When Do You Fertilize Christmas Cactus

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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 in bloom, should Christmas cacti be fertilized?

Make sure you have a decent location for the plant to grow because, to begin with, the plants do best in indirect sunshine and well-drained soil. The Christmas cactus has a feeding and growing season that coincide. This indicates that it will require feeding just before it blooms, which should occur between April and October of the current year. Just in time for Christmas, with the right fertilizer and a regular feeding schedule, you ought to have vibrant blossoms.

These plants will bloom during the shorter, cooler days of the fall since they require 12 hours of light and 12 hours of darkness to develop. For the greatest results when fertilizing this plant, choose a bloom formula or a water-soluble formula. To assist the flowers blossom more beautifully in the middle to late summer, fertilize once a month with a high-phosphorus fertilizer.

It’s crucial to make sure you cease feeding the plant after it stops growing, which will happen late in the summer. The salt can accumulate in the bud and prevent it from flowering if you keep feeding the plant even when it is not actively growing. Never fertilize a Christmas cactus when it starts to bloom since this could make the buds fall off.

Can I grow Christmas cactus with Miracle Grow?

When Christmas cacti are tightly contained in their containers, they typically grow bigger and produce more flowers. But once the roots have nearly filled the pot, proceed as follows:

1. Choose a replacement pot with a drainage hole that is only 1 to 2 inches wider than the old one.

2. To help your Christmas cactus thrive straight away, fill the new container 1/3 full with Miracle-Gro Cactus, Palm & Citrus Potting Mix, which offers great drainage and a little amount of food.

3. After placing the plant in the pot, make sure the root ball’s top is positioned 3/4 to 1 inch or less below the pot’s rim.

4. Fill in the area around the rootball, leaving a gap of about 3/4 inch between the soil’s top and the container’s lip (for easy watering).

5. After giving the plant plenty of water, let it drain, then relocate it to a permanent location. (Place a water-resistant saucer underneath the pot to prevent spills on the furniture.)

Secret tip: After plants have recovered from blooming and begun to grow again in late spring, this is the ideal time to repot them.

The best fertilizer for Christmas cacti is?

A half strength water soluble fertilizer, such as 20-20-20 or 20-10-20, or a bloom formula houseplant fertilizer work well as fertilizers for Christmas cacti. From late winter through late summer, feed once a month during routine watering. To promote flowering, you can also choose a time-release balanced plant food or one that is marginally richer in phosphorus once a month in mid to late summer.

Use one teaspoon of Epsom salts per gallon (5 cc for roughly 4 L) of water each month to fertilize on alternate weeks. This procedure will meet every fertilizer requirement for Christmas cacti, including the significant magnesium requirements of this epiphyte. Late summer is the time to stop fertilizing or flower yield may decrease. Since the plant is not actively growing in the winter, fertilizing is not necessary.

To lessen the likelihood of salt buildup in soil, closely adhere to the application rates on any formula. Set the plant in the shower and soak the soil to release any salt that has been stored if you are concerned about heavy salts. Before watering again, let the pot drain completely and the planting media dry out.

Should I fertilize my Christmas cactus?

Temperature & Light: The festive cacti thrive in bright shade. In the fall and winter, full sunshine is advantageous, but in the summer, intense sunlight can cause plants to seem pale and yellow. In the growing season from April to September, temperatures between 70 and 80 F are ideal for spring and summer growth. The Thanksgiving and Christmas cacti need on shorter (8 to 10 hour) days and cooler temperatures in the fall to develop their flower buds. Once the flower buds are set in the fall, do not allow the temperature to reach above 90 F. The loss of flower buds can be a result of persistently warm conditions. In the event that it gets below 50 degrees Fahrenheit, do not leave these cactus outside.

Temperature control and photoperiod (control of the duration of the day and night) control are key factors in successful flower bud formation in the fall. The plants require the following for the initiation of flower buds:

  • dazzling light
  • long evenings Before flower buds to set, there must be at least 14 hours per day of nonstop darkness. For a full bud set, long nights should begin around the middle of September and last for at least six weeks. Be aware that even two hours of intermittent lighting can prevent flower buds from setting. In 3 to 4 weeks, buds will often start to appear. Once the buds are set, the photoperiod has little impact on flowering.
  • For optimal flower production, fall growth temperatures should be kept between 60 and 68 oF, ideally as close to 68 oF as feasible. Regardless of the length of the day, plants cultivated with night temperatures between 50 and 59 oF will produce flower buds, however growth will be slower and bud drop may happen at this temperature.
  • Early in June, prune the stems to encourage branching and additional flower terminals.
  • At the end of September, pinching—also known as leveling—is done to cut off any terminal phylloclades that are less than 1 cm (0.4 inch) and to roughly equalize the length of all stems. These young, immature stem segments won’t begin blossom buds until they are fully developed. A flower bud develops on the earlier, more developed stem segment following the removal of a brief phylloclade.

Fertilizer and Watering: Water the growing media until it feels completely dry to the touch. The spring and summer months can be dry and mildly underwatered for the holiday cacti. Avoid letting the soil become soggy, especially during the gloomy winter months, but also avoid letting it fully dry up. To avoid flower bud abscission, the growing medium must be kept consistently moist after bud set in the fall. In the saucer underneath the pot, never let water stand.

Use a half strength soluble fertilizer, such as a 20-10-20 or 20-20-20 with trace elements, to fertilize plants every month beginning when new growth begins in late winter or early spring and continuing through the summer. Compared to many plants, holiday cacti have a greater magnesium need. During the growing season, fertilize once a month with Epsom salts (magnesium sulfate) blended at 1 teaspoon per gallon of water, but avoid applying the fertilizer the same week. Stop fertilizing in the late summer to increase the formation of bloom buds in the fall.

The Christmas cacti flower best when kept fairly pot-bound, according to the growing medium. Repotting is best done in the spring and is only required about once every three years. These epiphytic cacti do not grow well in heavy, wet potting mixes, thus the potting medium needs to be well-drained and well-aerated. A excellent mixture can have 60–80% potting soil and 40–20% perlite. Pick a potting soil that is pH balanced and of good quality.

What affects the Christmas cactus does Epsom salt have?

QUESTION: I have a Christmas cactus, however it did not bloom during Christmas last year. Despite being incredibly vigorous and lush, it lacks blossoms. Epsom salts: Should I use them? I was informed that would be beneficial.

Epsom salts can enlarge a plant’s blooms, but they won’t result in flowers. Your plant could definitely benefit from frequent fertilizer. Fertilizing is typically required in the spring and summer. After that, allow the plant to rest for a bit in October and November. After nightfall, stow it away in a closet and leave it there. Only allow it to have indirect light when you take it outside throughout the day. Put it in direct light once the buds start to form, and it should start blooming in time for Christmas. A Christmas cactus is a tropical plant, not one that grows in a dry desert. Although it prefers moist soil, it dislikes being overwatered. Putting your plant in a slightly bigger pot might also be beneficial.

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.