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Question 

I have a Christmas cactus that is very healthy and blossomed profusely last November. I attempted to duplicate the same environment that the cactus had a year ago, but that wasn't possible, and it didn't produce a single blossom. The foliage is glossy with health, but I don't water the plant for a couple of months in the fall to stress it a bit to encourage blossoms.

I put the cactus in our dark, cool garage for the month of October just as I did last year. When I returned the cactus back upstairs in our house to its usual south window spot and watered it, it gave no blossoms this year. Why?

I've looked online and in books for info on encouraging bloom, but I haven't come across much about Christmas cactus. The cactus gets direct southern light all year except for the month when it is in the garage, which has only a north window. Is lighting the problem? The garage is about 65 degrees F, same as last year, so I'm thinking the temperature isn't part of the problem, or is it?



Answer
 

There may be a combination of factors involved in the lack of flowers on your plant. If it is a young plant, it may have needed repotting. It may not have been in the dark, cool environment quite long enough or soon enough. According to The Complete Houseplant Survival Manual by Barbara Pleasant (Storey Publishing, 2005), the ideal conditions for Christmas cactus (Schlumbergera hybrids) are as follows:

  • Bright light from late spring to fall, and moderate light from late winter to early spring
  • 65 to 80 degrees from late spring to late summer, and 50 to 65 degrees during fall and winter
  • Balanced fertilizer every 2 weeks from spring through summer, and monthly in fall and winter
  • From spring through fall, keep soil lightly moist but in winter, it should nearly dry out before watering sparingly
  • Repot young plants each summer; older plants can be repotted every 2 to 3 years
  • Plants tend to have a lifespan of 5 to 6 years, but you can propagate them from stem cuttings
  • Clemson University Extension has additional information on growing Schlumbergera. Here is an excerpt:
    "The secret of good flower production involves temperature and dark (photoperiod) control. To flower, plants need bright light; night temperatures between 55-65; long nights--13 hours or more of continuous darkness each day is required before flowering will occur. Long nights should be started about the middle of September and continued for 8 weeks."

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