Due to its short day length, the Christmas cactus cannot blossom due to drought stress or excessive light exposure. Christmas cacti are adapted to wet, frequently rainy jungles. If the conditions are dry or there are too many hours of sunshine during bloom production, it does not flower.
I’ve listed here a few other reasons that can stop the Christmas cactus (Schlumbergera) from flowering:
Continue reading to learn why your Christmas cactus isn’t blossoming and the finest methods for putting remedies in place so that it can produce blossoms.
How can Christmas cacti be made to bloom?
Understanding the Christmas cactus bloom cycle—little water, dormancy, light, and temperature—will help you force a Christmas cactus to bloom.
Start by minimizing how much water the plant gets. This often occurs sometime in the fall, usually in or around October or the beginning of November (in most places).
Just enough irrigation should be reduced to keep the soil moist. Only water until the top 1 inch (2.5 cm) or so of soil feels dry to the touch. The plant will be able to go into dormancy as a result. A Christmas cactus needs to be dormant in order to blossom.
You must relocate a Christmas cactus such that it will experience 12 to 14 hours of darkness in order to further force the plant to bloom. While Christmas cactus can tolerate bright, indirect light during the day, it needs at least 12 hours of complete darkness at night to promote bud formation.
In addition to dark surroundings, your Christmas cactus needs cool temps. It should be between 50 and 55 degrees F on average (10-13 C.). As a result, confirm that the location can satisfy the needs for both light and temperature.
How do I get my cactus to bloom?
Cacti and succulents prefer summer and winter seasons, as well as a clear variation between night and day temperatures. Succulents prefer colder outdoor nighttime temperatures of 50-550F (10-130C) or at least 60-650F indoor nighttime temperatures (15-180C). Succulents prefer a noticeable contrast between their night and day temperatures to imitate their natural habitat, with the low night temperatures playing a crucial role in the plant’s growth cycle, especially when kept in a controlled setting.
If you want to see your succulents and cacti bloom, overwintering is also crucial. For desert cacti in particular, this can be accomplished by keeping plants cool and largely dry over the winter. During the winter, keep them at a comfortable temperature of between 35 and 440 °F (1.5-70C). If maintained indoors during the winter, try to keep them in an unheated room or keep the temperature low to provide them the necessary cold winter season. This does not apply to holiday cacti, such as Rhipsalis, Schlembergera, and Hatiora, which have different moisture and temperature needs than desert cacti (see below for Holiday cactus blooming tips).
Make sure the plants are kept in a bright area and receive enough sunshine throughout the year, including during the darker winter months. Most succulents and cacti require at least 4-6 hours of bright sunshine every day, if not more. Some plants require filtered but bright light to avoid solar damage since they cannot withstand harsh, full sun. Lack of light causes plants to gradually etiolate, become paler, and spread out in search of more light. To provide adequate lighting, place indoor plants in windows with a south or east orientation. If more light is required indoors, think about using grow lights. Lack of sunshine stunts the growth of succulent plants, and they are unlikely to blossom as effectively.
Giving your plants the nutrition they require instead of fertilizing them will assist maintain healthy growth and promote blooms. Flowers require a lot of energy to grow, therefore giving plants more nutrients during flowering season will assist meet their nutritional requirements. The best time to fertilize is during the active growing season, which is in the spring and summer. Fertilizers work best when applied every two weeks at a quarter- or half-strength. Avoid fertilizing during the winter and towards the conclusion of the fall growing season. It is acceptable and typical to use a balanced fertilizer blend that has been diluted to half strength. Cacti and succulent-specific fertilizer mixtures are also appropriate.
Although cacti and succulents can store water, they still require frequent watering during the active growing season. Regular watering helps to guarantee that they don’t lose all the water they need to store for growth. Regular watering also improves their ability to resist the hotter summer sun. Water plants thoroughly during the active growing season until water begins to leak out of the pot’s openings. Don’t water again until the soil has dried out. Before watering, check the top inch of the soil for moisture. During the hot summer months, watering should be done more frequently; during the chilly winter months, less frequently. Succulents and cacti suffer from overwatering, so make sure to let the soil dry out in between waterings.
Succulents and cacti require a well-draining soil in addition to suitable watering methods. Cacti and succulents don’t like to sit in water. If left moist for too long, their roots are prone to rot. The capacity of a succulent potting mix to drain efficiently is its most crucial requirement. You have the option of using store-bought potting soil or making your own for succulents. Giving them the proper medium increases their chances of flourishing and blossoming. Keeping your plants content will boost blooming.
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.
A Christmas cactus can grow elderly and still bloom.
Here is a flowerless Christmas cactus that is otherwise completely healthy. One of the main causes of this species’ failure to bloom is an inadequate amount of nocturnal darkness.
A couple of my wife’s Christmas cacti are about 20 years old. Neither last year nor this year did they bloom. Are they too old?
A: I don’t believe this is a case of plain old age because I’ve seen Christmas cactuses blooming profusely for decades in the same pot with absolutely little maintenance. Over time, some plants peter out, but this one rarely does.
I’d start by making sure the Christmas cacti are receiving enough continuous darkness. They require at least 12 to 13 hours of darkness per night, beginning at the end of September, just like poinsettias.
Flower buds set and then open after around 6 weeks of that amount of darkness, usually around Thanksgiving or into December.
During that period of bud-set, the plants thrive in complete, unbroken darkness. The flowering process can be stopped by keeping a light on until late at night (or all night) or by switching lights on and off throughout the dark hours.
Some rooms are ideal for Christmas cactus overnight lighting because they are bright throughout the day but continuously dark after sunset. If you don’t have a space like that, you’ll either need to cover the plants every night or move them in and out of dim areas throughout the night, like a closet.
Although it’s probably too late for flowers this year, I’ve observed several Christmas cacti blooming after the holiday season provided they had the proper amount of gloom.
If it isn’t the problem, potting into new soil might be beneficial. Christmas cacti don’t require or desire to be regularly potted into larger pots like some houseplants do because they actually want to be pot-bound.
The optimum time to take this trip is around the end of winter. Use a fresh, well-drained mix when repotting; ideally, choose a bag labeled for African violets or bromeliads.
Then, from spring through mid-summer, start fertilizing your plants every two to four weeks with a balanced houseplant fertilizer (something close to 10-10-10). In the event that your existing blend runs out, that will guarantee adequate nutrients.
When you use softened water or fertilize frequently, you may occasionally experience issues with excess salt buildup that can be resolved by applying fresh potting soil.
The aforementioned factors may cause no flower buds. But if you noticed buds developing before dropping off, that’s a different problem.
A sudden change in environment, such as transferring a plant from the outside to the inside after the buds have formed, might cause buds to form but drop before opening. Rotting can also result from overwatering.
Christmas cactus can be placed outside during the summer, but they should be brought inside as soon as Labor Day arrives.
They prefer pretty bright light once they are inside, but they prefer 12 to 14 hours of total darkness at night.
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