Christmas cactus (Schlumbergera x buckleyi, originally Zygocactus x buckleyi), a real cactus that is native to Brazil and is frequently offered for sale throughout the winter, thrives outdoors in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 11 through 12. Christmas cactus is a low-maintenance plant with few pests and diseases that is grown for its vivid, tubular blossoms. If neither plant has a disease or pest infestation, you can put an old Christmas cactus and a new plant together in a single container.
Are Christmas cacti tolerant to crowds?
The information that I’ve been fortunate enough to get from my grandparents is what inspired the moniker “Heirloom Lady.” That information is my most valuable heirloom. I cherish more than simply the stories, recipes, gardening tips, and life lessons though. One item that my grandmother left in my care after she went away last year means the world to me: her Christmas cacti.
These Christmas Cacti are not your typical plants. The original plant belonged to a woman who only only appeared in Gram’s stories and gave it to her. Mom Moesche was her name, and she was great. All I know is that she gave our Gram the responsibility of taking care of her Christmas Cactus when it was already well over 75 years old. When Gram was in her late thirties, she gave her the plant.
Please keep in mind that Gram passed away at the ripe old age of 98. This Christmas Cactus has been growing for well over a century. a plant with multiple families and generations. Do you realize just how amazing that is? a living legacy. There isn’t anything better, in my opinion.
However, I also have her two eldest children in my care in addition to the elderly woman. And there are at the very least hundreds more scattered far across the east coast. On window sills, in jars, cups, pots, and anywhere else that could contain water, there were always babies developing. When they were old enough, Gram would pat friends, relatives, and uninvited guests on the back, leading them to the door with bits of care instructions for the plants and reassurance that everything would be okay.
Since I’ve had these amazing plants, I’ve given babies I’ve raised as gifts to at least three other individuals, and I have more that are almost ready to sow. Knowing that I’m giving someone a present that will keep growing and foster a sense of family in every person who travels with a Christmas Cactus thrills my heart. This assignment I’ve been assigned has extra special qualities, and I wouldn’t want it any other way.
Unfortunately, one of the younger plants was knocked over last week by a blast of wind, destroying the pot and a portion of the plant. I was inconsolable and broke down in tears about it. But soon after, I remembered Gram, who would have advised me to shake it off and develop the leftover portions of the stem into a plant for a special someone.
That’s what I’m doing, however the mother plant needs to be repotted in the interim. Christmas cactus repotting is not a difficult process, but it must be done carefully, especially with mature plants.
For the repotting of a Christmas cactus to be successful, you must be aware of the following:
1. To start with, you should be aware that Christmas cacti are tropical plants. They are not your typical cactus, and they favor hot, humid climates.
2. The holiday Cactuses don’t have leaves; instead, they have flat, segmented stems that produce chlorophyll much as leaves would. Older stem segments will eventually turn woody and resemble tree bark as they deteriorate.
3. You must be extremely cautious while removing your Christmas cactus from its current container for repotting if it is root-bound. Rootbound denotes that the plant has outgrown its container. If the soil is firm, the roots are extending through the pot’s drainage hole, or the plant’s stems are becoming yellow or brown (which can also be a sign of overwatering, so you just have to keep an eye on the plant), you can usually tell. It turned out to be a lucky break for me because the clay pot cracked when it dropped, making removal relatively simple. Sincerely, I’d rather you break a clay pot than put the plant’s health in danger by attempting to turn it up on its side.
4. Christmas cactus roots actually enjoy being somewhat packed. Plant parents struggle with this because, despite the fact that they thrive in crowded pots, it can be difficult to keep them from becoming root-bound. The best general rule is to pot your Christmas cactus in a pot that is 2 inches bigger than the one it is currently in every 4 years. I’m moving this guy from a 6-inch pot to an 8-inch pot, as you can see.
Before you start removing the plant from its current pot, fill the new pot with dirt. In order to avoid wasting time and place the root ball into new, nutritious soil as quickly as possible, you want to have its new home ready. You’ll see that I’m using dirt that has been specifically designed for cacti. Despite being a tropical plant, Christmas Cactuses need soil that allows for quick water drainage, thus you should still use this soil. You can begin by adding enough dirt to the bottom of your new pot so that the top of your root ball is about one inch deep from the top.
6. Gently scrape away portion of the root ball’s old, dry dirt. You might need to wet the roots to remove the old soil, or even rinse them. I believe that my plant benefited from the fall because the soil just sort of slipped away from the root system without really breaking it.
7. Insert your plant into its new location and carefully add fresh dirt to the area around the root ball. I was very careful to remove any stems that were becoming yellow or dried out as I proceeded.
8. To help it adjust to the new soil and container, give your repotted Christmas cactus a deep drink of fresh water and place it in extra shade for a few days.
9. I keep mine on the porch, close to the house, all summer long, just like my grandmother did, so they can get some indirect sunlight and fresh air. I can’t even begin to describe how much these plants have expanded and revived this summer. Fresh, vibrant green stems are sprouting out everywhere. Picking up a few branches to establish new plants won’t harm them and will actually encourage new development.
10. It will be time to move them inside in the fall, when the first frost is expected. They prefer to be in a dimly lit area that is away from direct sunshine (which is, if at all possible, somewhat humid). In October, you should water your plants only once a week. Instead of watering your plant once a week, reduce it to a light watering once every three weeks in October to encourage flowering during the holidays. For a few weeks, some people even cover their Christmas cacti to promote blooming.
How are Christmas cacti multiplied?
Christmas cacti are relatively simple to grow from seed. Cut segments of one to four and leave them to dry out for two to four days in a cool, dry location. Plant a sand/peat mixture an inch deep in fresh soil. Prior to the development of roots or new growth, water sparingly.
How close can cacti be planted to one another?
Let’s now discuss some justifications for why you might allow your succulents a little more room to expand.
As you would have anticipated, there are several advantages and disadvantages to planting succulents farther apart as opposed to putting them closer together. The fact that your succulents will grow larger more quickly is one of the main benefits of putting them a little more widely spaced.
This is a really nice alternative if you’re not as concerned about how tight the arrangement appears, and how properly planted and close together everything is from the get-go.
Because they have more room, your plants will grow bigger and are more likely to delay having children or experience new growth.
Additionally, you’ll discover that you won’t need to keep the arrangement up as frequently. You won’t feel the urge to prune back or eliminate portions of the plant to make the arrangement appear as though it is properly occupying the area because there is more room for them to flourish.
Additionally, it is simpler to water this kind of arrangement and ensure that the roots are thoroughly moistened. It will be much simpler to deliver water to the roots if you pour it straight on top of the plants or directly into the soil below them.
Downsides to spreading out your succulents
The fact that the arrangement frequently doesn’t appear as complete or striking right away is one of the major drawbacks of spacing succulents farther apart.
Using a decorative rock as a top dressing is a fantastic method to combat this. Between each of your succulent plants, you could place a really lovely rock to make the arrangement look finished and more polished. The beautiful thing about this is that it merely enhances the appearance of the arrangement while not preventing your succulents from growing.
You won’t immediately notice as much growth in the succulent itself if you plant your succulents too widely apart since too much space will force the succulent to send out roots.
If you want to give your succulents room to grow, I suggest placing them in a pot or with other succulents approximately 1/2″ to 1″ (13 mm to 25 mm) apart. Give them another 1/2 to 1″ from the pot’s edge as well.
The final drawback might not actually be a drawback, but you could be tempted to purchase additional succulents to fill in the spaces created by the gaps between those succulents!
Can cacti be combined?
I gathered the following materials to create this arrangement and demonstrate how to grow cactus and succulents together:
- pot with effective drainage
- lush, quick-draining soil
- Tape for drywall mesh
- Scissors (I use these for all gardening tasks and really adore them!)
- Tweezers (from my favorite set of succulent tools)
- bamboo chopsticks
- supple-bristled brush (from my favorite set of succulent tools)
- Succulent plants
The container I chose is fantastic, and you can see it better down below. The pot’s adorable, pudgy feet are the same shade of brown as the bottom, which is a wood-brown with erratic striations. The pot is mostly covered in a stunning blue glaze with green undertones and a lovely leaf design. My decision to use succulents and cacti was influenced by the pot’s hues and leaf texture, as I’ll explain below.
Let’s examine how to plant cactus and succulents together now that we’re ready to get started!
Choosing a Cacti and Succulents Pot
The handmade ceramic pots from Donna Davis Taylor’s Succulent-Pottery are truly gorgeous. Each handmade item is unique and full of charm and personality. I’ve only ever bought one thing, and I can’t wait to buy more. It’s an odd position from which to view her container, but just look at those gorgeous drainage holes! She incorporates numerous ample drainage holes because each of her sculptures is specifically made to support succulents. I seal the holes with drywall mesh tape. It’s incredibly useful since it keeps my succulent soil in the pot while yet allowing water to pass through.
Whether you purchase your succulent pottery from Donna or somewhere else, make sure to choose it carefully for the sake of your plants’ wellbeing.
Planting Cacti and Succulents
The cacti and succulents can be added to the container in any sequence, however there is a strategy that I’ll explain below. I started with an Echeveria colorata, my largest plant, to create my design. Don’t you just love those red points? The roots and dirt stay united in the shape of the nursery pot when you remove the succulent from it. You won’t be able to fit as many plants in the pot if you leave the root ball in place because it takes up so much space.
Just as there is no reason to place as many plants in the container as I shall do here, there is nothing wrong with leaving the soil and roots in tact. It is okay to leave the soil and root ball together as long as the plant is not rootbound, which is defined as having several roots developing in a circular pattern. It is just a matter of taste. I removed the extra soil and massaged the roots because I really appreciate the overstuffed appearance I am about to show you.
Remove excess soil from the roots of succulents and cacti before planting them closely, and massage the roots to help them become looser from the soil. The roots are now ready to spread out and thrive in the new dirt in the container.
I positioned this substantial Echeveria extremely towards the front corner of my pot and tilted it so that it overhung the pot’s lip. This was only done to make my desired design work; it wasn’t necessary for the plant’s health. And planting the plant in this manner does not in any way harm it. I choose this Echeveria colorata since the pot’s azure glaze complemented its pale blue color. Observe how the Echeveria’s leaves closely resemble the texture of leaves.
Dividing Succulents Prior to Planting
I adore Kalanchoe tomentosa ‘Teddy Bear’s soft, hairy brown leaves, and I believe they are the ideal way to complement the brown hue of my new pot. The pot I selected had three plants growing together, so when I removed the extra soil and massaged the roots, they were simple for me to separate. They kind of curled around the enormous Echeveria that I placed them behind.
So that we can see how to plant cacti and succulents together, it’s time to add my primary cactus.
Removing the Cactus from the Pot
To complement the dark brown hue of the pot’s foundation, I chose this Mammillaria elongata variety called “Copper King.” The plant itself is a gorgeous shade of olive green, and all over it are several starbursts of spines that are intricately arranged in coppery brown. The spines of this plant appear to glow when the sun is behind it. Gorgeous!
I’ll be writing a piece soon that is entirely about handling cacti without getting stabbed. Let me present you to one of the things I use to handle and plant cactia newspaper for the time being. Take a lengthwise piece of newspaper and fold it repeatedly.
You can now pick up the cactus, take it out of its pot, and set it down anywhere you like by folding the newspaper length in half. For a larger or heavier plant, use extra paper as necessary.
The plant is well-cushioned by the paper, which protects it from damage when you handle it. What matters most is that the paper prevents you from becoming trapped by their spines! Here is the key to successfully planting succulents and cacti together.
How to Plant Cacti and Succulents Together
The roots of the succulents should be completely buried in the soil when planting cacti and succulents together. But only the lower third of the cactus’ roots should be buried when planting it. Keep the cactus’ upper two-thirds of its roots above the soil line.
The cactus roots above the soil line will be covered with soil, and other plants will be used to hide them from view. However, the plant will absorb far less of the soil’s moisture because the upper 2/3 of the roots are above the soil line. I intentionally overexposed the root zone in the image above in an effort to make it more visible. The roots above the soil line are indicated by the yellow line.
I realize this seems like a crazy notion, and you’re worried about hurting your cactus. I swear by this, it works! See my article on revitalizing a dish garden of succulents and cacti. You can see how the crested cactus I used, which I planted with succulents, developed and flourished over the course of a full year, with the top 2/3 of its root ball above the soil line!
So, with the top 2/3 of the roots visible above the soil level, I placed the Mammillaria elongata ‘Copper King’ in the back right corner of my pot. In a manner similar to how I planted the Echeveria, I positioned it at a slight slant away from the middle of the pot.
Planting Around a Cactus
With an Anacampseros ‘Sunrise,’ I was able to add a splash of color. I really like how the vibrant pink reflects off the E. colorata’s brilliant red tips. And I also wanted to add some “thimble cactus,” or Mamillaria gracilis fragilis, which is a beautiful, white plant. I once more utilized a folded sheet of newspaper to make it possible to safely plant in and around the thorny cactus. As I inserted the Anacampseros, I wrapped it around the “Copper King” cactus that had been planted. This prevented harm to both the cactus and me. I planned to divide the Anacampseros pot and plant it in two locations because I thought there would be two or three plants within. But it is just one, big, vibrant plant. I positioned it to overflow the pot’s rim. Isn’t the color amazing?
The lovely small thimble cactus plants followed. Again, the plant itself is an olive green, but it is covered in numerous starburst-shaped bristles that are small, semi-soft, and pure white. It creates countless round offsets. The young succulents that grow at the base and resemble a cluster of white bubbles are known as succulent offsets. It’s a fantastic addition to a succulent and cactus arrangement, adding dazzling white color and texture.
Each of the tiny plants in these thimble cactus pots made them simple to divide. Learn more about cactus division. I separated the cacti, arranged and planted them, removing the extra soil as I went, holding the base of the plant in place with the tweezers from my toolkit.
Cover Cactus Roots with Extra Soil
The cheerful little thimble cactus was something I kept adding. The white gives the arrangement great accents and gives the impression of sparkling. I added soil precisely where I needed it to cover the cactus roots that I had left exposed above the soil line using the scoop that was included in my tool set. The cactus itself conceals the roots from view, and the earth shields them from harm.
After placing the majority of my plants, I saw that my enormous Echeveria colorata was out of proportion with the pot’s size and the cactus and succulent arrangement. So, in order to make it a little bit smaller, I cut off a few of the lower leaves. Naturally, I saved those leaves to spread more Echeveria!
Then I put a small division from a Cotyledon pendens behind my Echeveria to act as a trailing plant.
Cacti and Succulent Arrangement (Nearly) Finished
At this time, I believed my cactus and succulent arrangement was complete. I had adhered to the design guidelines and components Cindy Davison of The Succulent Perch teaches in our Facebook group for succulent arrangements. I got started by drawing inspiration from the stunning Donna Davis Taylor pot. I used the pot’s colors again in my composition, paying close attention to scale and balance. I showed Cindy since I am so happy with it.
Cindy provided a very reassuring assessment and was really encouraging. She has incredible design talent! She urged me to make a few minor adjustments. I’m curious whether you can locate them because I did.
Caring for Cactus and Succulent Arrangement
The finished cactus and succulent arrangement is shown here. My package of succulent tools included a squeeze water bottle with a long, slender neck, and it is quite useful! It flawlessly enables me to water a very dense arrangement like this and directs the water where I need it. I anticipate that the entire setup will thrive in direct, bright sunlight.
I chose Cotyledon pendens as the trailing plant, going from left to right. The Echeveria colorata is in the front, with the Kalanchoe tomentosa “Teddy Bear” poking out from behind it. The arrangement features white Mammillaria gracilis fragilis, sometimes known as the “Thimble Cactus.” The vibrant pink, yellow, and green Anacampseros “Sunrise” ups the ante, in my opinion. Then, at the back right, the Mammillaria elongata “Copper King” provides height and drama.
Cindy had advised me to slightly further tuck the trailing Cotyledon in to keep the entire arrangement balanced. She also recommended that I emphasize the Kalanchoe a little bit more. She also advised me to tuck the tiny cactus into the Anacampseros’ curve rather than place it straight next to the “Copper King,” where the textures were similar. I am overjoyed with the outcomes!
In our Facebook group, you can find out everything about designing AND caring for succulents. We would adore for you to join us!