Christmas cactus dropping buds

Do Christmas Cactus flower more than once a year? My Christmas Cactus is blooming again in February, and I explain how it happened here.

Christmas Cactus are extremely popular when November and December roll around. I happen to like them even when they’re not in bloom and think they make fine houseplants. But wait, did you know that they can repeat flower? Mine started re-blooming in February, so yes, Christmas Cactus do flower more than once a year.

Let’s get a bit technical for those of you who geek out on all things plant like me. The Christmas Cactus that you see here and in the video is actually a Thanksgiving (or Crab) Cactus. It was labeled as a CC when I bought it and that’s how it’s commonly sold in the trade. Nowadays you may see them labeled as Holiday Cactus. Regardless of which one you have, they can re-bloom more than once a year.

My Christmas (Thanksgiving, Holiday) Cactus in bloom again:

I’ve gotten a few comments on reader’s Christmas Cacti flowering more than once a year and questions as to whether this was “normal” or not. Some people’s flower again and some don’t. What causes them to bloom again? I’ll share with you the conditions mine has been in and what I’ve done.

Here’s how my Thanksgiving Cactus looked last November. This winter repeat bloom is much sparser.

First off, I haven’t purposefully done anything to cause the re-blooming. I’ve found that some plants, like Hoyas, flower when they darn well please. The conditions I’ve had it growing in have most likely caused it. My cactus was sitting on my kitchen counter when it was in bloom for our viewing pleasure.

It stopped blooming in early December and I left it in that spot when I went to San Francisco to do a Christmas decorating job. When I got home in mid-month, I moved it into an east-facing window in my office. Because I live in the Arizona desert, it won’t be growing in that spot much past May – too hot!

There’s copious amounts of sun here in Tucson so the Christmas Cactus got ample light during the day. I’m out of my office by 4 so it received at least 12 hours of total darkness each night. Another factor: I turn my heat down to 65 at night, and because it was on the window sill, the plant stayed cool.

There are redbuds popping their heads out of the leaf sections so I’ll have flowers for at least another month.

So that’s what I think did it – the combo of the almost equal amounts of light/dark and the cooler evening temperatures. I haven’t fed the plant at all but will nourish it my usual blend of worm compost and compost when I repot it after the blooming is finished. I back off on the watering frequency when my Christmas Cactus isn’t in bloom and water it about once a week when it is. They’re epiphytic cacti native to the rainforests and therefore require more water than desert cacti.

As you can see, the bloom at this time isn’t nearly as big as it was around Thanksgiving. The flowering is much more sporadic but lovely nonetheless. There are quite a few buds barely poking their heads out of many leaf sections so it should have flowers on it for at least another month or so. By the way, each flower seems to last 4-5 days. I gently twist them off when the bloom is starting to look bad.

Does your Thanksgiving or Christmas Cactus bloom more than once a year? Please fill us in – inquiring horticultural minds want to know!

Happy gardening,

Although they’re cacti, they don’t grow dry; water plants weekly as the top inch of soil gets dry, and provide it with half-strength fertilizer each time you water. Every third week, give it clear water instead. Avoid drafty areas for your cactus – chilly blasts aren’t good for it.

To have your cactus bloom for Thanksgiving or Christmas next year and each year thereafter, place you cacti in an east facing window or outside in the summer. Just be sure to remember to start bringing it inside beginning in mid August. Next mark your calendar for September 19 as the date to begin the re-blooming process. Christmas Cacti need two things to innate re-blooming; cool temperatures and shorter days, so move the cactus to a place with cool, 60 degree nights and only nine hours of sunlight daily. A great way to achieve this is to place your cacti in the basement near a window, or place a box over your cacti when you get home from work, around 5 in the evening, and then remove it when you leave for work in the morning, about 7 or 8 a.m. After approximately six weeks, Thanksgiving cactus will flower, and after two to three months, Christmas cactus blooms.

The secret to eye-popping color is to reduce the amount of water you give the plant after flower buds have formed, says Newman. Water weekly until after the flower buds begin to swell, then cut back on the water slightly, letting the cactus dry out between watering. Blossom color intensifies if the plant dries once flowers start.

If the soil gets too dry, however, the flowers may drop from the plant. Get to know your cactus soil by inserting either a soil moisture probe, which can be purchased at your local garden retail center, or take the less advanced approach and insert your finger into the soil up to the first knuckle, just before watering. Note that moisture level; as you dry down your cactus, check the soil to gauge when it’s a bit drier but not parched.

As flowers unfold, move it into the room where you want to display it, keeping it in bright, indirect light. A cool room is best; between 55 degrees Fahrenheit to 75 degrees Fahrenheit. Too much heat can cause flowers to fade and drop quickly, and if the leaves wrinkle, the plant is too dry or too warm. There’s no need to feed it during blossom, but after flowering, return the cactus to normal care of fertilizing at half strength and watering weekly.

Prevent Bud and Flower Drop on Christmas Cactus

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The Christmas cactus is a favorite gift that often grows into a family heirloom. With proper care you can keep this holiday favorite flowering for 4 to 8 weeks.

Keep your flowering Christmas cactus in a cool bright location to extend its bloom time. Avoid drafts of hot and cold air, moisture stress and other changes in the environment. This can result in bud and flower drop.

Water the soil thoroughly and often enough to keep the soil slightly moist. This tropical plant may look like a succulent, but prefers a bit more water.

Fertilize with a dilute solution of flowering houseplant fertilizer once it has finished blooming. Then move it to a sunny window or under artificial lights with your other houseplants.

Rebloom your cactus by providing cooler temperatures, drier conditions and as some experts believe 14 hours of total darkness each night. Start on October 1st for blooms next Christmas.

A bit more information: The Thanksgiving and Easter cacti look very similar to the Christmas cactus, though the bloom times vary. For more information on identification and care of these plants – .

I have been attempting to make my Christmas cactus look spectacular this year when all of my friends and family arrive for the holiday dinner that I am hosting. I thought that I was doing everything right to have those beautiful pink and red blooms this time, but suddenly, the buds on my plant started falling.

What Causes Christmas Cactus Flower Buds to Fall?

There are quite a few different reasons that these buds can fall, but the trick to getting good blooms for the holidays is figuring out which one is causing you a problem.

Some of the reasons to consider include:

  • The light that the plant receives: This is a plant that will grow well in direct sunlight during the spring and the summer, but when it becomes fall, it will do best in indirect light. Starting in the fall, the plant will need 12 hours of darkness to bloom, so it is not getting the darkness that it needs, the blooms could drop. If the plant is near a door or a window where it gets light during these times, even light from a passing car’s headlights, it can disturb the darkness and cause the buds to drop.
  • The temperature of the plant: This is a plant that likes cooler temperatures, so place it in a room where the temperature is around 70 degrees in the day and between 55 and 65 degrees at night. When the temperature rises above 90 degrees and the buds have formed, they are likely to drop because of it. Also, make sure that the plant is positioned in a location that is not going to get a draft. Things like air vents, blowing heaters, and drafty doors can provide an extreme temperature differential, which will also cause the buds on the plant to drop.
  • The water that you give to the plant: Too much water can cause the leaves of this plant to wilt, but too little water can also hinder the blooming process by causing the buds to drop. The soil should be moist and well-drained, but before it is watered again, make sure that the soil is dry to the touch. When you do give the plant some water, make sure that it is room temperature so that it does not shock the plant and cause the buds to drop or not form at all. Also, make sure to water the plant at the base of the soil so that that the leaves and the buds do not get wet in the process.
  • The fertilizer that plant receives: Fertilizer is another thing that can cause the buds to drop on a Christmas cactus, especially if it is being fed during its dormant time of year. The plant can be fed during the growing season, but not use food during the fall and winter, which is the blooming season. Never fertilize this plant when the buds are on the plant because if the salt from the fertilizer gets in the buds, they will drop. For more information on Christmas Cactus feeding, see this tip guide here.


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