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 degree of cold is unsuitable for Christmas cacti?
The Christmas cactus can handle temperatures as high as 50 F, but it does respond better to milder temps in the fall when it is starting to form bloom buds. If the plant is exposed to excessive heat or light, no buds will grow. The largest number of blooms are produced during the winter blooming season when temperatures are kept between 60 and 68 F and 14 hours of total darkness are provided every night for six weeks starting in mid-September. To assist the blooms last as long as possible over the winter, keep the temperatures lower.
Where can a Christmas cactus be kept in the finest conditions?
Holiday cacti may be bought pretty much anywhere that sells plants, from the grocery store to the flower shop, and are incredibly popular gifts during the winter and spring. Holiday cactus are attractive and attract both seasoned and newcomer houseplant aficionados with their succulent foliage and colorful, multicolored blossoms. They frequently pass down from one family to the next and, given adequate care, can live for many years.
Christmas cactus (Schlumbergera x buckleyi), Thanksgiving cactus (Schlumbergera truncata), and Easter cactus (Rhipsalidopsis gaertneri) are three separate varieties that are commonly offered at retail outlets depending on the season “All of them are frequently referred to as Christmas cacti. Due of their comparable maintenance requirements, it is simpler to refer to all three as holiday cacti.
Despite “Holiday cacti require very different maintenance than their desert-dwelling siblings because it’s in their name. Holiday cactus are epiphytes that naturally grow in the shaded limbs of trees in Brazil’s tropical rainforests. Epiphytes are plants that grow on other plants rather than in the ground and obtain their nutrients and moisture from the rain and the atmosphere.
As a result, unlike other cacti, holiday cactus are less tolerant to prolonged drought. Once the potting soil seems dry to the touch, they should be watered, allowing extra water to freely drain from the bottom of the container. Do not allow plants to sit in standing water as this can cause the soil to become flooded. Root rot can develop as a result of ongoing exposure to excessively moist soil, particularly during the winter.
Holiday cacti’s watering requirements vary depending on a variety of elements, including the type of potting soil used, the size of the container, the amount of sunlight the plant receives, and the temperature outside. Making ensuring the plant is in the proper area and only watering when the soil mixture is dry are the keys to maintaining a healthy plant.
Holiday cacti thrive in partial shade, such as an east or west facing window, with temperatures between 70 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Lack of light can limit growth and make the soil mix dry too slowly, while too much harsh sunlight, especially in the summer, can burn the foliage. When in doubt, it is better to water your plants too much than too little.
When can outdoor Christmas cacti be planted?
Can you grow Christmas cacti outside? The answer is true, but as Christmas cactus is unquestionably not cold hardy, you can only grow the plant outdoors year round if you reside in a warm environment. Christmas cactus can only be grown outdoors in USDA plant hardiness zones 9 and up.
In the summer, should I leave my Christmas cactus outside?
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A robust Christmas cactus in full bloom makes a wonderful present or decoration, despite the fact that poinsettias continue to be the most widely used holiday plant. Christmas cacti may be cultivated year-round indoors and require little maintenance. The flowers come in a variety of hues, including combinations of yellow, salmon, pink, fuchsia, and white.
A Christmas cactus should be placed in a sunny area of the house when it is moved to its permanent location. The best light comes from a window facing north or east. If you wish to grow it inside, shade the plant with thin curtains in a south or west window.
The leaves of the Christmas cactus, a succulent plant, can hold a respectable amount of water. It is not, however, as drought-tolerant as you might imagine. When you can feel the top half of the growth mix feeling dry to the touch, water well. The amount of time between watering depends on the relative humidity, air temperature, amount of light, rate of development, and temperature of the soil.
For the Christmas cactus, humidity is crucial. Put the container on a pebble tray. To improve the humidity around the plant, keep water in the tray. Maintain the plant in this manner until it has finished blooming.
After blossoming is finished, give the plant six weeks without water to rest. Resuming watering after that will keep the soil relatively moist while allowing the top to dry off. Transfer the plant to a new container as necessary as springtime tender growth emerges, or top-dress with new growing medium. For Christmas cactus, potting soil that drains well is essential. For succulent plants, use potting soil that has been professionally packed. Every two to three years, or whenever the container is full of roots, plants need to be replanted. Any time of year is a good opportunity to repot plants that seem unwell. Every two to three weeks, use a liquid houseplant fertilizer at half the recommended rate as a follow-up.
In the summer, Christmas cacti can be put outside, but they need to be tended in a partially to completely shaded area. The leaves can burn in direct sunlight. For the summer, some gardeners relocate their plants to a porch or patio with shade. After the growing mix dries on top in the summer, water it to keep it moist.
After making sure no insects are accompanying the plant, bring it indoors when fall arrives in September. Most insects that attempt to board are usually driven off by a stream of water sprayed in their direction. Like before it went on vacation outside, put the Christmas cactus in a sunny spot. High light intensity is essential for the development of flowers.
Water simply enough during fall maintenance to keep plants from withering. Before watering, let the top half of the potting mix dry out. The pebble tray with water for humidity should not be forgotten. Don’t water the plant in October unless it starts to wilt. In November, you can slowly start watering again. Branches droop and snap when they are overwatered. When the growing mix’s top dries off, add water.
Although the Christmas cactus is simple to grow, some claim that it can be challenging to get it to bloom once more. Cool temperatures are necessary for flowering even though warm temperatures are beneficial throughout the growing season. Keep the plant somewhere where the temperature is between 60 and 65 degrees starting in October. Keep Christmas cactus away from fireplaces, heat vents, and other heat sources. Flower buds will grow if temperatures stay in this range for a period of six weeks.
If you are unable to maintain temperatures in this range, you must provide the plant with 13 hours of continuous darkness every night to trigger flowering, which should begin around the first of October. Every night, put the Christmas cactus in a room that is entirely dark, or cover it with a box or dark piece of clothing.
Stop fertilizing and only water enough to keep the leaves from drooping throughout the period of flower bud production, which begins in October. Water the growth mix when the top half becomes dry to achieve this.
Once the Christmas cactus develops buds, nurture it in a room with typical indoor temperatures and medium to high light. Water the plant to keep it evenly moist when the growing medium’s top dries out. Give your Christmas cactus a half rate of liquid houseplant fertilizer every other week. In the new year, good luck with your interior and outdoor horticultural projects, including your Christmas cactus.
How chilly is 40 degrees for a Christmas cactus?
Holiday cacti are common indoor plants with the name of the holiday in bloom. Around the winter, Christmas cacti typically bloom with vivid, abundant pink blossoms. They can only be grown outdoors in zones 9 to 11 according to the United States Department of Agriculture. Can Christmas cactus survive extreme cold? Christmas cacti are more cold-hardy than other cacti, but they are tropical. Frost is intolerable to them, but low temperatures are necessary to force blossoms.
Christmas cacti prefer warm, balmy temperatures, moderate to low amounts of moisture, and strong sunlight because they are tropical plants. Although it enjoys warmth, you should keep the plant away from sources of severe heat or cold, like heaters and fireplaces. Temperatures between 60 and 65 degrees Fahrenheit are ideal at night (15-18 C.).
Place the cactus in a cooler location in October where the temperature is around 50 degrees Fahrenheit to force flowering (10 C.). Avoid rapid temperature changes once the plants are in bloom since they can cause Christmas cacti to lose their blossoms.
Taking the plant outside in the summer, first in a spot with dappled light and protection from any wind, is entirely acceptable. Christmas cactus cold damage is likely if you leave it outside for an extended period of time in the fall.