How To Plant, Grow, and Care for Christmas Cactus
OCT 21, 2021
The Christmas cactus is a very popular houseplant! Its blooms, stems, and leaves make it one of the most unique succulents to own. This holiday cactus is so easy to care for because it requires very little maintenance.
There is so much to learn about this special holiday cactus, how to care for Christmas cactus, and the other holiday cacti (such as the Thanksgiving cacti or schlumbergera truncata or Easter cacti) you can grow. The ultimate Christmas cactus plant guide starts here and now!
Everything You Need To Know About Christmas Cacti
Like all things, it is best to start at the beginning with the basics! The Christmas cacti is not a complicated succulent, by any means. However, there is so much to learn.
The Christmas cactus can be distinguished by many different traits that set it apart from other succulents. This plant is actually considered to be a hybrid plant. The Christmas cactus produces flower buds, and when it is bloom time, the flowers form into a unique tubular shape. The colors of these flowers are gorgeous pink or lilac.
The Christmas cactus is also distinctly different from other succulents due to its preferred climate. Rather than desiring direct sunlight, being drought tolerant, or thriving in desert climates, Christmas cacti actually need a great deal of humidity and indirect sunlight for optimal conditions. The Christmas cactus should not be treated the same as other cacti or succulents. If it gets too much light or not enough water, it will not live very long.
You can find the Christmas cactus natively in the tropical rainforests of Brazil and South America! This is due to its desire for humidity and indirect sunlight. You will spot this succulent in the shade, growing on trees or rocks in the heart of the rainforest. At home, you can put it on an east-facing window sill for optimal sunlight.
An interesting fact about the Christmas cactus is that it is named for the time of year that the blooms are produced! The flowers may fall off after the blooming season, but they will return at the same time the following year. They bloom in late winter through early spring, especially in November, December and April.
Other Holiday Cactus Plants
There are so many holiday cactuses to choose from! The Christmas cactus is not the only variety of succulents that can make your home pop with color and fun plant decor. Some other varieties of holiday cacti include the Easter Cactus and the Thanksgiving Cactus, which are the common names for the plants. The crab cactus also blooms at the same time as this genus of cacti.
The Easter cactus blooms in February or March. This cactus variety can be distinguished by its rounded leaves. The Thanksgiving cactus blooms in late fall. The leaves on the Thanksgiving cactus are noted for their claw shape.
How To Care For Christmas Cactus
Christmas cactus requires different care throughout the year to mimic its natural habitat.
Watering: Christmas cactus needs more consistent watering than other cacti and succulents, specifically when the top half of its soil is dry to the touch.
Light: If you put your Christmas cactus in bright, direct summer sunlight, it will surely die. It needs humidity and shade to mimic the tropical climate that best suits the Christmas cactus. In the summer, keep Christmas cactus outdoors in bright, indirect light.
In the fall, your Christmas cactus should move indoors into a sunny window. At this point in its development, light is necessary for flowers to bloom. By winter, Christmas cactus should have 13 hours of full darkness each night.
Temperature: While Christmas cactus needs humidity in the summer, it should stay between 60 and 65 degrees in the fall and winter, far away from heat. Once flower buds form in the fall, it can return to room temperature. Never let your Christmas cactus stay in temperatures above 75 degrees.
In summary, this is how to get a Christmas cactus to bloom:
- Dormancy encourages blooming!
- Begin to reduce watering in September and October.
- Keep your cactus in cooler temperatures of 55 degrees.
- Try to give your plant at least 12 hours of darkness every night.
- Once you see flower buds forming, place the plant back in indirect sunlight.
How to Propagate Christmas Cactus
Propagating Christmas cactus can be easy with these helpful hints.
Choose the right time of year! Active growth for a Christmas cactus occurs seasonally. Propagation should begin in late spring when it is ready for new growth after the winter season.
Choose your cuttings wisely. You need two to five stem segments that contain several leaves. Collect multiple stem segments to increase the likelihood of new growth. Place your cuttings in a cool, dry place to heal. Avoid placing them in direct sunlight. Root your cuttings. Fill a cup with water and give it a two-inch layer of pebbles.
Add the cuttings to the water, with only the bottom tip touching the water. Let the water drain through, following up with supporting your cuttings and giving them light amounts of water. Put your cactus in indirect light and continue care for six to eight weeks.
Once the roots are about half an inch long, you can repot them. Put the cactus plant in a pot with excellent drainage holes and put the cuttings about one inch deep into the soil. Do not over-saturate the potting soil mix!
Additional Things To Look Out for With Your Christmas Cactus
Watch out for overwatering, which causes root rot. If your pot does not have a drainage hole or if the soil is not potting mix conducive for cacti and succulents, root rot may occur. You never want your Christmas cactus to sit in standing water within the potting soil.
It is so important that your cactus is in a pot with drainage holes. Christmas cactus also thrive in pots that are not too big. The tighter space actually encourages growth and blooming for the Christmas cactus.
Keep an eye out for mealybugs! These pests appear when root rot occurs. Blossom dropping happens when your cactus has experienced stress of some kind. The blooms will fall off of your plant. The stress can vary from the amount of light, amount of water, or temperature changes.
Proper Christmas cactus care changes depending on times of year. In the spring through the fall, it is recommended to give your Christmas cactus a standard houseplant, water-soluble, fertilizer every two weeks. During the fall and winter, it is best if you give that same fertilizer to your cactus once a month. This encourages the famous seasonal blooming.
Add This Special Plant to Your Home
The Christmas cactus is such a unique hybrid succulent. They come with brightly colored and interestingly shaped flowers. The Christmas cactus is such an incredible plant. It requires a little more specific care from your other succulents or cacti, but the reward with a Christmas cactus is too special to pass up on!