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Question
Hi! I have two large pots of christmas cactus right now. They are in full bloom and look beautiful at this moment. However, I feel that the leaves are getting way too long and droopy with the flowers on them. I heard that you can propagate them and shorten the leaves by pulling leaves off and sticking them in the soil. How does that work? Can I propagate my christmas cactus now with flowers on them? If not then when can I do this?

Answer
Victor,

The days are too short now, they will not root. The time to root cuttings from a Christmas cactus or any other tropical houseplant is between April 1st and July 30th.  They need to rest for a bit after blooming and be very careful not to overwater them. Only water when they have been dry for a week. Never let them sit in a tray full of standing water. In nature these are actually epiphytic cacti and they grow in the branch crotches of trees high in the jungle where they get lots of light and the only soil is the rotten leaves caught in the branch crotches. Do not move them to large pots, they like to be root bound.

Steps for rooting cuttings:

1. Take at least 3 or 4 stem segments and twist it off at the joint. Some people do take sharp scissors and cut right at the joint - you decide on the method you'd like to use.
2. Allow cuttings to dry a minimum of 24 hours so they seal over.

3. Using 1/2 peat moss and 1/2 perlite soil mix, moisten to just moist - not wet. Plant the cuttings half the depth of the first segment in the soil mix.

4. Set in a bright window or bright area outside as long as temperatures are above 50 degrees. Mist it to keep soil from drying out completely. Don't water.

5. The cuttings will wilt. Don't be alarmed. This is normal. When it starts to come back to life again - roots should be growing at this time. Any new growth on the cuttings are also a sign that your cuttings are taking root.

6. When you see the above signs - you can water normally which means when the soil is dry 1" down -- water until water runs out bottom of container -- then pour off any excess water.

7. Once the cutting has grown one new segment you can start fertilizing until October 1st. Now it's time for blooms! They can stay outside until temperatures are going to drop below 40 degrees. Cool temperatures trigger blooming in Christmas Cactus or keeping them in total darkness for 14 hours a night will also trigger blooming. That can be accomplished using a black trash bag.

8. Prepare for blooming - Leave outside to get natural cooling temps at night and natural hours of daylight. If your plant is inside - keep it cool and give it light equivalent to outside daylight.

9. If you are lucky, you will get blooms the first year around Thanksgiving or Christmas. If you root early in the year, this is very possible.

10. After blooming, the plant should rest until March. Watering should be decreased - water when 2" - 3" of depth is dry before re-watering as stated above. Don't let your plant dry out completely. Do not fertilize during this dormant period.

If you have more questions feel free to write again. Good luck!

Darlene  

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Darlene K. Kittle

Expertise

I have been an Advanced Master Gardener for 24 years and I raise around 300 houseplants and bonsai trees a year including tropicals, succulents, and cacti. I have also been a professional plant care person for businesses in the Fort Wayne, IN area and currently professionally care for bonsai trees for my customers.

Experience

I am also studying the Japanese art of bonsai with tropical plants and is President of the Fort Wayne, IN Bonsai Club.

Organizations
Fort Wayne, iN Master Gardeners. President of the Fort Wayne Bonsai Club. Allen County Master Gardeners

Education/Credentials
I am not a hortculturist. I am a Purdue University Advanced Master Gardener for 24 years. I have studied plants on a personal level by growing hundreds of plants annually for the last 35 years. I have also studied under several nationally known American Bonsai experts.

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