My Christmas cactus has begun to bloom - it must have almost 100 buds of various sizes. Considering that the winds are howling and the wind chills today are expected to hover around zero, these tropical colored blooms are a joy.
There are many different theories about how to get a Christmas cactus to bloom, and some of them can be tedious. My grandma gave me this plant probably over 30 years ago (how old that makes me sound! But I was really, really, young then). As she tucked the tiny pot into a cereal box to protect it on the long ride home, she instructed me to keep it shut in a dark closet for the entire month of October. I usually didn't remember to do this, or as it got bigger I had difficulty finding a closet big enough and empty enough to hold it.
Thankfully I have found a simple method that has been working perfectly. My cactus spends its summers outside under a shady burning bush, and I water it only as needed. I might give it a shot of organic fertilizer once or twice if I think of it.
The key, I have found is to keep it outside as long as possible, well into October if I can. If there is a threat of isolated frost I cover it for the night, but I try to leave it out until mid autumn. Once I bring it in, it goes up in our loft area, where it receives light from two sky lights. The cold nights outside and increasing natural darkness seem to do the trick, and I've been rewarded with loads of blossoms. One more tip, while I happen to be thinking about it, I also trim my cactus in the spring, to keep it more compact. It is almost 3 feet across, and I don't want it getting any bigger. I don't know if that impacts its blooming potential or not.
While taking a break from writing this post I noticed that Kathy from Cold Climate Gardening has just blogged about her Christmas Cactus as well, so check out what she and her readers are doing with theirs.