Last Updated on November 15, 2022
How to Care for Your Christmas Cactus And Keep It Blooming All Season Long
A Christmas cactus is another excellent gift idea if you want something other than the traditional poinsettias for the holiday season.
With its brightly colored flowers, a Christmas cactus is a succulent plant that doubles as a beautiful holiday decoration.
These low-maintenance succulents can provide beautiful blooms for many years under average home conditions with little care, but the trick is to know how to make plants bloom on cue.
Here’s a short video that shows you how to do just that, along with proper care tips that will help you to maintain your Christmas cactus so you can enjoy it for years to come.
I hope you had fun watching that and learned a little about the different types of Christmas cacti and how to care for each.
Thanksgiving, Easter, or Christmas Cactus? What Kind Do I Have?
The trio of holiday cacti is comprised of Schlumbergera truncata (Thanksgiving cactus ), Schlumbergera buckleyi (Christmas cactus), and Schlumbergera gaertneri (Easter cactus).
Each variety typically blooms closest to the holiday that it’s named after.
Most people are unaware that most of the Christmas cacti sold now are Thanksgiving cacti instead.
But for our purposes here, we’ll consider them all to be Christmas cacti, as the care is much the same.
Here are the cactus care steps you should follow.
Christmas Cactus Care: 9 Steps To Follow
Display them in a brightly lit area.
Christmas cacti love a well-lit area and indirect sunlight. A north or east-facing window is usually the most suitable location as it will provide the hours of light needed to maintain a healthy plant.
Avoid placing them in a location that receives direct sunlight, as that can bleach out and burn the leaves.
They can tolerate lower indirect light but bloom much better when given more bright light.
Check them weekly for water.
Holiday cacti need to be watered thoroughly every one to three weeks, depending on location, temperature, and pot size. They cannot tolerate dry soil, as they are not a desert variety of cacti.
But never let them sit in water. Make sure to drain any excess water off after you’re finished watering.
Christmas cacti are different than the desert type of cactus plants that you might be more familiar with. They are epiphytic plants, much like orchid plants.
While not parasitic, they grow attached to other plants and rocks rather than in the soil, allowing their roots to breathe.
When re-potting, plant them in a cactus soil mix.
This potting mix is very porous and fast-draining, essential to maintaining the plant’s health. Don’t use regular houseplant potting soil. Use potting soil like Miracle-Gro Succulent Potting Mix.
Christmas cacti perform and bloom better when they’re potbound. Typically, you don’t need to re-pot Christmas cacti very often (maybe every two to three years).
If you decide it’s time to re-pot, do it a couple of months after their blooming cycle ends, usually in spring or early summer.
Christmas cactus like a temperature range between about 65°F to 75°F.
This is their preferred range during the day. They need slightly cooler temperatures at night to set and maintain their flower buds.
If you have yours outside in the summertime, you must bring them indoors before it freezes.
Maintain higher humidity levels around your cactus.
You can increase humidity by putting your holiday cactus on top of a saucer or tray of pebbles and water.
Make sure that the bottom of the pot is not touching the water. As the water evaporates, it will create a more humid atmosphere around your cactus.
Don’t skip fertilizing.
Although a Christmas cactus doesn’t need much fertilizer, it does help to stimulate a lot of new growth during its regular growing season.
Once new growth appears in the spring, start fertilizing once a month through about midsummer. Don’t use regular houseplant fertilizer. Use one designed for succulents like Miracle-Gro Succulent Plant Food.
Stop fertilizing before and during their blooming period, usually from the beginning of September through the winter months.
Give your cactus a helping hand to set new buds to bloom.
For your cactus to bloom, it needs more prolonged periods of darkness, cooler temperatures, and less moisture, about six to eight weeks before you want it to start to bloom.
Ideally, you want to place them in an area with 12 – 14 hours of dark and cooler temperatures, ranging from about 50°-55°F.
If that’s not possible, position your plant in a spot that naturally gets more darkness.
And if you can’t give them the cooler temperatures they need, give them extended periods of darkness. That will help kickstart the blooming cycle.
Once the buds form, you can return your holiday cactus to where you want to display it and resume a regular care routine.
Remember that any drastic change in their environment can cause buds to fall off the plant. It’s a common problem you should be aware of.
Prune yearly if necessary.
If your plant has a beautiful shape, you don’t need to worry about pruning, but if you’ve got unruly or gangly-looking stems on your plant, pruning the leaves back can help it branch out.
Pruning’s easy to do. Cut between two stem segments. You can take your whole plant down by about a third every year without causing any damage.
The stems that you’ve cut off can also be easily propagated. Let them set out for a few days allowing the cut end to heal and callus over.
Then plant them back into a pot filled with cactus soil mix, buried in about a half-inch deep. Keep the cuttings slightly moist, and they’ll have new roots in about two weeks.
Keep an eye out for stress, disease, and insects.
Overwatering is the most significant cause of problems with Christmas cacti. It can cause various issues, mainly stem rot, root rot, and occasional insect problems.
The easiest way to avoid these problems is to allow the soil to dry out between waterings and consider putting your cactus in a breathable terra cotta clay pot.
If your cactus is starting to take on a reddish hue, it’s getting too much sun, or it’s not getting enough water. Those are easy to adjust, so keep a watchful eye on your plants.
If you notice any sign of these problems, it’s easy to deal with them before they become a significant issue.
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