Transplanting a Christmas Cactus

By Barry Solomon , last updated March 31, 2011

The Christmas cactus is a perennial plant that produces white, red, or pink blooms each holiday season, which makes it a perfect Christmas gift, and transplanting a Christmas cactus needs to be done with care. This is a hearty plant which thrives and blooms well in a pot and should last for decades. It should only be transplanted when it is wilting or frequently drying out. The best time to transplant is in late January or early February, after the blooms have faded and before there is significant growth. The other choice would be to transplant in the early fall. This will allow the plant to produce blooms for the Christmas holiday season. Though this tropical plant requires about ten hours of intense sunlight, it also requires about fourteen hours of darkness. Thus the plant is best moved to a closet or other such environment at night to make sure that you are optimizing conditions for its growth and productivity.

Before you transplant your Christmas cactus, prune away any dead or unhealthy branches. in choosing your soil, it is important to remember that you have to keep the roots from getting too soggy. Thus soils that have significant sand content, about thirty percent, are a good choice. Fill the pot to the half way point with potting soil. The ideal potting soil should contain a high percentage of organic matter such as well decomposed compost or peat. Add coarse sand or you can even use fish tank gravel to insure good aeration for the roots. In their Ino

In their natural tropical rainforest habitat, these plants grow high in trees with the soil consisting only of leafy compost. Even in intense rainy conditions, the leaves become air dried quickly and you must try to simulate the same conditions growing them in soil.

Now take the plant and, using a long thin knife, run it around the edge of the soil where it touches the pot to loosen it. Now you should be able to lift the plant out of the old pot. Do it carefully, loosening the soil with your fingers until it is clear of the pot. But sometimes soils rich in peat content will get hard as a brick over time. If necessary, you can soak the plant in water to loosen the soil up and then go ahead and remove it. In this case, be sure and transplant it right away because you don't want the roots to get damaged by excessive water.

Place the plant on top of the soil in the new pot. Work it down by loosening the soil until it sits at about the same height as it did in the old pot. Fill in the pot with additional potting soil and tamp it down carefully around the roots. Water until the soil is damp to about one inch. But do not over water as the plant will not respond well if the roots become too soggy. The new pot should be a couple of inches in diameter larger than the old one to allow for growth of the plant's root system.

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