Ask a Question forum: potting requirements for Christmas cactus

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Name: Rose
Colorado
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romalu
Feb 9, 2018 3:49 PM CST
I have to do a little back explaining, so bear with me here...

My two philodendrons and my curly hoya are all growing in identical ceramic pots, nice round ones that do not have drainage holes to let out excess water. When I potted them, I put a couple inches of gravel in the bottom of the pot first, and judging by how much they've all grown, that amount of drainage is just fine for them.

I recently bought a Christmas cactus, and I'd like to put it in the same kind of pot, but I don't know if it will tolerate that kind of limited drainage. I know they're pickier about their growing conditions than philos or hoyas, and I don't have a good track record with succulents anyway. I'll take any input I can get!
Name: Christine
Saugerties, NY zone 5a
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Christine
Feb 10, 2018 6:48 AM CST
IMHO putting gravel in the bottom of pots really does no good, what I do suggest is to use a cache plastic pot with good drainage holes, a cache pot is just a pot put into a pot if that makes sense Rolling on the floor laughing Other members will have more advice for you..

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Name: kathy
Michigan
Zone 4b, near St. Clair MI
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katesflowers
Feb 10, 2018 7:20 AM CST
Hi Romalu
I have Christmas cactus, too. Buy a different pot. The cactus family need drain holes.
Good luck on your expanding collection.
"Things won are done, joy's soul lies in the doing." Shakespeare
Name: Bill
Livonia, Michigan (Zone 6a)
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BigBill
Feb 10, 2018 7:36 AM CST
It has been said already but putting gravel in the bottom of a pot instead of having a drainage hole is NOT drainage or a drainage substitute. It is more likely to be a recipe for disaster.
Christine has a great suggestion in that growing the plants in a conventional pot first and then slipping the entire thing inside of a decorative pot makes so much more sense.
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Name: Will Creed
NYC
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WillC
Feb 10, 2018 10:21 AM CST
I agree completely with what Christine has suggested! I agree
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Name: Carol
Santa Ana, ca
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ctcarol
Feb 10, 2018 10:43 AM CST
Just to clarify, Dump the water out of the outer pot after watering, or water the inner pot in the sink, then put in the cache pot after it has drained.
Name: Rose
Colorado
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romalu
Feb 10, 2018 4:04 PM CST
That was kind of what I figured. Thanks for the confirmation! Right now the cactus is still in the foil-wrapped plastic pot it came in, and it'll be a little while before I re-pot it -- it's re-blooming right now. Smiling
Name: Will Creed
NYC
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WillC
Feb 10, 2018 6:56 PM CST
Good that you are being patient. Repotting during bloom will disrupt the flowering cycle. Holiday Cacti rarely need bigger pots.
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Name: kathy
Michigan
Zone 4b, near St. Clair MI
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katesflowers
Feb 10, 2018 7:28 PM CST
That's good to know, Will. Thank you, you saved me that repotting task.
"Things won are done, joy's soul lies in the doing." Shakespeare
Name: Christine
Saugerties, NY zone 5a
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Christine
Feb 11, 2018 7:22 AM CST
If I understand this, the pot is wrapped in foil? If that is the case I would remove the foil, its serving no purpose, the water needs to drains.
Name: Rose
Colorado
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romalu
Feb 11, 2018 9:36 AM CST
Christine -- it's just that decorative stuff the florists cover pots with. It's not tight, the pot can drain just fine and the wrap catches the water so I don't need a tray under it.

Will -- yeah, I saw that when I read up on care after I bought it two months ago. It actually had no flowers then -- it had dropped them all because some idiot at Walmart stuck it out in the poorly heated greenhouse extension of the store and it got too cold. It was completely dormant for over a month, then I gave it a dose of houseplant food and it immediately popped out new flower buds!
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[Last edited by romalu - Feb 11, 2018 9:42 AM (+)]
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Name: Will Creed
NYC
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WillC
Feb 11, 2018 9:43 AM CST
To follow-up on Christine's comment, just be sure that the pot doesn't sit for long in any water that collects in the foil wrap.

The temporary cold and dormant period may have helped it rebloom. Along with your good care, of course!
Will Creed
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Name: kathy
Michigan
Zone 4b, near St. Clair MI
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katesflowers
Feb 11, 2018 12:17 PM CST
My christmas cactus is on a windowsill. One side of the plant is exposed to the cold glass. That's the side that gets the most blooms !
"Things won are done, joy's soul lies in the doing." Shakespeare
Name: Will Creed
NYC
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WillC
Feb 11, 2018 12:42 PM CST
Kathy - That may be because that is also the side that is getting the most light.
Will Creed
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Wisconsin (Zone 5a)
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skits
Feb 12, 2018 3:47 PM CST
I have two Christmas cacti that are probably 50 years old. (They were my mother's.) I split the original up and gave one to a friend. She called me years later, said it was too big, did I want it back. So, of course, I took it back. Was I embarrassed. Hers was huge. Mine barely grows. (Both bloom.) She said she only watered it with distilled water from her humidifier. My guess is that really made the difference. I put mine outside on the deck all summer. I like to think that helps with the blooming.
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Faridat
Feb 13, 2018 12:58 PM CST
I don't think cold during blooming helps the plant, I think it would actually cause buds falling. I am with Will here, it is the side that gets more light.
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Name: Bill
Livonia, Michigan (Zone 6a)
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BigBill
Feb 13, 2018 1:26 PM CST
Aren't these plants daylength sensitive? I have grown them successfully both on Long Island and Florida. They seem happy from 45 to 90 degrees as long as they are not overwatered.
They like a little sun but otherwise a bright location. As the days lengthen they bloom and as the days shorten they bloom. Perhaps better in the fall then the spring but most bloom twice per year.
"Our children are the messages we send to a time that we will never see."
Name: Will Creed
NYC
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WillC
Feb 13, 2018 3:10 PM CST
They can bloom at almost any time and older ones will often bloom several times per year. There are a few things that seem to help promote blooms.

First, keep it potbound. Second, provide a semi-dormant period of cool temps in the 45 to 65-degree range and minimum water for about 8 weeks. Third, during this period, provide 12 hours of sunlight and 12 hours of darkness. That is easiest to do around the time of the equinoxes.
Will Creed
Horticultural Help, NYC
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Name: Anita
West Fulton, NY (Zone 5a)
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Lioba
Feb 17, 2018 7:25 AM CST
These suggestions also apply to the Thanksgiving Cactus, which bloom earlier and do have different flower structure. They usually bloom twice a year also. If anyone was wondering.
Its easy for me to believe in miracles when science can't explain why a blade of grass has its shape and that is just one plant and one attribute.

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reba55
Feb 17, 2018 4:31 PM CST
I have a Thanksgiving cactus that was in a small yellow plastic pot for years. It grew bigger and draped further over the sides of the pot as time went on. And, it bloomed like crazy. I have always put it out on the deck which has a pergola for the summer. It really thrived there. I watered it daily just like all of my potted plants. No saucer at the bottom. It drained immediately through a mesh-topped patio table. I brought it inside during the winter months. It sat in a south facing window. And it always bloomed between Halloween and Thanksgiving. Somewhere along the way, the bracts got sunburned. The cactus still bloomed. But it wasn't very pretty when it wasn't blooming. After a couple of seasons, I decided to prune off all of the sunburned bracts and hope for the best. It didn't die. But, it didn't bloom either. This past September, I decided to transfer it into a larger glazed clay pot. It didn't harm the plant in any way. In fact, it is now growing in all directions. Especially vertically. It is currently sitting below a floor lamp which may account for that. Otherwise, it appears to be healthy. But, it didn't bloom again this past Thanksgiving. I assume by pruning it one year and transferring it into a larger pot the next year, I have shocked the plant. I'm hopeful this isn't permanent. Sad Confused D'Oh!
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