This spring is a long, wet spring, the kind that prevents you from getting out in the garden. Frustrated? Take heart, we can still garden indoors. Now is a great time to taking cuttings of your holiday cactus. It should be done blooming now and cuttings are a great way to make many more plants to give away as gifts.
Line up a few clean, small plastic containers such as yogurt containers, fruit cup containers, or plastic cups and puncture the bottoms to allow for drainage. Fill with packaged seed starting mix and water each cup so water runs through the drainage holes.
To take the cutting, simply twist off a piece of stem about three to four segments long. The stems are made up of joined rectangular segments. Each segment is called a cladode. The length should be long enough to insert into soil and stand up. You want to twist so you have the end of a segment or cladode, not mid-way into a segment. Insert into the container, water again, and tamp to ensure the stem is standing upright. You can insert several per container or just one per container.
Place on a tray, in a well-lit place, out of direct sun. The room should be warm, “room temperature,” not a cold, drafty basement. It is not necessary to place the container in a plastic bag or to fertilize.
Some people insert the cutting directly into the soil while others wait a day or two for the cut part to form a callus. This is done to prevent rotting. I have never had a problem with rotting so I simply insert the cutting into the wet soil.
I do not use a rooting hormone because the plant roots easily. A holiday cactus, also called a Christmas cactus or a Thanksgiving cactus, is an epiphytic plant that grows on trees in Brazil’s coastal mountains. In their natural habitat, they have aerial roots, which is an indication that the cuttings will root easily without added hormones.
For the first few weeks, I water the containers often enough so the soil is moist but not waterlogged. Because the containers are very small, the soil will dry out faster than a full grown plant in a large container. After a few weeks, I check to see if roots have formed by gently pulling to see if there is resistance. Also, if the plant is still turgid, there is a good chance it has survived the cut and is still trying to form roots. If the plant is obviously wilted or rotted, I throw away the entire plant and container into the trash. This is one advantage to having one cutting per container; if it does not work, you only lose the one cutting and container, not many cuttings in one container.
Eventually, the cuttings will form enough roots so you can transplant to a larger container with potting soil. You can either continue to grow this indoors or put outdoors in the summer and then bring back in the fall. For the cost of seed starting mix, cuttings are an inexpensive gift for friends and family. Makes a great teacher’s gift too!