Rooting Christmas Cactus

andrewofthelemon(7b Central Arkansas)February 19, 2012

So on a trip to Tulsa for a wedding, i stopped by my aunt's house and picked up one large and two small cuttings of her CC. I started doing my research on how to root these, here and with google. What i see is very contradictory, that it is either the easiest thing ever, or so difficult I might as well go and buy one. Methods I have seen include: Leaving in water, putting in damp soil with frequent misting, leaving out like a jade cutting, leaving in bone dry soil. The only constant thing is wait for new growth, so I absorbed that; the rest of it?

Well i guess you experts can help me.

I left it in a plastic food box with a clear lid and a bit of water so it was rather humid on the way over, most of the info I have seen is wait 6-24 hours for it to seal over before planting. Right now, I have two cuttings in water, and the largest in kind of damp soil. Should I leave as is or change completely? I also have rooting powder, which I will apply tomorrow when I feel like getting it out. Also, pics tomorrow.


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I've used all of the mentioned methods and they all work, I think the main thing is to not over water if put in soil. Misting is the best method. I've found the old buckleyi type CC root better in water than the Thanksgiving types.
If it's mature growth, cuttings will last for weeks without potting up. If it's the Thanksgiving type I'd pot those up as well. Good Luck!

    Bookmark   February 20, 2012 at 7:58AM
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pirate_girl(Zone7 NYC)

Geez, Andrew,

Sorry you found our info. so contradictory. These are cacti, but jungle cacti, so the issues are different than regular cacti (arid land). Callousing over isn't needed as these are tropical.

I'd take it out of the water, repot into small plastic pot using a mix of AV mix w/ added perlite or pumice. Water rooting wouldn't normally be recommended for these.

    Bookmark   February 20, 2012 at 8:03AM
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Hi....I usually take cutting in spring and put them in a pot,(my mix is orchid mix and cactus mix and perlite, a small bag of each, mixed well) and set the pot on my patio and it gets watered when it for me...linda

    Bookmark   February 20, 2012 at 9:26AM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

Andrew, root them in bark (with a little Perlite, if you want).

I let a callus form for a few days, just as with Jades. Then I pot them in moistened bark.
In 1 - 2 weeks they should be rooting. When I re-pot the cuttings, I put them into a mix that
is mostly bark, with Perlite and a pinch of something that holds moisture - like Turface, Lava rock,
pumice, or even Orchid or African Violent soil mix.

As always, the key is drainage. In the wilds, water (rain) runs over their roots frequently,
but seldom does the water pool for any period of time.


    Bookmark   February 20, 2012 at 12:24PM
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andrewofthelemon(7b Central Arkansas)

Bark, Perlite, and a pinch of AV soil

AV soil and Perlite

Tiny one in water

    Bookmark   February 20, 2012 at 1:54PM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

Alright, just so you know, this is not a Christmas Cactus.

It is a Thanksgiving Cactus, Schlumbergera truncata.


    Bookmark   February 20, 2012 at 2:56PM
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andrewofthelemon(7b Central Arkansas)

Lying aunt...what's the difference? Besides the obvious time of blooming. Well, maybe hers is weird, because it had expired blooms on it when I was there.

    Bookmark   February 20, 2012 at 3:00PM
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emerald1951 defence for your aunt...alot of stores sell them as christmas cactus..but they are thanksgiving or holiday cactus....

difference....blooming time and the leaf segments...

thanksgiving cactus...blooming time thanksgiving....and the segments have pointy edges.

christmas cactus....blooming time chritmas...segment have round edges

I have the christmas cactus and if you would like some cuttings e-mail me in the spring.....linda

    Bookmark   February 20, 2012 at 3:28PM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

Hey, Andrew! Don't blame your aunt ;-)

The difference is in the species. Thanksgiving is Schlumbergera truncata,
whereas the Christmas Cactus is Schlumbergera x buckleyi, a hybridized form.

In addition to the slight difference in bloom time and the shape of the phylloclades
(leaf-segements), the flowers are also different. Thanksgiving blooms are asymmetrical,
and the bloom often angles outward and even upright.
Christmas blooms are symmetrical, and the bloom most often hangs downward.

Thanksgiving Cacti bloom far more easily (for purposes of marketing) and come in more colors.

The link I'm attaching is basically the seminal page to which most of us refer.
It explains the differences betwixt the three Holiday Cacti perfectly.
No discussion of these plants should be without it.


Here is a link that might be useful: Recognition and Culture of the Holiday Cacti

    Bookmark   February 20, 2012 at 4:20PM
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andrewofthelemon(7b Central Arkansas)

Josh and Linda, great info, and thanks for the link, Josh. Linda, I might have to take you up on that later in the year.

    Bookmark   February 20, 2012 at 6:46PM
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Hi Andrew, I was wondering, which method worked best for rooting, and which mix was best for growing. It would be interesting to find out. I have a new one that I watered and some of the bases rotted. When I water, I water heavily and then let the soil dry out which I thought was correct but I think if I continue watering like this I'll need an airy, more free draining mix.

    Bookmark   December 2, 2012 at 10:47PM
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*this is andrew I had to make a new account

The first soil mix, the closest one to Josh's instructions was the best.

I put some rooting hormone on it and put it in the soil slightly moistened. I did not water again until I saw new growth. It seemed like it was about to die (became all shriveled up) right before it put out some new leaves.

Here's a picture of it today, with a jade that is rooting. I got the jade because while I was browsing Wal-marts plants, (it's hard to go there and not buy all the plants to save them)I noticed a large chunk of a jade plant had fallen to the ground, so I asked a worker if I could take it home. He gave me a funny look, like ,"Why would he want that," and said yes.

*the picture didn't upload, I will fiddle with it later today*

    Bookmark   December 3, 2012 at 9:58AM
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Thanks for answering. I'm kind of stuck between going with more conventional materials, or trying some of Al's gritty mix. A lot of people seem to like it so I'd like to try it at some point. It's just going to be kind of expensive to make so I'm not sure about it. The mix that you said worked, I already have most of the materials except the african violet mix. I'd have to get some of that. I keep a few orchids so I have a little bark left and I got some perlite for something but have hardly ever used it. It's funny, I finally gave in and grabbed one of those succulents at walmart. A Sedum nussbaumerianum and a Thanksgiving cactus. I've been successfully killing them ever since. I went to turn the Thanksgiving cactus pot and a bunch of stems fell out. I looked at the bases and they had rotted. I was incredibly stupid about it when I got it. I immediately went about repotting it, messed up the roots, and was stupid enough to use bits of old soil that an aloe had already rotted in but I thought, "Oh, it's been dry for a while now, it should be safe to use". Idiot! So yeah, I need to be extremely careful and put it into a good clean mix that doesn't hold so much water. Oh, and I think the other succulent is loosing roots or something's wrong with it. I used a soil I had put together with perlite, sand and potting soil and it has been terrible. The sand seems to just pack up and keep the water held in contrary to a lot of things I've read about using it for drainage. Oh, and my boyfriend got a job in the walmart garden center so don't even let me get started on that. He tries but nobody else really seems to know what to do with the plants. But I know what you mean about trying rescue plants. I'm especially bad about that if they're on sale. Oh, and how long does the mix you're using tend to stay wet? It'll be neat to see a picture of it.

    Bookmark   December 3, 2012 at 3:22PM
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I would try Al's gritty mix, or as close as you can to it. It doesn't have to be AV mix exactly, if you have some potting soil or something.
It doesn't stay wet too long.
Key is not watering, tough to do.

    Bookmark   December 3, 2012 at 8:19PM
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I never plant the cutting in the rooting medium. I lay the cutting flat on top of the moist rooting medium and pin it down to make contact with the medium and then put a clear cover over the whole container to keep the humidity in. The cutting will root from each leaf joint.

    Bookmark   December 3, 2012 at 9:07PM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

Hey, Andrew!

Cheeky, if you have some orchid bark, that's all you really need to root.
I've rooted Christmas Cactus cuttings in pure bark, bark and perlite, and in mixes
involving more ingredients. I really prefer the bark-based mix as opposed to the
grit-based mix for these particular plants.


    Bookmark   December 4, 2012 at 2:25AM
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These are all great ideas. I was just going to stick them down in the medium but laying them down seems like a good idea too. If I did lay them down, would I plant them laying down later or poke them into the mix? Oh, and what do you pin them with?
Back to the mix, now the only problem I'll have is deciding. I'm leaning towards the orchid bark mixed with other stuff, but I've been wanting to try the gritty mix on something. Have any of you tried it and what has it worked best on?

    Bookmark   December 4, 2012 at 5:21AM
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Laura Robichaud

I'm rooting some right now in bark with a pinch of AV soil. I lightly mist the bark daily. One thing I've learned, do not pull them out to check if there's roots. The one segment I did that to looks droopier than the others.

    Bookmark   December 4, 2012 at 10:32AM
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I have starts in a mix like Josh suggested and I have a single start in the gritty mix. The cuttings in the bark mix seem to be doing the best. That's not to say the cutting in gritty mix is languishing, because it's not. It just doesn't seem to be responding to the mix as well as the ones in bark have.

FWIW, I have them buried at least one segment deep in the mix (3 cuttings to a pot). I water them once the dowels come out dry (which is approx. every week/week and a half).


    Bookmark   December 4, 2012 at 3:02PM
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It's so tempting to do isn't it? Before I messed with it there was a tiny segment starting to root when I brought it home from the store. I of course pulled on it. I thought it had just fallen off. It's still in there but deflated. Oh, and how many segments should I use? Right now, they have three segments and each one branches.

    Bookmark   December 4, 2012 at 3:17PM
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Bark mix it is!

    Bookmark   December 4, 2012 at 3:31PM
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Oh, and about what ratio do I put them in if I use the bark, perlite and av soil?

    Bookmark   December 4, 2012 at 3:34PM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

Hey! :-)

Jeni, I'm really glad they're doing well!

Cheeky, I aim for the 5-1-1 ratio, or very close to it.
5 parts bark, 1 part perlite, 1 part AV soil/orchid mix/potting soil....

Be sure to rinse the perlite before mixing.


    Bookmark   December 4, 2012 at 7:26PM
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Thank you again Josh! I think I'd have failed miserably were it not for your help. Minus some wilting from me not watering the mother CC, they all took to the bark mix amazingly well.

Cheeky, follow Josh's advice... he knows what he's doing where these plants are concerned!


    Bookmark   December 4, 2012 at 10:15PM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

That's very kind of you to say, I appreciate it, Jeni :-D

Once the plants have rooted, they should put on some rapid growth. Bark makes for a lean mix,
so anyone using a *mostly* bark mix will want to lightly and consistently fertilize. I like to
incorporate some slow release fertilizer into the mix itself, and also supplement with a soluble
liquid fertilizer (Foliage Pro 9-3-6 being my preference).

The true beauty of Bark is that it dramatically reduces the incidence of root-rot for these plants.
I derive comfort from being able to spray my Christmas Cacti with the hose in the Summer and the
sprayer at the kitchen sink in the Winter. I thoroughly flood the bark medium, then of course allow
the bark to dry a bit before the next watering.


    Bookmark   December 4, 2012 at 11:03PM
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Being in Cal as you are, I imagine your watering needs are vastly different than mine (I'm in NY). The wilting on mine happened after 3wks of not watering... but in my rather weak defense, the dowel kept coming out wet. I'm finding that it might not be the best measure of 'when to water' - a good first step, maybe, but I definitely need something more. I totally agree, though, that bark is the way to go. I just need to get more comfortable with the notion that I /can/ water every week without worrying about rot settling in.

Come summer, it will be easier as we have relatively warm temps with extremely high humidity. Though in the winter we typically get really cold temps with extreme dryness, so I don't want the mix to stay too wet for too long.

Figuring out a good winter watering schedule is going to be tricky (short of the plant going all wilty and thin on me, which I want to avoid).

I do have Osmocote now, though, and am using FP when I water. I at least have the fertilizing portion down! ;)


    Bookmark   December 4, 2012 at 11:40PM
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Thanks Josh, that was exactly what I need to know. I wasn't quite sure what a pinch was.
All I have for fertilizer is the liquid Miraclo-gro plant food and some orchid fert. It says on the bottle that for constant feeding it's 10 drops per quart for weak feeding and 20 for stronger feeding. What is best to do about fertilizing these?
Thanks again everybody. It's so nice to have people willing to help you. I love GardenWeb! :)

    Bookmark   December 6, 2012 at 3:29AM
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