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The holidays! What a wonderful time to take in the beauty around you – and with a Christmas cactus in your corner, that will hardly be a task.
This cactus blooms in the holidays, presenting its bright flowers for all to see. And once you’ve had a glimpse of them and bathed in their beauty, you will appreciate just how unique they are.
So, how do you grow these beauties? We’ve got three amazing options for you which all work great depending on what you have at home.
There’s one thing you must note, though – Christmas cacti do well in indirect light and prefer temperatures at least 10°C high.
So, all the options outlined below will be about indoor growing. Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s find out how each option works:
How to Propagate a Christmas Cactus
We’ve got three methods in store for you of how to propagate a Christmas cactus. They include:
1) Using Cuttings in Soil
Are you lucky enough to be growing this cactus in your home? If yes, you barely need to leave the house to grow yet another beauty.
All you need is to get fresh cuttings from a healthy plant, and you are good to go. Here’s how you do this:
Collecting the Cuttings
Not all cuttings will be viable. The first thing to look for is whether the plant is in good health. Does it show any signs of infestation?
How about wilting or brown spots? If the plant does not show any of these signs, it’s a good source.
The next consideration is the timing. It’s advisable to collect the cuttings towards the start of spring.
Generally, the cactus will be in active growth from May and will bloom during the holidays. That means that harvesting the cuttings in early spring will allow you to benefit from the post-bloom period.
However, if spring is too far into the future, you can ignore this and get your cuttings at any time. They might have a reduced chance of healthy growth, but they will still work.
When selecting a branch in the plant, take one with two branch segments. Without these, the plant will not root.
Can you take more than one cutting from a plant? Sure! But keep in mind that too much harvesting can weaken the main plant.
Harvesting about five cuttings will give you what you need to better your chances to propagate your Christmas Cactus. You can do this by hand or use a sterilized knife.
Planting the Cuttings
You might think that you should plant the cuttings immediately after you harvest them, but this is not the case.
You must allow the joints to heal, which can take about two days. So, leave the cuttings on a clean and dry surface inside the home until they do. If you notice any wilting on the ends, pinch it off, so you remain with a healthy cutting.
As you wait for the joints to heal, pour a suitable rooting medium into a well-draining pot. It can be anything from sand to perlite to a mix of seeds and compost.
Moisten the medium and allow the excess water to drain. Is the medium ready for the cuttings now? – Not just yet. You must promote rooting using a rooting hormone powder.
So, dip the ends of the cuttings in the powder and wipe off what’s excess before planting them. Alternatively, you can plant the cuttings as they are and forgo the hormones.
Place the cuttings half an inch into the medium vertically, then heap the rooting medium around the cuttings to stabilize them.
You can go as far as an inch if that’s what’s necessary to stabilize the cuttings. But avoid going too deep as this can trigger rotting. If you want to plant more than one cutting in a pot, ensure you space them at least two inches apart.
Once again, water the rooting medium, and allow the excess water to drain. The cuttings will do better in a warm and humid setting which you can create with a plastic bag.
Allow the bag to cover the cuttings and the pot, then secure it with a band. It creates a humid environment, trapping moisture, and promoting rooting in the cuttings.
Please note that this step is unnecessary if your home is already humid.
Next, transfer the pot to an area where it can get at least four hours of bright light each day. This light should not be direct as this can overheat the cuttings.
So, shade the plants with sheers or any other items that can help prevent this effect. Ideally, this temperature should be within the 18°C to 21°C range.
The cuttings can survive temperatures as low as 10°C, but the results might not be as good. So, if you can imitate these temperatures, you would be better off.
Caring for the Cuttings
You’ve done a great job so far. All that remains is watching over the cuttings to ensure they get the moisture and light they need.
Every day, insert a finger into the rooting medium and check if it has moisture. If it feels dry, moisten it, and allow the excess water to drain.
If it feels wet, leave it be and check the next day. As much as cuttings need water, they do better when watered in moderation.
However, note that the rooting medium could kill the cuttings if it’s too dry. So, avoid underwatering the medium.
The cuttings will take about three to twelve weeks to root and promote new growth. When you start seeing this growth, you will need to transfer the cuttings to potting soil.
Seeing as the cuttings are only half an inch into the medium, dig them out with your hands and loosen their roots.
Then put them in pots filled with potting soil, covering their roots to ensure they sit inside the soil. You can then start watering the potting soil and amending it as needed.
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2) Using Cuttings in Water
What if you would rather skip the perlite? Well, you can also use water as a rooting medium. How great is that? For many years, people have used water as an alternative to planting in the soil.
Hydroponics has proven that if a plant has access to enough moisture and minerals, it can thrive. But away from that, how can you use water to your advantage?
Selecting and Harvesting Cuttings
Like we stated earlier under using cuttings in soil, you must harvest the cuttings from a healthy plant. Ideally, this should occur in early spring though any other month should also work.
Creating a Water Rooting Medium
You then want to find a jar that’s tall enough to allow the cuttings to stand upright. It can be a glass or any other vessel you deem suitable for this task.
You should fill it to a third of its depth with stones, enabling the cuttings to stand upright.
These should be medium-sized relative to the size of the jar. Then add water until it covers the stones. There’s no need to use more water than this.
It’s now time to place the cuttings in the water. Only about half an inch should get into the water. The stones will serve as pillars to enable the cuttings to remain upright.
This way, very little of the cutting will remain submerged at all times. The moisture will promote rooting in the plant.
Positioning the Jar
The last step is to place the jar in a position that allows the cuttings at least four hours of indirect sunlight. The cuttings can burn and dry out in direct sunlight, thus failing to root.
So, add some shade where necessary in the form of sheers or whatever seems to be a good choice. If you live in an area where sunlight is insufficient, you might want to supplement it with some LED lights.
Keep an eye on the water level. The cuttings need moisture to root. And as you expose the jar to sunlight, this water level can start to go down.
So, keep refilling the jar over time, ensuring that the water is just above the stones. The growing roots must always be in the water.
Wait for the roots to grow until they reach the height of two stem sections. That’s about the size of a cutting. At this point, the cuttings will be ready for transplanting in soil.
Choose a suitable well-draining pot and fill it with potting soil. Then, with your finger or a trowel, make a hole in the soil, just enough to hold the roots.
You can now insert the plant in the hole and cover it with soil, ensuring it remains upright in the pot. Pat down the soil, and you are good to go.
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3) Using Seeds
What’s the last way of growing Christmas cacti? – Using seeds! That’s right; you can start propagating these plants from scratch. Here’s how this works:
You will want to give your seeds the best chances of survival. And the best way to do so is by harvesting them from a healthy pollinated plant.
To plant such seeds, squeeze the pod until the inner seeds come out. Then leave them to dry for two weeks before you plant them. If you cannot get such seeds, you can always buy seeds from your local gardening store.
Planting the Seeds
Late spring is the best time to plant Christmas cacti. To get started, invest in some trays, which should be about four inches long.
Any longer than this, and they will not fit in zipper bags. But if you don’t have small ones, you can use what you have and invest in bigger bags.
The next step is to fill the trays with soil. Ideally, you should get some soil from the nursery suited for succulents.
It should comprise the basics like perlite, sand, and peat to allow good drainage. Also, the trays should have good drainage to complement that in the soil.
Moisten the soil and start making small holes in it, placing a seed in each. Ensure that you space the seeds at least half an inch apart to ensure that each has a fair shot at the nutrients.
Move the container into a plastic bag and seal it to wrap the moisture and keep the fungi out. Get rid of the air and create a vacuum so that the seeds grow in protected conditions.
Positioning the Trays
Like with cuttings, seeds do not appreciate direct sunlight. So, keep the bag under indirect sunlight and leave it there for three months.
You cannot open the bag during this time as this will contaminate the seeds. However, you can open it to water the soil if it looks dry, then reseal the bag.
After three months, you can then open the bag to allow the seedlings to adapt to the real environment. At this point, you can keep watering and monitoring the plants until they are two inches tall.
Once they get to this height, they are ready for transplanting as we covered under using cuttings in soil.
How Long does it Take for a Christmas Cactus to Root in Water?
The cuttings on your Christmas cactus can take up to eight weeks before they start showing roots after you propagate it. You need to wait until the roots are the size of a small cutting before you can transfer the cuttings to potting soil.
How do you Root a Broken Piece of Christmas Cactus?
You have two options to root a broken piece of Christmas cactus. You can either root the cutting in water or soil to propagate the Christmas cactus successfully as we discussed earlier.
Both are viable options and should allow you to grow a happy and healthy Christmas cactus.
Christmas Cactus Propagation Prohibited
You may come across labels stating that it’s not okay to propagate a Christmas cactus and may wonder if that’s the case.
Seeing as this is a protected plant, propagation with the intent of sale might be illegal in your jurisdiction.
But if you’re growing it at home or for a neighbor, it should be okay. However, it never hurts to ask to be sure you’re on the right side of the law.
There you have it – three easy ways to make the holidays even more special. How about it?