How To Care For A Christmas Cactus

Christmas cactus is a popular holiday gift with festive blooms. The exotic-looking flowers bloom for weeks during the holidays. Long-lived Christmas cacti bloom in red, purple, peach, and white. Learn how to care for a Christmas cactus to enjoy it for years.

Christmas cactus (Schlumbergera bridgesii) is related to Thanksgiving cactus (Schlumbergera truncata) and Easter cactus (Schlumbergera gaertneri), named for the holidays they bloom. They're called holiday cacti. Thanksgiving cacti, not Christmas cacti, are most common during the holidays because their bloom time coincides with shopping season. Basic plant care is the same for all species.

What's In a Name

Christmas cacti are rainforest natives, not deserts. Christmas cacti grow as epiphytes in Brazil. For indoor success, use potting soil with perlite and a container with drainage holes. Root rot affects Christmas cacti. Don't overwater plants or let water pool in saucers. When soil feels dry, water plants. During spring and summer, plants can dry out slightly, but maintain even soil moisture during flowering.

How To Care for Your Christmas Cactus

Autumn's shorter days and cooler temperatures prompt Christmas cacti to form flower buds. Bright daylight followed by 14 hours of darkness at 60 to 68°F is ideal for flower bud formation. Too-warm temperatures and/or lack of darkness can prevent plants from blooming. Indoors, where heating and lighting are artificial, this can be difficult.

Getting Your Christmas Cactus to Flower

Summer pruning encourages winter blooms. Early June pinching will promote branching and more flowers at the shoot tips. In September, some growers pinch plants to create an even crown and remove immature stem segments. Immature (1 cm) stem segments don't flower. Pruning a mature branch encourages bud growth. Cuttings can propagate new plants for family and friends.

Christmas Cactus Pruning

Reduce watering after flowers fade until spring. In spring and summer, plants do better in partial shade than in bright light. Indoors, that's an east- or north-facing window. Summer plants thrive outdoors. Under a tree provides filtered sunlight (remember, they grow in rainforests). Overexposure to light makes plants pale or yellow.

After-Bloom Plant Care

Christmas cactus (Schlumbergera bridgesii) is related to Thanksgiving cactus (Schlumbergera truncata) and Easter cactus (Schlumbergera gaertneri), named for the holidays they bloom. They're called holiday cacti. Thanksgiving cacti, not Christmas cacti, are most common during the holidays because their bloom time coincides with shopping season. Basic plant care is the same for all species.

What's In a Name

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