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.
Can a Christmas cactus be spritzed?
Grab some Christmas cactus fertilizer once the plant has done flowering for the winter. Throughout the spring and summer, use a balanced fertilizer. You can use my indoor plant fertilizer formula because it contains the ideal nutrients for potted plants. Once or twice a month, fertilize.
Don’t fertilize again till October arrives. Because of this, it won’t be able to bloom, and by Christmas, you won’t have any blossoms.
How to Water Holiday Cacti
Christmas cacti require humidity, which can be difficult to provide indoors due to the frequently very dry air, especially during the winter. You should water your Christmas cactus frequently enough so that the soil doesn’t dry up (about twice or three times each week) and mist it frequently with water from a spray bottle to ensure that it receives the humidity that it enjoys.
To keep Christmas cacti happy in a dry climate, you may also create an easy DIY humidity tray.
If the buds of a Christmas cactus fall off before they bloom, you are overwatering it. Reduce misting and watering if this occurs. During their dormant stage, Christmas cacti will require substantially less water (more on that at the end of this essay!).
Light Needs for Christmas Cactus
Christmas cacti typically thrive when placed in a setting with lots of indirect light. They can be moved outside in the summer and placed in a shaded area. Christmas cacti should be placed somewhere that receives little artificial light after sunset because they require twelve hours of darkness every day in the fall.
Limp Christmas Cactus
Your Christmas cactus could occasionally appear limp and wilted. If this occurs, it is either receiving too much direct sunshine or is not receiving enough water.
Give it a healthy drink of water right away if you believe water is to blame. Every few days, check on the soil and water it to keep it moist. The plant does not appreciate moist roots, therefore you don’t want it to be very wet.
If you see any scorch scars in addition to the wilting leaves, the sun can be the cause. Make sure the plant receives only indirect light by moving it out of any direct sunlight. Making ensuring it doesn’t sit in the sweltering afternoon sun is very crucial.
Christmas Cactus Propagation
The propagation of Christmas cacti is a good way to spread holiday cheer. Fortunately, it is simple to grow numerous plants from a single starter plant.
Simply cut a portion of the stem off and place it in a tiny container of dirt. It will form roots and start to grow on its own within a week or two. Here you may find out more about propagation and how to achieve it.
Is misting beneficial for cacti?
Regarding how to water these plants, there are various schools of thought, but one thing is undeniable. Don’t mist cacti in the desert. They are not indigenous to areas with high levels of humidity and surface wetness. Instead, they dig down into the earth to extract any lingering moisture from the rainy season. Cacti in the jungle are a little different and benefit from misting. The Christmas cactus is an illustration of this kind of cactus.
Generally speaking, as most planted cacti are desert dwellers, overhead watering should be avoided. Potted plants can be placed in a saucer of water to allow the roots to absorb moisture. After the earth has become wet halfway up, remove the plant from the saucer.
Another way to water cactus plants is to merely sprinkle water on the soil’s surface. Heat, direct light, and the location of the planting are some of the elements influencing the amount of water in this scenario. Typically, once a week is plenty for a slow, deep watering. This could mean soaking a container until water flows out the drainage holes or using a garden hose at a low setting to drip water steadily for many hours into the plant’s root zone.
Just keep in mind to water your cactus plants wisely and to identify the variety and origin of your plants. This can make choosing when to water plants much simpler.
Which is better for watering: 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 frequently should a Christmas cactus be watered?
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.
What is used to spray Christmas cacti?
Pseudococcidae species, or mealybugs, can move quickly from one plant to another when they are placed near together and there is a plenty of moisture available.
Some species prefer the roots, while others draw the sap from foliar tissue above the soil.
They look white and fuzzy, and their egg-laying mass resembles cotton fluff. They frequently appear as fans of constricted areas at the intersections of tangled roots and the joints of stem segments.
Unchecked infestations may cause root rot, leaf withering, and/or yellowing of the plant.
Place your cactus in the kitchen sink and use the sprayer to remove as many mealybugs as you can to stop an outbreak.
If some are still there, you might want to try cleaning them away with a cotton ball dipped in rubbing alcohol. Don’t rub too vigorously as this can damage tissue cells. After that, rinse.
To get rid of a persistent infestation of the green stem segments, sprinkle pyrethrins or neem oil.
If the roots are impacted, you can sprinkle the soil with pyrethrin or neem oil to kill bugs both above and below the surface.
Finally, you can also treat the soil with a chemical called imidacloprid.
Finding numerous untouched stem segments to proliferate from may be possible if an infestation has damaged the roots beyond repair.
Mealybugs can be challenging to eradicate. Treat all plants close to the infected one, provide enough airflow to prevent further spread and transfer, and avoid overwatering.