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Lately, whenever in doubt about what to gift someone for their special, or not so special, occasion I simply go with plants. Honestly, what could go wrong?
Oh, don’t be fooled now!
So many things can go wrong.
For example, giving a high-maintenance houseplant as a present to someone with a black thumb is a plain crime to the plant.
Instead, go with the low-maintenance indoor plants (as I have figured out soon enough).
If you wonder which one, here’s just a quick hint!
Christmas Cactus (Schlumbergera)
To be honest, I had a few other ideas, but since the holiday season is coming at full speed, this is why I chose the Thanksgiving/Christmas Cactus.
This epiphyte succulent is an excellent choice when you want to make a nice gesture and give a valuable gift saying at the same time that you care about someone.
Plants are known to make the living space more beautiful and welcoming, above anything else.
So, what is it that makes Christmas Cactus a perfect gift for all those who are known to have killed plants before?
The main reason is its easy maintenance.
Thanksgiving Cactus is a highly forgiving plant and it seems that even if you are accused of attempted murder against it, it will still survive.
But, first, let me tell you…
A Short (Horror) Story
In order for you to understand better why Schlumbergera is a low-maintenance indoor and outdoor plant that you can grow even if you do not have a green thumb, let me tell you a really horrific story first.
Back at my parent’s place, my mum had this lovely cactus for as long as I can remember. There were times when she kept it way too high on a shelf – right under the ceiling where it was too hot. Then, there were times when it spent winters in rooms at just a bit above 0°C.
There were times when she kept it in our dark hallway. And there were times when she would forget to water it for longer than a week.
Sometimes, some of these times were co-occurring!
And, guess what?
Yeah, precisely – the very same Christmas cactus is still there and by the looks of it (as witnessed last week) it is just getting ready to bloom! Each year without a miss!
Seriously, there’s no killing Christmas cactus.
Still, not to put any unnecessary strain on the plant, here are some brief guidelines on how to provide the best thriving conditions for your lovely Christmas succulent.
I know that everybody will tell you to go for high-quality potting mixes, etc. to keep the CC in the best possible shape. Among these, they will tell you that you should go for a well-draining mix that is humus rich.
Of course, living in buildings will mean that you will have to go for the commercial mixes, so as long as they are rich with humus, your CC will do just fine.
I am not sure if I should tell you that my mum forgets to water it for over a week sometimes (it’s a crime, I know!).
Seriously, being succulent, your CC does not require too much water. So, letting a few days pass between watering is just fine.
However, just before and during the blooming season, you will have to increase the watering. This is when all the houseplants need more water, not just the CC.
A little misting also cannot hurt!
Well, for ideal care, an east-facing window is your choice. This plant thrives in bright, indirect light. Exactly what a Thanksgiving cactus needs.
Try avoiding dark places at all costs since nobody likes to sit in a dark space for too long and neither does the CC.
Again, bear in mind the horror story of my mum and find relief in the fact that even keeping your CC in a dark place will not kill it.
Still, try not to prolong this exposure. Please!
You can skip it – god knows my mom does (OK, I really think the woman will hate me after reading this!).
However, when the buds start to form, you can fertilize every two weeks so the blooming is optimized.
Any fertilizer high in potassium will be more than fine.
Pruning and Repotting
There is no time frame for pruning.
Just whenever you see a stem you don’t like – it’s discolored, yellow, showing signs of withering – just cut it down or pinch it out.
Or, you can also cut down some of the new growth to propagate.
Of course, keep it in water (or any other suitable media) until it grows roots and then you can repot to have another lovely CC in your home.
I know that every other guide will tell you that you need to repot Schlumbergeraevery year just after the blooming season is over.
Hmm, what if I told you I know people (see what I did there?) who haven’t repotted it for years?
Seriously, if you want to take proper care of it, repot it every or every other year. Go a size up with the pot so the roots have more space to grow and soak in the nutrients.
This is how you’ll keep the flowers lush and bountiful.
I fully understand the struggle when you are thinking about giving a plant as a gift to someone with a black thumb. You can’t help but feel sorry for the plant in advance – and yet, you want to make the gesture.
To spare you the trouble of choosing resilient and forgiving plants, I believe I provided an ideal solution.
Christmas Cactus is an excellent choice of a plant to be gifted to someone. It branches, it flowers, it survives no matter what torture you expose it to.
But, please, don’t! At least not on purpose.
So, get one now, and make your home perfectly decorated – the holidays are a-coming!