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.
What can I do to make my Christmas cactus 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.
Why won’t my flowering cactus bloom?
Schlumbergera and Rhipsalidopsis or Hatiora, often known as Holiday, Christmas, Thanksgiving, and Easter Cacti, have different hydration and temperature requirements than desert cacti and succulents. They are native to Brazil’s tropical rain forests, but they need some humidity because they cannot withstand extreme heat or cold. They are distinct from other cacti in appearance and behavior and belong to the Schlumbergera and Hatiora species. They grow on trees in moist, humid environments as epiphytes or as lithophytes on rocky terrain. The Christmas or Easter cactus, which are popular houseplants for their lovely, colorful blossoms, is one of the most popular types. These tropical cacti don’t grow well in afternoon sun or direct sunshine.
The plant must go through a dormant stage in order to promote flowering. Here are some strategies for encouraging them to become dormant and forcing them to bloom once more:
Reduce watering beginning in the fall, around October, but keep the soil from drying out entirely. Before watering again, wait until the top 1/2 of the soil feels dry. This can range from 3-6 weeks without watering, depending on the temperature, the medium used, and the size of the pot.
For the plant to blossom, the nighttime darkness needs to last for roughly 12 to 14 hours. Provide at least 12 hours of total darkness at night and intense, indirect light throughout the day. About eight weeks before you expect it to blossom, this light reduction must begin.
Warm the environment to about 50 and 60 0F. (10-150C). Keep the plant away from areas with wide temperature swings, from extremely hot to extremely cold.
Your Christmas cactus might bloom naturally without much assistance from you, but some might need to be put in settings that are more favorable for blooming. Hopefully, these suggestions will enable you to make yours bloom.
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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When should you put a Christmas cactus in the dark?
Put your Christmas cactus in complete darkness for at least 12 hours every day, beginning in October, to start blooming. In time for the holidays, the plant will have around eight weeks to develop buds and blossom as a result. To encourage your Christmas cactus to bloom again in February after the holiday flowering time, keep up this same pattern.
How long can a Christmas cactus live?
Christmas cacti can survive up to 100 years or longer if given the right care. Even news stories of families passing on their Christmas cacti to future generations as living heirlooms have been documented, such as this one about a particularly resilient plant that dates back to the 1860s. Wow!
The majority of Christmas cacti, however, only live for 20 to 30 years with proper care, despite the fact that they can last for decades and brighten your home every holiday season. By that time, the plants typically perish from widespread problems including overwatering, underwatering, freezing weather (if they spend part of the year outside), pests, illnesses, loss of interest, or simple neglect.
Help, my Christmas cactus is yellowing!
Yikes! Your watering routine is typically to blame if your Christmas cactus doesn’t seem to be growing well. These creatures require more water than desert cacti, but they also don’t want their soil to be wet.
You’re probably not watering your Christmas cactus enough if the leaves are becoming wrinkled and appear withered. You possibly overdid it if they’re more mushy and yellow-black in color. To get rid of any rotten roots and repot your plant in dry soil, you might need to uproot it.
Why are the leaves on my Christmas cactus limp?
Wilted leaves are frequently caused by improper watering because it is simple to provide too much water (rather than not enough). A Christmas cactus’ weak or drooping leaves are typically the result of either damp soil or root rot. If you have one issue, it will almost certainly lead to another.
Make sure that any extra water you give your Christmas cactus drains slowly but steadily through the drainage holes. If not, your potting soil may be too dense and may not be working. To promote aeration, you can repot the plant in bromeliad soil or fluff it up with perlite.
During the spring through winter growing season, keep the soil lightly moist; only water when the top inch of soil feels dry to the touch. After the flowering season is over, it’s good to allow the soil get a little bit dry in the middle of winter between waterings, but don’t let it get completely parched.
Is a Christmas cactus toxic to cats and dogs?
I’ll keep this short: no. The ASPCA states that Christmas cacti are not dangerous, despite the fact that ingesting any plant may cause some mild vomiting or diarrhea.
Which fertilizer is ideal for Christmas cacti?
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.
How often should my Christmas cactus be watered?
Christmas cacti are very common indoor plants, and for good reason too! They produce vibrant, tubular flowers that are pink or lilac in color when they bloom. They are a wonderful plant because of their lovely flowers, 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.