Remember that Christmas cactus plants prefer constantly moister soil than the majority of other succulents do. Typically, a Christmas cactus needs water when the top inch or two of soil are dry. Fill the pot saucer with pebbles and add water to just below the tops of the pebbles (the pot shouldn’t be sitting directly in water) to help improve the humidity surrounding the plant. As the water evaporation increases, the air will become more humid. (See below for advice on watering when attempting to encourage your Christmas cactus to rebloom.)
A Christmas cactus needs how much water?
Christmas cacti are highly common indoor plants, and for good reason too! They produce vibrant, tubular flowers that are pink or purple in hue when they bloom. They are a superb plant because of their lovely blossoms, lengthy bloom period, and simple maintenance needs. Someone in your family most likely owns a Christmas cactus!
About Christmas Cacti
The Christmas cactus (Schlumbergera x buckleyi) and its cousins don’t exist in hot, arid conditions like deserts or plains, in contrast to other cacti. These epiphytic succulents, which grow on tree branches and take in the high humidity, dappled sunlight, and moderate temperatures, are actually endemic to the tropical rainforests of southern Brazil.
Bottom line: Don’t handle a Christmas cactus like a typical succulent or cactus. They are unable to withstand the same kind of hot, dry weather that other cactus can. These cacti require more frequent watering than most succulents, but you also need to be careful not to overwater them. (See the care guidelines in more detail below.)
Thanksgiving, Easter, or Christmas Cactus?
The Easter cactus (S. gaertneri), Thanksgiving cactus (S. truncata), and Christmas cactus are the three main varieties of “holiday cacti” that are available (S. x buckleyi). The holiday that each cactus is named after often sees the most blooming. Thanksgiving cacti, which often bloom from November to February and hence go unrecognized as Christmas cacti, make up the majority of “Christmas cacti” sold nowadays. See our post on the several Christmas cacti species and how to distinguish them for more information.
Note: Because it’s the most widely used term and it applies to all three of these species, we’ll refer to all three of them on this page as “Christmas cactus” for simplicity’s sake.
Potting Christmas Cacti
- Choose a pot with a drainage hole on the bottom if you’re choosing one for a Christmas cactus. This prevents the soil from getting overly saturated.
- Most succulent-specific potting mixtures work well for Christmas cacti growth. It’s crucial that your potting soil drains properly.
Where to Put a Christmas Cactus
- Plants should be kept in indirect light that is bright. The best location has an east-facing window or a well-lit bathroom. The delicate leaves might be bleached by too much direct sunshine.
- It is preferable to have a daytime temperature of 70F (21C) and an evening temperature of 60–65F (15–18C).
- Christmas cacti do well in a more humid climate, so keeping them in a well-lit bathroom or kitchen is a smart idea.
- Christmas cacti can be kept in a shady area of the garden or on an unheated porch during the summer until the temperature drops below 50F. (10C). Keep them away from the sun’s rays outside.
How to Care for Christmas Cacti
- Water your plants every two to three weeks, but only when the top third of the soil feels dry to the touch. If the plant is in 6 inches of soil, for instance, water when the top 2 inches of soil feel dry. (Check with your finger!)
- When the soil is completely dry, wet it until water seeps through the drainage holes in the pot. To collect the water, put a tray underneath the pot. To prevent the pot from sitting in water, remove any extra water on the tray after 10 to 15 minutes.
- While the plant is in bloom, it’s very crucial to water thoroughly.
- Feed your indoor plants with a balanced houseplant fertilizer every two weeks from spring through early fall. Feed the cactus once a month in the fall and winter to promote fruitful blooming.
- To promote branching and more flowers, prune plants in the late spring. Simply cut a portion of each stem off; the plant will grow new branches from the incision.
- If desired, plant the cut pieces in potting soil that is only gently damp; they will easily root after a few weeks and make wonderful Christmas gifts!
How to Get Your Christmas Cactus to Bloom
The longer evenings and chilly weather of fall are what cause Christmas cacti and its relatives to bloom. The three major varieties of holiday cacti typically bloom on the following schedule:
- Thanksgiving cactus typically produce flowers from late October through mid-winter, making them the earliest and longest bloomers.
- Christmas cacti often bloom in the early to midwinter months.
- Easter cacti flower around the middle of spring through late winter.
If your cactus isn’t flowering, it can be getting too much light or being exposed to too much heat. Here are some suggestions to help you get blooms from yours!
- For a minimum of six weeks, the nights must be at least 14 hours long and the days between 8 and 10 hours. You might need to cover your cactus or relocate it to an area that is exposed to the natural light cycle if you have powerful interior lighting that is on at night.
- When the plant is kept at temps between 50 and 60F, flower buds form best (10 and 15C).
- By subjecting the plant to temps around 45F (7C) for a number of nights in a succession, you can jumpstart the budding process.
- While the plant is in bloom, be sure to water it consistently. The plant may lose its buds if it dries out too much.
- Don’t worry if the cactus loses its buds one winter; the following year it should bloom.
The three primary varieties of “holiday cacti” are as follows:
- Often mistaken for Christmas cacti, Thanksgiving cacti (Schlumbergera truncata) bloom from late October to mid-winter.
- Christmas cacti (S. x buckleyi) flower in the early to midwinter months.
- Late winter to mid-spring is the blooming period for Easter cacti (S. gaertneri).
- Make sure to water your Christmas cactus frequently and keep it cool when the buds on the plant appear ready to open.
- The optimum time to propagate cuttings is late spring when most holiday cacti start to grow after their winter hibernation.
Blossom loss: Your Christmas cactus will probably lose its blossoms if it experiences any kind of stress. As mentioned in the plant care section above, this could be caused by the amount of light or a sudden shift in temperature. Make sure your soil doesn’t become overly dry while buds are developing.
The plant could be vulnerable to mealy bugs and root rot if overwatered. If you experience issues, remove the affected sections and repot the plant in fresh soil.
When watering a Christmas cactus, which should you use: the top or the bottom?
To ensure that the water reaches the Christmas cactus’ roots, irrigate it from the bottom up. Continue adding water to the soil until it begins to seep through the pot’s openings. It hydrates the ground.
Ensure that there is no standing water beneath the pot once the soil has been thoroughly moistened. Never leave excess water in the planter; you don’t want mold, root rot, or insects laying eggs there. If the water is fully separate from the pot and is in a tray underneath the pot, that’s acceptable.
Mist the Leaves
You can sprinkle the leaves with water in a spray bottle to keep them as healthy as possible. When watering the plant, misting the leaves only once will be sufficient to provide appropriate hydration.
How can an overwatered Christmas cactus be identified?
Any cactus that has been left to sit in a saucer of water is probably less healthy. The Christmas cactus plant will manifest clear signs of suffering if it is overwatered. To avoid moisture gnats and preserve the roots from decaying, you should always dump the extra water from the saucer if it hasn’t dried in a day.
One of the first signs of overwatering on a Christmas cactus are limp leaves that begin to fall off, just in case you forgot to do this. The stems and branches will thereafter become mushy and spongy. In severe situations, the stem can entirely rot off and the symptoms will include a bad smell.
Prevention is easy to do. To avoid overwatering Christmas cactus, use a soil moisture meter.
A Christmas cactus can survive without water for how long?
The Christmas Cactus (Schlumbergera) is a kind of cactus that thrives in Brazil’s chilly, mountainous woodlands where the humidity is high and rainfall is not infrequent.
In sharp contrast, most cacti want dry, arid, sunny environments in order to grow.
Because Christmas cacti are more suited to cool, damp settings than their desert-dwelling brethren, underwatering is one of the most common issues with growing them.
You must mimic some of the humidity and watering requirements of the Christmas cactus’ natural habitat in order to effectively grow it indoors.
Compared to other indoor plants, Christmas cactus needs a higher humidity level. Twice a week or more, spritz some water on the leaves. Throughout the entire year, give the cactus a weekly soak in water.
In order to prevent issues with bothersome overwatering and underwatering, this frequency of watering in conjunction with the appropriate well-draining potting soil helps to replicate the balance of moisture to which it is accustomed.
For the most of the week, the soil should feel evenly moist, with a tiny surface evaporation before the subsequent watering.
A Christmas cactus may withstand two weeks without watering if it is not in an air current or if the air is not too dry. It is also a little more drought tolerant than other houseplants.
It should be noted that a number of variables can affect how quickly or slowly your Christmas cactus dries out indoors, including:
- Your home’s humidity and temperature (houses are often low in humidity which is contrary to Christmas cactus preference for high humidity).
- The pot or container’s size (smaller pots dry out quickly).
- Whether the cactus is close to a heat source, in an air conditioning current, or in forced air (which saps moisture from the leaves and dries the soil).
- The soil’s ability to hold onto moisture (Christmas cactus require moist yet well draining soil).
It is crucial to wet your Christmas cactus to create a microclimate of enhanced humidity to combat the effects of dry air if you live in an area with low humidity or if the air conditioning is frequently running.
Homes tend to be on the dry side, so I advise misting at least once a week regardless of climate, but in arid areas, mist the cacti twice or three times a week.
Keep in mind that Christmas cacti prefer diffused light over direct sunlight. The cactus would lose too much moisture if the sun was too strong and the leaves were burned.
How to Tell if the Christmas Cactus is Over watered or Under watered…
The only way to tell the difference between overwatering and underwatering is to feel the soil because the cactus might wilt and droop in reaction to either situation.
If you can feel the soil at the base of the pot via the drainage hole and it is dry both above and below, the cactus is being underwatered.
If your soil is rapidly drying out, increase the frequency of your watering over the period of 7 days so that the soil is continuously moist rather than dry.
To raise the humidity and lessen water loss via the leaves, mist the under-watered cactus more frequently.
Check to see if there is anything obstructing the drainage hole and remove any water that may be on a tray or saucer used underneath the pot if the soil feels wet or even saturated.
Scaling back watering and making sure the soil drains well may prevent the cactus from developing and flowering properly and may even result in root rot.
Should my Christmas cactus be misted?
Contrary to what its name might imply, Christmas cacti can survive well into the following year. In fact, with a little care and our guidance, they can live for up to 20 years.
Christmas Cacti need cooler temperatures.
Leaving Christmas cacti in a space that is between 60 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit will cause them to bloom more fully and sooner. Keep them away from radiators, fireplaces, and warm windowsills, especially during the winter.
While they don’t need the heat of the sun, they do need its light.
The hard part comes at this point. A Christmas cactus needs lots of sunlight but cannot be kept in direct sunlight as it will dry out. So what should a cactus aficionado do? Your best option is to leave it in a part of your home that is shaded (or outdoors once summer arrives) and rotate it occasionally.
Just like you and I, Christmas cacti need their rest.
Your cactus needs between 1215 hours of uninterrupted darkness per day if its buds haven’t yet set. Cacti only require lots of light once their buds have fully developed.
You should be misting, not watering, every day.
Your cactus will die if you overwater it. But that doesn’t mean they never experience thirst. You should mist your cactus every day rather than watering it like you would a regular plant. You only need a few sprays from a spray bottle to maintain your cactus’ happiness. Only when the soil at the base of the plant feels entirely dry to the touch should you water it.
Christmas cacti need nutrient-rich soil.
Christmas cacti are strong plants that can endure harsher environments, although well-drained soil that has some organic matter is preferable for them. While organic soil is always available to purchase, you can also use your cacti as a little compost and add organic waste that you would typically discard.
Why does my Christmas cactus appear lifeless?
Lack of water or much sunlight can occasionally result in wilted or weak Christmas cacti. Start by giving the wilting Christmas cactus a small amount of water if you haven’t been watering it. Every few days, continue to water carefully until the soil is barely damp.
Christmas cactus issues can also result from excessively damp soil. The Christmas cactus cannot tolerate wet roots since it is an epiphyte in its natural habitat on the ground of tropical forests, where it takes moisture and nutrients from the air. The roots of Christmas cacti can become excessively wet and floppy because to poor drainage.
Move your wilted or limp Christmas cactus to a location with more shade, especially in the afternoon, if the leaves look dried or burned.