Christmas cactus in bloom

How to make Christmas Cactus bloom several times a year


As one of the most favorite holiday succulents, many gardeners love to keep Christmas cactus in their home garden. The vibrant color blooms that emerge from tendrils draping and creeping over the plant make it look more attractive. For those who want to keep the beautiful plant for all year round, Christmas cactus makes the best option. While you can see this attractive plant thriving all year, the real magic happens when they bloom.

The colorful flowers bring joy and add color to the winters. However, these incredible succulents may not bloom sometimes, and then you need to figure out how to force them bloom. Moreover, figuring out how to make it bloom can be quite challenging for you. However, ensuring proper watering, adequate temperature, and the right light will help you learn how to make your adorable succulent bloom. If you have a Christmas cactus and it has not bloomed yet, this article will help you with what you need to do.

How to Make Christmas Cactus Bloom


Christmas Cactus Succulent |

Before delving into the details of how to bloom the Christmas cactus, it is necessary to understand the blooming cycle of this plant, which is a little amount of water, dormancy, light, and temperature. The bloom season comes during the fall, usually in the last days of October and the early days of November.

Reduce Watering

You will need to begin by limiting the amount of water your plant normally receive; make sure to pour a certain amount of water that it moist the soil slightly. Water the topmost layer of the soil, which is about 1 inch, and water the plant only when it feels dry to touch. This watering schedule will make the plant able to enter the dormancy period. Not to forget, dormancy is crucial for Christmas cactus to bloom.

Provide Enough Lighting and Darkness

Other than watering, you will need to give the plant an adequate amount of darkness and light. Move your Christmas cactus to a spot where it will receive 12-14 hours of darkness. Keep in mind that indirect bright sunlight during the day is fine, yet it is essential to give it 12-hours of absolute darkness at night. Doing so will encourage the plant to bloom.

Provide Cooler Temperature

Besides lighting conditions, your succulent will need cool temperatures to bloom. Make sure to keep your adorable Christmas cactus at a spot with a 50°F temperature.

Does Christmas Cactus Bloom More Than Once A Year?


Christmas Cactus Blooming |

Yes. Unlike many other succulents, Christmas cactus can bloom more than once a year if they have a proper growing & blooming condition. Placing Christmas cactus into the east-facing window that receives abundant amounts of sunlight during the day and twelve hours of darkness each night can make the plant flower again. In essence, the mix of equal amounts of dark/light and cold evening temperatures can encourage the Christmas cactus to bloom again.

Make sure that your succulent receives dark and cool treatment for at least six to eight weeks or until the buds emerge. After the buds have grown, it takes up to twelve weeks for flowers to grow. Once the plant blooms, make sure to relocate it to a draft-free sunny spot. However, do not place it in an area that receives direct sunlight. When it receives indirect bright sunlight, you will see more blooming. Meanwhile, you will need to increase watering; the amount will depend on temperature, lighting conditions, and humidity levels.

What Do You Need To Know More?

Christmas Cactus with White Flowers |

Now that you have come across some useful tips to make your Christmas cactus bloom, there are some important points that you should keep in mind while growing this incredibly beautiful plant.

  • Christmas cactus are prolific bloomers and produce flowers at the end of the leaves.
  • Each flower will last from five to seven days, whereas the flowering period of the plant lasts for three to six weeks.
  • While it blooms, continue to give your Christmas Cactus water lightly. Lack of water will make the bud break off easily.
  • Originally, the Christmas cactus produces red flowers. However, the hybrids produce peach, lavender, magenta, white, and pink flowers.

Final Word

Now that you have come across all the essential tips to make your Christmas cactus bloom, make sure to follow all these tips carefully to enjoy the beautiful flowers on this plant.

How to make your Christmas Cactus blooms

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Flowers On Christmas Cacti: How To Make A Christmas Cactus Bloom

Figuring out how to make a Christmas cactus bloom can be tricky for some. However, by following the proper watering guidelines and ensuring that just the right light and temperature conditions are given, learning to force a Christmas cactus to bloom can actually be quite easy.

When you want to force a Christmas cactus to bloom, you need to understand the Christmas cactus bloom cycle: little water, dormancy, light and temperature.

Begin by limiting the amount of water the plant receives. This generally takes place sometime during fall, usually around October or the first part of November (in most places).

Cut down on watering just enough to allow the soil to remain slightly moist. Water only when the topmost (about 1 inch or 2.5 cm.) layer of soil is dry to the touch. This will enable the plant to enter dormancy. Dormancy is critical for getting a Christmas cactus to bloom.

In order to further force a Christmas cactus to bloom, you’ll need to move the plant where it will receive about 12-14 hours of darkness. Bright, indirect light during the day is fine; however, Christmas cactus requires at least 12 hours of darkness at night in order to encourage bud development.

Your Christmas cactus, dark conditions aside, will also need cool temperatures. This should average out to about 50-55 degrees F. (10-13 C.). Therefore, make sure the location will accommodate both light and temperature requirements.

Care of Flowers on Christmas Cacti

Christmas cactus plants should continue receiving dark, cool treatment for at least 6-8 weeks, or until buds begin forming. Once buds have formed, it usually takes up to 12 weeks (or less) for blooms to appear. The plant should also be relocated at this time.

Move the Christmas cactus to a sunny, draft-free area. However, keep it away from direct sunlight, as this may cause the plant to become droopy looking. Also, drafty areas can cause the buds to drop before blooming has occurred. Giving the plant more bright, indirect sunlight will produce more blooming. Christmas cactus also bloom better as pot-bound plants.

While watering may be increased during blooming, the amount will vary according to the plant’s current light conditions, temperatures and humidity levels.

When you force a Christmas cactus to bloom by giving it the proper care in the right place, receiving the right light and temperature conditions, the plant will not only bloom but may also surprise you by continually producing blooms several times throughout the year.

Knowing how to make a Christmas cactus bloom will help you to enjoy the lovely flowers on this popular plant.

IF YOU WANT to look like a green thumb when it comes to growing colorful blooming houseplants, try a Thanksgiving or Christmas cactus (Zygocactus truncatus).

Unlike desert cactus, these succulents feature a trailing habit. They grow as epiphytes among tree branches in South American rain forests and require different care than their spiny cousins. Highly popular as holiday plants, they are capable of producing long-lasting, colorful flowers in red, rose, purple, lavender, orange and white.

Generally, all that’s required for them to thrive is a brightly lit location out of direct sunshine (such as an east-facing window), moderate water, and a monthly application of a half-strength dilution of soluble houseplant food during spring and summer. They’re more likely to bloom if they’re a bit root-bound, so don’t be in a big hurry to repot them into bigger containers.

Although forest cactuses are prolific bloomers, they often flower at odd times, and it can be difficult to persuade them to blossom on time for the holidays. There are two methods that can help with timing: The first is to take advantage of the natural tendency of these plants to set buds during periods when days are shorter. Put your forest cactus in a dark closet for 14 hours a night, starting six to eight weeks before you want it to bloom. Bring it back out into a bright location during daylight hours. Once buds begin to form, the closet treatment is no longer needed, and the plant should bloom beautifully for the holidays.

The problem with this method is that if you’re a dim-dim like me and forget the plant is in there and open the door, it’s back to square one if any light hits the plant. You’ll have to restart the entire process, and wait another six to eight weeks for the buds to form.

The other method eliminates the need for nighttime darkness. Starting in late September or early October (I know; too late this year), keep the plant in a brightly lit backroom where nighttime temperatures can be kept between 45 and 55 degrees. Water very sparingly, until buds begin to form. Once the buds form, you’ll want to keep the plant in slightly warmer conditions, so water normally, and keep nighttime temperatures above 55 degrees. Wait until the plant is in full bloom before moving it to a different location for display purposes.

If you move it before the flowers open, the buds might fall off, which definitely makes for a less-than-cheery holiday display.

If you find it difficult to maintain the required cool nighttime temperatures, I recommend marrying a Canadian woman. I’ve learned from experience that Canadians not only sleep with the windows wide open in the middle of winter, but have a fan blowing, as well (which is scary, because when I was a kid, my Grandma Maude O’Hara told me that if you go to sleep with a fan blowing on you, you’ll wake up dead!). Fortunately, I’ve managed to survive, and I have to say my Christmas cactus have bloomed right on schedule every year since my wedding 35 years ago.

For extra fun, try growing fruit on your holiday cactus. You just need at least two plants with different-colored flowers in bloom at the same time. Pick a flower off one plant, and use it to pollinate about five blossoms on another plant by wiping the pollen-covered stamens against the pistil (the flower part that sticks out the farthest).

If all goes well, a colorful, inch-long berry will develop at the base of the pollinated flower. The fruit usually remains decorative for a year or two. When the fruit begins to soften, harvest the berries, squish the pulp within onto a paper towel and allow it to dry. Gather up the tiny black seeds, and germinate them in a seeding mix under a grow light. It’s always a fun surprise to see what color flowers the new Christmas cactus seedlings will produce.

Christmas cactus

The cold weather hit us quick this year. Thanksgiving is right around the corner and Christmas will be here before we know it. All of that leads to the time of year when your Christmas cactus should be blooming. Or should it? Many people may wonder why their Christmas cactus is blooming at Thanksgiving or even earlier. There are actually several popular holiday cacti: the Thanksgiving, Christmas and the less popular, Easter cactus. Despite the name cactus, these plants are not from the desert; instead the Thanksgiving and Christmas cacti are both in the Schlumbergera family, and native to the tropical forests of Brazil.

The Thanksgiving and Christmas cacti received their name because the typical bloom period is near to the holiday; however that is not always true. Bloom periods are triggered by the amount of daylight and the temperature. Therefore your Thanksgiving cacti might be in bloom at Halloween and your Christmas in bloom closer to Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving cactus

A more definitive way to tell the difference between a Thanksgiving cactus and a Christmas cactus is by looking at the segments of the leaves. The Thanksgiving cactus’ leaf segments have a pointed, jagged edge, while the Christmas cactus’ leaf segments are smooth and rounded.

Another way is to look closely at the flower parts of the plant. The anther, the pollen bearing part of the flower, is yellow on the Thanksgiving cactus and purplish-brown on the Christmas cactus. Very often the Thanksgiving cactus is actually sold under the name Christmas cactus, which only adds to the confusion.

To initiate flowering the plant needs less than 12 hours of light per day and temperatures of less than 68°F. Flower buds will set regardless of the daylight hours if temperatures are less than 55°F. If the conditions in your home do not meet these requirements extra efforts need to be done by the plant owner to trigger the cactus to bloom.

Simply cover the cactus or put it in a dark closet for at least 12 hours a day. A room that is not used on a regular basis could also work well. In some warm homes, if temperatures never drop below 70°F, the plant may never bloom regardless of the amount of light.

Be aware that if budded plants are brought into warm room with low humidity, they may drop their buds. Also, plants that are over-watered may even drop leaf segments.

The perfect place for the cactus is in a bright, indirect lit room with suitable temperatures away from drafts. Water the plant when the growing medium is dry to the touch. Do not over-water and let the soil be waterlogged, especially in the winter. The soil medium should be kept evenly moist in the fall when flower buds are set to prevent them from withering. Never let water stand in the saucer below the pot. Fertilize the plant with a general purpose fertilizer monthly during the growing season, fertilize with half strength from late winter through summer, and finally stop fertilizing in late summer for greater flower bud production.

After the cactus is done blooming, they benefit from a “resting” period. Allow the soil to dry out between watering, but do not allow the leaves to shrivel.

Thanksgiving and Christmas cactus bloom best when slightly pot-bound. The best time to repot is in spring when new growth begins. The best potting medium is well-drained with good aerations, such as a mix of two-thirds potting soil with one-third perlite or course sand. Do not use a cactus soil mixture.

Take a close look at your holiday cactus, is it a true Christmas cactus or is it a Thanksgiving cactus? Regardless, with the proper care this plant will bloom for six to eight weeks each year for many, many years.

For more information on all houseplants visit

Katie Drewitz is the local Extension educator in Stearns, Benton and Morrison counties for horticulture, small farms and local foods.

Is it a Thanksgiving, Christmas or Easter Cactus?

The Holiday season is upon us and that means not only decorations, but holiday plants! This is the time of year when there is an abundance of nice holiday plants to choose from, whether purchased from a florist, nursery or grown at home. One of the most popular plants to give or receive at this time of year is the Christmas cactus. Or is it an Easter or Thanksgiving cactus?
The difference between the three cacti is found in the shape of the leaves. The Thanksgiving cactus (Schlumgera truncata) has very pointed and claw shaped projections on the edges of the leaf. The Christmas cactus (Schlumgera bridgesti) has leaf projections which are more scalloped or tear drop shaped. The Easter cactus (Rhipsalidopsis gaertnerrii) has very rounded edges which are centralized on the leaf.
All of these three cacti are known as short day plants. So in order to induce the plant into bloom it must have 12-24 hours of darkness and cool temperatures. If you have over summered your plant outdoors or purchased it from a florist or nursery the plant should be kept in a cool location and in a dark area until it sets buds. A seldom used bedroom or lower level is the ideal place. The Christmas and Thanksgiving cactus require approximately 6 weeks of short days in order to bloom whereas the Easter cactus requires 8-12 weeks of short days to bloom hence the name Easter cactus. When the buds appear it can be brought into a warmer area for your enjoyment. Sometimes a plant might start to drop buds at this time. That could be due to drafts, too-warm temperatures, too much water or direct sunlight. The plants enjoy bright light but not direct sunlight. The plant’s soil should be dry to one inch below the surface before watering and not fertilized or repotted while blooming. The plants seem to do the best when root bound.
The Christmas and Thanksgiving cactus may re-bloom again for you in the spring but not as profusely as holiday time bloom. If you want to encourage spring time blooms, simply return the plant to its short day conditions.
These plants are relatively disease free unless over watered. If the plant turns reddish in color it is an indication of too much sun, lack of phosphorus or lack of water. There are reports of plants being handed down from generation to generation and being over one hundred years old. Enjoy these carefree holiday plants and start a new gardening tradition. For all your gardening questions, call the Linn County Master Gardener Hortline at 319-447-0647.

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