What a Christmas cactus needs to bloom

How to Get Your Christmas Cactus to Bloom!

A Christmas cactus is one of my very favorite holiday plants. Pops of unexpected color bloom from alien-like tendrils that creep and drape over the plant. These are attractive plants to have all year, but the real magic comes from when they bloom. There are a few specific steps you can take to ensure that you get the best show from this showstopper. This guide also applies to Thanksgiving and Easter Cacti, as long as you tweak the schedule to accommodate for the different flowering times.

How to get a Christmas cactus to bloom

Many of the plants that are commonly called and sold as Christmas cacti, are in fact not true Christmas cacti.  There are similar looking plants that bloom at Thanksgiving, Christmas, or Easter. Whether you have a Thanksgiving cactus (Schlumbergera truncata), a true Christmas cactus (Schlumbergera x Buckleyi), or an Easter cactus (Hatiora gaertneri), the care instructions are the same, with an adjusted schedule. The best way to tell them apart is when they bloom (near the date of the holiday they are named for), but you can also tell by the leaves: Christmas and Easter cacti have more rounded leaves and Thanksgiving cacti have pointy leaves. The Easter cactus also has more star-shaped flowers that look quite different from the Schlumbergeras.

Proper year-round care will ensure that your Christmas cactus is healthy enough to thrive and bloom, so let’s start with care basics:

Caring for Christmas Cacti

Choosing a Christmas Cactus

As always when buying a new plant, select one that looks healthy and shows no signs of disease. When choosing a Christmas cactus, it is also important to pick one that is in the appropriate stage of dormancy so that it will be ready to flower for the holidays.

If you are buying a Christmas cactus after October, choose one with visible buds on it. If you are buying one before October, pick one that does not have any buds or blooms.

Soil and Fertilizing

Plant your Christmas cactus inside a well-draining pot in a soil mix made especially for succulents and cacti.

Fertilize with a balanced fertilizer in the spring and summer. Do not fertilize in the fall, as this will hinder its ability to bloom.

What a Christmas cactus needs to bloom

Watering

Christmas cacti need humidity, which can be hard to come by indoors as the air is often very dry, particularly during the winter. To make sure that your Christmas cactus is getting the humidity that it loves, water it often enough that the soil never dries out (about two or three times per week) and spritz regularly with water from a spray bottle.

You can also make an easy DIY humidity tray to keep Christmas cacti happy when they are in a dry environment.

You can tell if you are overwatering a Christmas cactus if the buds fall off before they bloom. If this happens, reduce watering and misting. Christmas cacti will need significantly less water during their dormant phase (more on that at the end of this post!).

Light

Generally speaking, Christmas cacti do best located in a bright room with lots of indirect sunlight. In the summertime they can be moved outdoors and placed in a shady spot, and in the fall Christmas cacti need twelve hours of darkness per day, so set them somewhere that does not get much artificial light after the sun goes down.

Propagating

Christmas cacti take well to propagating, so it is easy to get lots of plants from just one starter plant.

Simply cut off a piece of the stem and stick it into a small pot filled with soil. After a week or two, it will develop roots and begin to grow on its own. For more detailed instructions on propagating, see this article.

Christmas cactus

How to Promote Blooming

In addition to proper year-round care, there are a few tips and tricks to getting a stubborn Christmas cactus to bloom. Follow these steps starting in the fall and continuing in winter, and watch as your Christmas cactus gives you a beautiful display of vibrant flowers.

Reduce Watering

Beginning in October, water your Christmas cactus much less frequently. Once every four to six weeks is all it needs during this time of dormancy. When you see buds begin to form, go back to your regular watering schedule.

Provide Enough Light and Darkness

During the fall and early winter, Christmas cacti need twelve hours of dark and twelve hours of indirect sunlight each day.

Keep Cool

Keep Christmas cacti somewhere cool—around 50-60 degrees F—and away from heat vents, radiators, and fireplaces.

Christmas cactus buds

 

About the Author : Stephanie RoseAn artistic gardener aiming to feed the body & soul through an urban potager garden & a community veggie plot in Vancouver.View all posts by Stephanie Rose

  1. Melanie White
    Melanie WhiteNovember 23,15

    I love Christmas Cacti! Keep in mind, a cactus creates a bloom as a last-ditch attempt to save itself. That’s why it needs to be in darkness half of the day. This helps you ‘trick’ the cactus. Misting is a great way to keep it moist in between waterings. Watering too much will cause you to shoot yourself in the foot. And always enjoy it’s splendor while your cactus is in full bloom!

  2. RD @ Rural Landscaping
    RD @ Rural LandscapingDecember 3,15

    I was planning to make my Christmas more special and colorful. I think I’ve found the right thing that will make it more lively and festive this season. Thanks for sharing this. I will surely apply this.

  3. Drew
    DrewMarch 17,16

    I have always loved Christmas cactus but I’ve only had one that actually bloomed. I’ll have to take these tips into consideration.

  4. Courtney Helena
    Courtney HelenaDecember 14,16

    This is great! Mine are just opening now and I was wondering how someone in a cooler climate would do it. I wrote a recent post (and did a podcast) about getting amaryllis to rebloom, another tricky holiday favorite!
    Thanks for all your fun and informative posts, Stephanie!

  5. Susan
    SusanFebruary 5,17

    I have christmas lant and a thanksgiving plant how to make them bloom

  6. Paula
    PaulaOctober 6,17

    I came back from trip today and found blossoms on my cactus. I leave my 4 plants outside during summer and gradually bring them in. It’s only 10/5th.

    • Lois
      LoisOctober 7,17

      I do the same thing, always get lots of buds….. beautiful when they bloom!

  7. Crys
    CrysOctober 13,17

    I know this sounds random, but are the blooms edible? I’ve heard that some cactus blooms are edible.

    It was a nice post!

    • Stephanie Rose
      Stephanie RoseOctober 13,17

      Hi Crys, I have never heard that and I looked it up and found no information. From what I can see, the flowers may cause intestinal upset in pets, but there are no results for people. I would stay away unless you know for sure. I do wonder what they would taste like though! My guess is that they would have the texture of daylily.

Leave a Reply