Pruning houseplants can be fun and relaxing when you know how to care for your plants properly. But, in case you have some doubts about when or how to prune Christmas cactus, you will find everything you need here in this article.
Trimming Christmas cactus can be done for various reasons. Since you are reading this, you probably either want to reduce it in size or you wish for it to grow more. Or you want to propagate your schlumbergera truncata and make more new growth.
This cactus can sometimes become a bushier plant than you would want it to. To prune a Christmas cactus on time, you have to observe if the stems appear limp or thin. This could be a sign of low maintenance.
In any case, these are the most important steps of the procedure called “pruning Christmas cactus”:
- When is the best time to prune it?
- Why prune your schlumbergera?
- How to remove the stems?
- What to do after removing stems?
- Propagate the removed segments
- More notes on cultivation of Christmas cactus plants
Remember that this is an important technique that can make your cactus become fuller in size. It will inspire it to grow breath-taking flowers of white, red, or bright pink colors. Like the ones you see in garden centers.
When is the best time to prune it?
What’s the perfect timing to prune Christmas cactus?
When your plant has finished blooming, it is the best time to begin this process. After flower buds have finished blooming, new leaves begin to appear.
If you trim Christmas cactus after its flowering, you will force it to begin branching out and creating new stems. Which means more new plants!
However, if you forget to do it or you are not sure if the blooming is finished, you can prune it until late spring. Not later than that.
Why prune your schlumbergera?
The first thing to remember is that how you will prune this succulent depends on how do you want to shape your plant. Do you want to shrink its size or inspire it grow even more?
Whichever is the case, you can do the pruning with your hands solely. Or use some tools– a knife, shears, or scissors.
If you want to diminish it, you can reduce one-third of its size per year by twisting or cutting the stems you deem unnecessary.
This can be done once a year. If you notice that it is growing rather slowly, wait for it to develop more and then prune it.
If you want to increase the size of your Christmas cactus, you have to take 1-2 segments at the end of the stem. This means that taking very few parts of its ends can stimulate the plant to grow new leaves and flowers easily.
You can do this depending on the time of year your cactus began blooming. Some happen to bloom even in February.
Whenever your cactus begins flowering, prune it after its blooming cycle, which means approximately two weeks after the process starts. Hold the tip of the stem and break off the top segment or two segments right at the joint.
How to remove the stems?
When you have specified when and why you want to trim your cactus it is time to ask yourself how to cut back a Christmas cactus/ thanksgiving cactus. If you are not sure just what exactly to do, pay close attention.
As stated, you can remove the stems by only twisting them with your hands. If you do not feel experienced enough to do that, worry not, you can always rely on scissors and knives.
How does the process look like?
- Twist the plant right where you see the gap between two segments, that is where they unite
- Feel with your fingers by gently twisting the segment where it is the weakest
- When you feel that part, you can twist it, but do it quickly, so not to damage the plant
- If you discover this to be harder than you thought, you can use the garden clippers to cut right at that spot where you twisted it
Depending on the size of your cactus that you wish to trim, you can cut only the top one or two segments of each stem, right where the stems are joining. There is practically no other way to trim the stems. You have to cut exactly where the new stems will appear.
If you have a very large Christmas cactus/ Easter cactus and you want to decrease it, you can cut additional segments of the longer stems that seem to bend due to their length. One-third of your cactus can be cut off and in this way, you will make it smaller.
It will take some time to grow new leaves. Your duty is to maintain the usual regime of nurturing the cactus with proper, that is, indirect light, watering, and potting mix.
You can even cut the stems so that they are all similar in size. But this method might be difficult for the cactus that has numerous stems with multiple segments.
Just always pay attention that the tools you are using are sharp enough and clean. The last thing you want is to damage the plant by using blunt tools or by creating bacteria that will infect the bottom of the stem.
You can rinse the knife in a solution of bleach and water to disinfect it. It is also important to wash your hands. That’s because any bacteria from the tools or your hands could potentially create disease on the freshly cut parts.
What to do after removing stems?
After you have cut all the stems you found redundant, water the cactus and check if drainage is working as it should.
You can also fertilize it so that the growth and blooming have the right amount of support in the next few months. For Christmas cactus, you can use different fertilizer formulations like 20-10-20 or 20-20-20 in diluted water.
Fertilizing this type of cactus is best to do between April and October. Feed it every two to four weeks, and stop with fertilization at the end of September. This is the period where it needs more attention and support as it will start with the blooming around October.
For the whole of October, you can put it somewhere where it will receive 12-14 hours of darkness. This should promote flowering. Also, cut off watering for that month, and resume in November.
Propagate the removed segments
Furthermore, if you have taken stems from your cacti that are healthy and fresh of about three or more segments because you wanted to reduce their size, you can use Christmas cactus cuttings for propagation.
Dry those stems in a cool place with no humidity in the air and then put them in water. Or immediately in the soil and perlite/peat mixture. Water the soil and leave it for three weeks until it creates roots.
This process requires more patience. The new stems need some time to adapt to the new environment and potting soil. If you notice its progress after two to three weeks, you are on a good path to creating another holiday cactus.
In this way, you can propagate your Christmas cactus any time you prune it and possibly create another pot of this magnificent plant.
Keep in mind that you can only use those leaf segments of stems that are fresh and that you removed successfully. The damaged ones will most likely fail in the propagation process, so you can throw those away.
More notes on cultivation of Christmas cactus plants
If you want your plant to succeed in any way, whether in size or blooming, it is significant to bear in mind the basic characteristics of this plant.
Try not to keep it in direct sunlight, where it will be exposed for several hours during the day and then for 13 hours approximately in the dark at night. This also means that you should keep the low lights in the room where your Christmas cactus is placed. This can confuse them and they will receive more light than necessary.
As far as the lighting is concerned, you can always test the place and put it for one day to see how the light moves.
Creating the proper temperature for this plant is probably the trickiest part. Native to Brazil, it thrives in temps between 60 and 70 degrees. Pay attention during the winter, as the heating won’t be good for your schlumbergera.
Putting it somewhere near the door or in colder corners of the bathroom can be good in terms of the temperature. Nevertheless, you know your home the best, so test it in different places.
Finally, always check its soil before watering it as you do not want to deal with root rot. Besides, check if the drainage is adequate, meaning the holes of the pot and to the soil mixture.
Here you have discovered the reasons why Christmas cactus pruning is an important part of plant care, when to do it and how.
Just remember to trim only its ends if you want to promote its development, but to as much as one-third if you want to reduce it.
What is nice about this process is that you can use those stems to create new Christmas cactus plants and gift them to someone on the holiday season when it begins to root. After all, this plant is famous for keeping you company for a long time.
Why do you prune your lovely Christmas cactus?
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