If you want to know about how to grow Christmas cactus then you are at the right place. Christmas cacti (Schlumbergera) bloom from late November to January, giving rise to their name. They make excellent Christmas gifts because their vibrant, trumpet-shaped flowers in red, white, pink, purple, and even yellow add a welcome splash of color to any room. Their flat, segmented, and trailing stems are appealing all year.
During the holiday season, you can find Christmas cactus plants in garden centers or supermarkets, but for the most variety, it’s best to buy from specialist retailers online.
Schlumbergera are forest cacti that grow in tropical rainforests attached to trees in the wild. As a result, they require different growing conditions than desert cacti. They require protection from direct sunlight and prefer high humidity.
Types of Christmas Cacti That You Need To Know
Christmas cactus, Thanksgiving cactus, and Easter cactus are the three most common holiday cacti, each named after the season in which they bloom.
1. Thanksgiving cactus (Schlumbergera truncata)
This cactus is distinguished by its leaves from the Christmas cactus. These plants, also known as Crab Claw Cactus (due to their pointy spines), have flowers that range in color from red and pink to peach and purple. Thanksgiving cactus anthers are yellow, while Christmas cactus anthers are pink to purplish-brown, according to the Farmer’s Almanac.
2. Hatiora gaertneri (Easter cactus)
Easter cacti bloom in the spring. According to the Farmer’s Almanac, they have “leaves with small bristles and a thick ridge on one side.” They have star-shaped flowers and are native to Brazil’s non-tropical forests, unlike the other holiday types.
How to Grow Christmas Cactus In 7 Easy Steps
One to two months after a holiday cactus has finished blooming is the best time to propagate it. Avoid propagating it in the fall, when it is setting buds and actively flowering. Taking large or small cuttings of holiday cactus will help the original plant grow fuller and bushier, resulting in more blooms in the future. Stem cuttings are the best way to propagate Holiday cactus.
Begin by filling a 4- or 6-inch pot with a growing medium such as cactus mix, all-purpose potting soil, or a sandy/peat mix. Before planting, you can root your segment in a clear jar of filtered water.
Cut sections of stems with three to five stem segments on each with clean hands or a sterile knife or scissors. This is #1 step on how to grow Christmas cactus.
Store the stem segment in a cool, dry place for two to four days, or until the cut end callouses (dries out) to prevent rotting. This is #2 step on how to grow Christmas cactus.
Plant the cuttings 1 inch deep in lightly moistened soil. Three stems fit nicely into a 4-inch pot, and five stems fit nicely into a 6-inch pot. The formation of roots should take two to three weeks. This is #3 step on how to grow Christmas cactus.
Give the plant plenty of water. Cover the plants and container with a clear plastic bag secured with a rubber band to create a humid environment and encourage rooting. Once rooting has begun, remove the plastic bag. This is #4 step on how to grow Christmas cactus.
Allow the soil to dry between waterings. This is #5 step on how to grow Christmas cactus.
You can optionally root the stems in water before planting them in the soil. Place the cut end in 1 to 2 inches of filtered water, then place the jar in an indirect light window. After a few weeks, the stems should have roots that are at least 1 or 2 inches long and ready to be planted in potting soil. This is #6 step on how to grow Christmas cactus.
Wait at least eight to ten weeks before repotting the plant to a permanent home if you want good rooting. New leaf or stem growth is the best indicator of good rooting. This is #7 step on how to grow Christmas cactus.
How to Maintain a Christmas Cactus
Flower buds can drop more quickly when there is a lack of water and extreme temperature swings. Pay attention to the following six key factors to extend the blooming period of your specimen:
- Soil: Use a high-quality soil that is high in humus and other nutrients.
- Temperature: Maintain an optimal temperature of 65 degrees.
- Watering: Mist your plant frequently to keep the soil evenly moist while it blooms.
- Light: Place the cactus in an east-facing window for some direct sunlight and moderate light.
- Fertilization: Once buds form, apply a high-potassium fertilizer every two weeks.
- Repotting: After flowering, repot your cactus every year.
Pests of Christmas Cactus
While Christmas cacti are low-maintenance plants, they are susceptible to pests and diseases. If you discover that your plant has been infested with pests, Gardening Know How discusses how to avoid some of the most common types.
Mealybugs are insects that commonly infect indoor plants. They have cottony masses that make them easy to detect and, if left alone, can attract mold. To get rid of them, pick them off with a toothpick or use a systemic insecticide formula.
2. Spider mites
While you may not be able to see these tiny insects on your cactus, their webbing on the leaves does. Insecticidal soap spray can be used to get rid of these dust-loving creatures.
3. Fungus gnats
These insects are not only tiny, but they also fly and prefer wet soil. If the infestation is severe, you may notice a loss of leaves. If insecticidal soap spray does not work, before repotting, fill a clean pot with fresh, well-drained potting mix.
How to Promote More Blooming
Keep plants cool (around 50 degrees) after they have bloomed. Water them just enough to keep the soil moist, and avoid fertilizer. Use the following strategy to encourage blooming when new growth begins:
Place the plants in a temperature range of 55 to 65 degrees Fahrenheit, and alternate between giving them 10 hours of light and 14 hours of total darkness for four to six weeks after growth appears. When the buds appear, move the plant to warmer temperatures and resume regular culture as described above. The plants should bloom in six weeks.
Repotting Holiday Cactus: A Step-by-Step Guide
Your Christmas greens only require repotting every three to four years. Take note if the roots begin to grow out of the container’s bottom or if the container’s overall appearance appears worn.
1. Select the appropriate container
Choose a pot that is slightly larger than your previous one. Make sure it has a drainage hole at the bottom, as your Christmas cactus will rot if it doesn’t get enough air.
2. Ensure that your potting mixture is light and well-drained
According to Plant Care Today, never use soil directly from your garden because it may contain bacteria and viruses that will harm your plant.
3. Your Christmas cactus should be replanted
Massage the roots to remove old soil after gently removing your plant, then place it inside the new container so the “top of the root ball is about an inch (2.5 cm.) below the rim of the pot,” according to the experts.
4. Water your plant sparingly
Place it in a shady spot for two to three days, as direct sunlight can damage the leaves.
How to Grow Christmas Cactus: Problem Solving
Lack of flowers is the most common issue with Christmas cacti. This is due to a lack of the two rest periods, which can be remedied by following the care recommendations above.
Bud drop can be caused by moving your plant while it is in bud, overwatering, or temperature fluctuations between night and day. Once you’ve found the ideal location for your Christmas cactus, don’t move it and only water when the top few centimeters of compost are dry.
Red leaves indicate that your plant is receiving too much sunlight. Move it to a location with bright light but no direct sunlight.
Mealybugs can be found on the stems, particularly on the undersides; look for insects that resemble white, fluffy blobs. Wipe them clean with a damp cloth or cotton bud soaked in an insecticide containing fatty acids or plant oils. Keep an eye on the leaves because mealybugs can be difficult to eradicate.
Q1. How long does a Christmas cactus live?
If properly cared for, this lovely blooming cactus can live for 20 to 30 years.
Q2. What should I do with a holiday cactus in my home?
Place a holiday cactus within 3 feet of a large south-, east-, or west-facing window, and in a temperature-controlled environment.
Q3. What should I do with a blooming Christmas cactus?
Don’t throw away your Christmas cactus after it blooms because it can live for decades, blooming year after year.