Christmas cactus

Poinsettia and Christmas cactus are the quintessential holiday plants. Whether you purchase them or are the lucky recipient of a lovely floral gift, keeping them happy after the tree is gone and decorations packed away, doesn’t take much.

Poinsettias are native to Mexico and will grow outside there all year long, and can get quite large. The flowers are made up of bracts, which resemble petals, and the actual flowers are called cyathia, those tiny little yellow blooms in the very center. They come in several colors as well as a variegated variety. This colorful plant will give you several months of joy by following a few simple rules:

  • Poinsettias don’t like to be cold, but they love the sun, so in the Pacific Northwest, a room where the temperatures are maintained between 65-70 is ideal.
  • Avoid temperature fluctuations such as too close to cold windows, space heaters, fans, heat ducts or fireplaces.
  • Keep the soil moist, but not wet. Remove the decorative foil, place pot in a sink to water and allow excess to run out before returning to a sunny location. Never allow roots to sit in water or the plant will rot.

Poinsettias can be nurtured throughout the year, to blossom once again next holiday season. For more information regarding the process, the following link will be very helpful: extension.umn.edu/houseplants/poinsettia.

Christmas cactus, as you might not suspect, are actually native to the rain forests of Brazil living among the tree branches. There are three varieties of what we refer to as Christmas cactus — Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter, so named for the time of year they blossom. You’ll see many colors of blossoms on these cacti, including red, orange, purple, yellow, pink, white, and two-tones.  Since this beautiful flowering succulent prefers a humid climate, you will need to pay closer attention to watering while in bloom.

  • Water when the top 1-2” of soil are very dry to the touch.
  • When watering place the pot in a sink and water until it runs out the bottom. Do not let the pot sit in water, as you run the risk of root rot.
  • Misting between watering helps increase humidity.
  • Bright indirect light is best.
  • Place in a room where temperatures range between 55-70 degrees.
  • In summer cacti may be moved outside, in a shaded area, until temps fall below 50 degrees.

For more information regarding maintaining a cactus for a long life, visit www.almanac.com/christmas-cactus-thanksgiving-cactus-and-easter-cactus.

So there you have it. These delightful plants, thought to be seasonal, can actually bring color into your home for many months or actually years in the case of those gorgeous cacti!

As always, if you have specific gardening or pest question you can submit them, online, to the OSU Hood River Extension, Columbia Gorge Master Gardener’s virtual Plant Clinic at extension.oregonstate.edu/mg/hoodriver  or by phone at 541-386-3343 ext.38259. Master Gardeners are a great free resource for research-based information. Remember to provide detailed plant or pest problem information, as well as your preferred method of contact.

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