How come my Christmas cactus didn't flower at Christmas?
Hi Kathy, I’ve also had a few Christmas cacti that didn’t flower at the right time or not at all. The reason why was because I was not providing adequate darkness at night and not restricting their water at the right time of year. It’s not difficult to give them what they need to set bud, but you do have to mindful.
In October, allow the top inch of soil to dry before watering and keep them in total darkness for 12 to 14 hours. Cool evening temperatures also spur on blossoms, although I've found it's not essential. After 6 to 8 weeks pink buds should be on the ends of their leafy stems. Once in the plant has lots of buds, increase its water and don’t worry about keeping the lights off at night - but don’t move it to another location as this is a sure-fire way to make them all fall off – oh my! Bud drop and a lack of flowers may also be caused by full sun. Surprisingly, these succulents from the jungles of Brazil don't like it. They prefer bright filtered sun as though they were sitting in the tree canopy of their native habitat.
There also could be another reason your Christmas cactus doesn’t flower at Christmas besides their care, maybe it isn’t a Christmas cactus at all! It could be one of its cousins the Easter cactus (Rhipsalidopsis gaetneri) or the Thanksgiving cactus (Schlumbergera truncata). Thanksgiving cactus flower in fall, about a month before the Christmas cactus (Schlumbergera bridgesii). Easter cactus bud in February and flower around Easter. There are also hybrids, which are a combination of any two of them, especially the Thanksgiving and Christmas cactus.
Although all these Holiday Cacti and flower look the same, they are not identical. All bear similar leaves, which are actually stems that look like links on a chain. The Christmas cactus leaves are the smallest and have the smoothest edges. The Thanksgiving cactus leaf edges are hooked, resembling claws hence their other common names - the lobster or crab cactus. The Easter cactus distinguishing feature is their bristle-like hairs that are located between the leaf segments.
Christmas and Thanksgiving cactus flowers are very similar, but the Christmas cactus anthers are a brownish purple. The anthers of the Thanksgiving cactus are yellow. The Easter cactus has a totally different flower resembling a star. They all require similar care to promote flowering. Give them 12 to 14 of darkness and limit their water for two months before they are supposed to flower.
All holiday cactus are easy to propagate. Just snap off a a leaf and stick in a pot with sterile soil or vermiculite.
If you decide to purchase another holiday cacti, I suggest you keep the label. Not only will it identify the plant for you, it will list its care. This takes the guesswork out of growing these lovely long-lived houseplants.
I hope this helps. Good luck.
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