Holiday cacti bloom faithfully for the season

The holiday season comes with tasty food, festive decorations and precious time spent with those dear to us. It also means an array of holiday plants in your home or office, like poinsettias, amaryllis and holly. Quickly check holiday decor off your to-do list with a dependable and unique plant — the holiday cactus. With an element of flair, these faithful blooming plants will always unveil their timely gift of blooms for the holiday season.

Notable characteristics of the holiday cactus include flattened stem segments. Often referred to as leaves, these plant parts are known as phylloclades. Blooms on this exotic plant offer several weeks of dazzling color in strong single or blended hues of pink, white, red and purple, depending on the hybrid or cultivar.

How do you tell the difference between a Thanksgiving and a Christmas cactus? Examine the flattened stem segment edges to distinguish which is which. They are similarly shaped but display distinct characteristics. Thanksgiving cacti have pointed serrations, while Christmas cacti have slightly rounded edges.

This Brazilian plant, an epiphyte that grows in rainforest tree branches with no attachment to the ground, resources the air and rain for nutrients and moisture. With proper care, epiphytes can be long-living houseplants in all parts of the world, including your home.

A good growing environment includes high humidity and bright filtered light when growing indoors. Waterlogged soils will cause the roots to rot; water the cacti well when the soil is dry to the touch. Slightly pot-bound roots will encourage more blooms on the plant, so only repot to a bigger container every three years during the spring.

Holiday cacti are short-day plants, requiring an increased amount of natural darkness and cool temperatures to bloom. Six weeks of 13 hours or more of darkness each night is required for the flower buds to develop. Any indoor or outdoor lights, even for a short amount of time, can disrupt this process and prevent flower development. Cool temperatures are also needed for the buds to develop; keep plants in a brightly lit space with a temperature of 60-68 degrees Fahrenheit for maximum flower development.

Following the holiday season, share starts of the stunning plant with envious family or friends. It is easily propagated in late spring by removing a three-section part of the stem that is allowed to dry for one day, to callous and prevent rotting. Plant in a small pot, 1-inch deep in potting soil to root. Roots should develop in three to four weeks. Spread joy and the tradition of holiday cacti by gifting your epiphyte in a decorative planter next holiday season.

Often passed down from generation to generation, you may have childhood memories of a beloved friend or family member growing this fascinating plant. As the holiday season approaches, skip the stress of selecting holiday decor and cherish this time-honored centerpiece instead — a holiday jewel among houseplants.