Caring For Your Christmas Cactus by Janelle Werk   Did you know that the poinsettia is not the only winter holiday season plant? There is also the Christmas Cactus. No, not the cactuses that have thorns and are prickly . The Cactus's I am talking about are beautiful plants that may produce colors from yellow, salmon, pink, fuschia, white or combinations of these colors. They are not too hard to care for but there are a couple of particular things to pay attention to.   Plant your Christmas Cactus in well-drained soil that contains equal parts of garden loam, leaf mold, and clean coarse sand. It should also contain a quart of wood ashes per bushed of mixture and one-tenth of compost if you are using poor soil.   Next is the fertilizer and watering techniques. When new growth appears in the spring apply a weak concentration of liquid housplant fertilizer in 2-3 week intervals. Whenever the top of the soil feels dry the cactus should be watered. Watering is different throughout the different seasons. During the month of October do not give your plant any water. Continue watering again in November but do not over water it. When over watered the buds may drop off. After the plant has quit blooming let it rest by not watering it for six weeks. Then repot and continue watering the cactus again.   Light is a concern when growing Christmas Cactuses. The best blooms take place in high light intensity located indoors. During the summer months you may move your cactus outside but keep it in a semi-shady area. If it is exposed to a lot of light the leaves could burn up. During the fall gradually expose your cactus to indoors by increasing the number of hours spent inside everyday.   Temperature is a big factor in how well your cactus blooms and lives. During day conditions the cactus prefers warm temperatures with slight sunshine and at night cooler (50 to 55 degrees F). From October on keep the plant in a cool spot (60 to 65 degrees F) at night. Keep away from any type of heat for example, a fireplace. Also avoid drafty areas. These may cause the buds to drop also. These conditions all help the cactus to be in full bloom by Christmas time.   Propagation is done in January and ends by March. It is done by cutting the stem at the second joint of each tip. Then plant the cuttings into moist peat and perlite. Water sparingly and after rooting takes place plant into loose soil.   Good Luck with Growing your Christmas Cactus!! Next time instead of a Poinsettia try the Christmas cactus.
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