Christmas cactus is a favorite holiday plant. Pops of color bloom from stems that creep and drape over the plant. These are attractive plants to have all year, but the real fun comes when they bloom. Those showy flowers bring joy and color to colder seasons when we need it most. There are a few specific steps you can take to ensure that you get the best show from your plants.
The Latin name for Christmas cactus is Schlumbergera and there a couple of different species that will generally fall into this category. Zygocactus is another one of the common names in addition to Thanksgiving cactus and Holiday cactus.
The parent plant of the Christmas Cactus is native to South America that grows in the mountains of Brazil. It’s tropical nature commonly confuses growers into offering too much heat and light, without enough water.
Proper year-round care will ensure that your Christmas cactus is healthy enough to thrive and bloom, so let’s start with care basics:
When to Buy Christmas Cactus
When buying a new plant, select one that looks healthy and shows no signs of disease. It is also important topick one that is in the appropriate stage of dormancy so that it will be ready to flower for the holidays.
If you are buying one 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
Plant them into 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.
How to water Holiday Cacti
Christmas cacti like 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 needs, that care that the soil never dries out completely.
Overwatering a Christmas cactus will cause the buds fall off before they bloom. If this happens, reduce watering.
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.
How to Propagate Christmas Cactus
Christmas cacti are relatively easy to propagate. 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.
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. Less water is all it needs during this time of dormancy. When you see buds begin to form, go back to your regular watering schedule.
- Provide the Proper Light and Darkness
As the day lengths get naturally shorter 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.
- Keep Cool Temperatures
Keep Christmas cacti somewhere cool—around 50-60 degrees F—and away from heat vents, radiators, and fireplaces.