to start the wicking process. I could be wrong.
Name: Cheryl
Kingwood, Texas (Zone 9a)
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ShadyGreenThumb
Nov 20, 2013 12:12 PM CST
JB said:Hi again.
Here is pretty much my schedule for my CC/TC/HC or whatever you want to call the Zygocactus or Schlumbergera.
January - Still flowering
Feb. and March - resting ( 60-70 deg. very little watering) Can be cooler if you have a place to put them. Begin to take cuttings end of Feb.
April and May. Begin to water thoroughly when they are dry.
June to August - Put some outside in shade or partly shade...not full sun .
Sept. to Oct. Reduce daylight hours because buds are getting ready to form. Keep on the dry side and cool until the buds form, then increase the water and the temperature.

Hope this helps you get on a schedule that makes your plants happy.


LOVE this schedule. I haven't reduced the light yet and have brought her in for the winter. She still sits on a sunny window sill indoors.. I will start now and maybe I will get blooms on Easter?? Do you ever bloom feed your cactus??

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Name: Rick Corey
Everett WA 98204 (Zone 8a)
Sunset Zone 5. Koppen Csb. Eco 2f
I helped beta test the first seed swap Plant and/or Seed Trader Seed Starter Region: Pacific Northwest Photo Contest Winner: 2014 Vegetable Grower
Avid Green Pages Reviewer Garden Ideas: Master Level Garden Sages I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! I helped plan and beta test the plant database. Charter ATP Member
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RickCorey
Nov 20, 2013 1:02 PM CST
Arlene said:
>> I believe the soil in the pot has to be wet first, before it can wick up any more moisture?

You might be right, ESPECIALLY with commercial potting mixes that are mostly peat. I wouldn't know, because:

1. I start with moist mix and still occasionally top-water. esepcecially with seeds, I over-water rather than under-water. I doubt if my cells ever go dry all the way to the bottom. Larger pots I usually top-water, especially if they went mostly dry.

2. My mixes are now mostly bark with only a little peat. I think that bark re-hydrates easier than peat.

But I do notice that the top of a cell or pot can go pretty dry but still re-moisten itself when I water the flannel. So at least some dry mixes can re-moisten themselves for at least an inch or so by bottom watering.

I WAS afraid that a CHUNKY bark mix might not wick well enough to pull water up rapidly into a pot made from a two-liter soda bottle (around 7 inches deep and ~4 inches diameter).

I'm going to try various wicks to find one that doesn't rot and will lift water rapidly at least 7 inches, then lay that along the side of the bottle before filling it with mix. If the wick keeps itself moist, I figure that water can wick 4" horizontally even if the mix doesn't have much peat or bark dust.

I'm also thinking of making it into a mini-EarthBox with small internal reservoir, since a chunky bark mix will not hold very much water and I don't wnat to have to water twcie each day!
Bend Oregon
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svanamburg0816
Nov 20, 2013 11:48 PM CST
Well I learned the issue, it was root rot. I tried to get it out of the original pot and it fell apart. This poor gal intrusted some people take care of it while she was gone on vacation. I'm going to save as much as I can for her. I share all this in hopes to help troubleshooting for another in need:)

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