How to christmas cactus?

How to Care for Your Christmas Cactus

The Christmas cactus (botanical name Schlumbergera bridgesi, formerly Zyyocactus truncatus) is known for its beauty. Originally from tropical Brazil, this plant produces lovely pink flowers. Many people wish to grow it in their homes. However, this plant is often considered to be difficult to grow.

There are many questions inexperienced owners ask about how to care for a Christmas cactus and how to make it bloom.

Some of the most common questions and problems include:

  • How to make your Christmas cactus bloom?
  • Why did it flower last year but not now?
  • How much watering is needed?
  • What to do when it starts rotting at the base?

These questions and many others are very common. It’s undeniable that the Christmas cactus can be confusing that even botanists don’t always agree on the best growing method for this plant.

Basic Facts About Christmas Cactus

  • Botanical name: Schlumbergera bridgesi (formerly Zyyocactus truncatus).
  • Place of origin: Tropical Brazil
  • Life span: Measured in decades. It’s not unusual for a Christmas cactus to live for 20, 30 or more years.
  • Temperature: Christmas cactus is best kept on temperatures between 60 and 70° F during the day and between 50 and 60° F during night.
  • Moisture: This is a tropical jungle plant, so it requires more moisture than most of the other cacti. However, overwatering is never recommended. The soil should be kept moist but not too damp. Always place pebbles, charcoal or broken clay pot pieces at the bottom of the pot to ensure drainage.
  • Sunlight: The Christmas cactus is a tropical plant so it prefers shade to direct sunlight.
  • Flowers: This plant is prized for its fuchsia-like flowers. They are cerise pink with gold stamens. The Christmas cactus blooms for about 2 months in a year. When its first flowers begin the fade the new ones open. Healthy, mature plants can often produce hundreds of flowers.

How to Care For Your Christmas Cactus?

Unlike most other cacti, Christmas cactus prefers more moisture and less sunlight. However, overwatering can be dangerous because too much water will make the roots rot. It’s important to allow the soil to dry out in order to prevent it to become sour.

This plant thrives in a soil richer than it’s typically used for cacti. The Christmas cactus prefers a slightly acid soil, so lime or bone meal is best to be avoided. It’s best to keep it in a mixture of two parts quality cactus potting mix, one part peat moss and one part coarse builder’s sand.

When planting your Christmas cactus, it’s important to use an adequate pot. It shouldn’t be much larger than the diameter of the plant. For example, you should place a 2 inch plant into a 3 inch pot. Put a handful of soil in the pot and set in the plant. Make sure to spread its roots.

After this, carefully fill the pot. Don’t go higher than a half inch of the rim. Make sure to press the soil down firmly using your fingers.

It’s best to place your cactus in a bright place but away from direct sunlight. Try to find an ideal place for your Christmas cactus. These cacti don’t like to be moved around so finding a perfect location is important. Generally, an east or west window is a good place for your Christmas cactus. Another good option is a south window with shading.

One important thing to remember about the Christmas cactus is that it actually thrives on neglect. Too much care can be dangerous for this plant. It can go without water for weeks and it usually likes to be left alone.

You should notice new leaf growth in the spring. When this happens it’s best to start with fertilization about once every 2 weeks.

Repotting is best done late in spring. Carefully move the plant into a pot one size larger than the previous one.

During summer, it’s generally best to place your Christmas cactus outdoors provided that you choose a shaded area away from direct sunlight.

When the nights start to get cool in the early fall, you should bring the plant inside. This is when you should give it a 30 day nap. This is done by placing the cactus in a cool, dim location. You should not water it for about a month.

After this, gradually expose the cactus to full sunlight. You should also increase the water supply. As the days get shorter the buds begin to form. This is when you should be careful because any mistake, such as overwatering, will stop the buds from forming.

Also, it’s best to avoid strong artificial light. If your really need to use the lights near the cactus, it’s best to cover it with a sheet, towel or newspaper. You should decrease watering at the time the buds are forming.

If your cactus doesn’t receive much artificial light from sundown to sunup and if you don’t water it much, it should bloom approximately at Christmas.

What if the Buds Drop Off?

It’s important to warn all plant growers about the danger of overwatering your Christmas cactus. While it may not bring life-threatening harm, it may result in a cactus’ buds to drop off.

On the other hand, the buds can drop off if cactus is not getting enough water. Frequent exposure to draft or placing the plant near a heat source can also make the cactus to drop off its buds. A similar problem can occur if there is not enough potash in the soil.

To make the buds reappear, feed your cactus with a liquid plant food fertilizer. It’s important to do this until the buds are fully open. After the flowering you should stop feeding your cactus with a fertilizer. All that your plant needs in this condition is enough water in order to prevent soil from drying out. This rest period is very important and it should be repeated in the fall and early winter even before the cactus develops flower buds.

Final Tips for Growing Christmas Cactus

The Christmas cactus is surprisingly adaptable even if it seems difficult to grow and maintain. It usually does well when left alone. This cactus can be grown on its own roots and it can also graft on pereskia or opuntia.

Sometimes, its sensitive crablike joints can break due to careless handling. If this happens, you should put the pieces in a dry shady spot until the raw ends harden. After this, plant them in soil or sand.

Photo credit: buttersweet, **Mary** and Zanastardust via photopin cc

Advice For Christmas Cactus Care

While the Christmas cactus may be known under various names (like Thanksgiving cactus or Easter cactus), the scientific name for Christmas cactus, Schlumbergera bridgessii, remains the same – while other plants may differ. This popular, winter-flowering houseplant makes a great addition to nearly any indoor setting. Christmas cactus is not only easy to care for but propagates easily too, making it an exceptional candidate for holiday gift giving. Let’s look at how to how to plant Christmas cactus and care for it.

How to Plant Christmas Cactus

The Christmas cactus is easily propagated by cutting a short Y-shaped segment from the stem tips. Make certain, however, that the cutting is taken from healthy plant foliage only. Plant the segment approximately a quarter of its length deep in slightly sandy soil. Moisten evenly and place the cutting in a well-lit area, staying away from any direct sunlight.

To root cuttings for new plants, cut back shoots from the tips, cut at the second joint of each tip. The cutting should show signs of growth within a few weeks, at which time the plant can be transferred to another container, if desired, with a looser potting soil mix of compost, loam and sand.

How to Care for Christmas Cactus

Advice for Christmas cactus care tells us that it performs well under average home conditions with moderate care. The Christmas cactus will adapt to low light conditions, but the plant will produce blooms more readily if exposed to brighter light. That being said, too much direct sunlight can burn its leaves, so keep the Christmas cactus in an appropriate area to avoid this.

Christmas cactus moisture is important as well. The plant requires frequent and thorough watering, during its active growth in spring and summer, keeping the soil slightly moist. Allow Christmas cactus moisture levels to drop and dry out some between watering intervals, but never completely, and never let the plant sit in water, as this will lead to root and stem rot. Applying a mild houseplant fertilizer solution every other week is also acceptable.

When considering how to care for Christmas cactus, keep in mind it also prefers temperatures hovering between 60 and 70 degrees F. (15-21 C.) with average to high humidity levels. Placing a tray of pebbles filled with water beneath the Christmas cactus container is a good way to add more humidity to the home.

Once the Christmas cactus has ceased all flowering (usually by fall), or about six to eight weeks before you want the plant to rebloom, you should allow the plant to begin its dormancy cycle by cutting back on Christmas cactus moisture and reducing both light and temperature. Simply cut back the watering and make sure the plant receives 12-14 hours of darkness and average temperatures around 50-55 F. (10-12 C.). Also, keep the Christmas cactus away from drafty areas.

When you know how to care for Christmas cactus, this plant is not difficult to manage, and when given proper care and placed in a suitable location, the Christmas cactus may even surprise you with additional blooming cycles throughout the year.

A Christmas Cactus is a tropical plant that does not naturally exist in nature. It was bred from two unique parent plants that both grow in the South American rainforests, specifically in Brazil.

The plant is recognizable by its segmented stem and the brightly colored blooms that appear at the ends of them. Blooms are typically red, pink, purple, yellow, or white, and the blooms can occur at different times throughout the year. Most notably, they can appear near Christmas, which is where the name is derived.

Since this plant is one of the rare plants that bloom at this time of year, it takes a bit of care to ensure that blooms do occur. This guide will give you all of the basics that you need to tend to a Christmas Cactus and help you make your home more colorful during the holiday season.

Christmas Cactuses are not actually cactuses at all; in fact, they require care that is very similar to a succulent. They do not require a lot of special care, but they do need to be properly maintained in order for blooms to appear. Let’s take a look at some of the tips that will help your Christmas Cactus flourish.

1. Watering Christmas Cactus

Like most succulent plants, it requires moist soil to grow; however, these plants do not like to be sitting in a pool of water. The best way to know when your Christmas Cactus needs to be watered is to check the soil. Once the top of the soil feels dry to the touch, water it again. Too much water can cause brown spots or root rot, while too little can cause issues with the blooms.

2. Soil and Fertilizer for Christmas Cactus

Christmas Cactuses require soil that is well-draining, which means that a mixture of normal potting soil and fine bark works perfectly. You can also use sand or small stones in the base of the pot to help with drainage. And as far as fertilizer, this plant should be fed every two weeks with diluted liquid fertilizer. Make sure to stop feeding it about a month before the winter bloom, which typically means the end of the month of October. Here are more tips on feeding your Christmas Cactus.

3. Christmas Cactus Lighting Tips

This plant likes a lot of sunlight, but it prefers indirect light. Direct sunlight can easily burn the leaves of the plant, so windows that are facing east or north are best. A Christmas Cactus is able to adapt to low light conditions, but it thrives in bright, indirect light.

4. Temperature and Humidity Requirements

This is a tropical plant, so it requires a relatively moderate temperature and high humidity in its environment. They grow best in temperatures that are between 65 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit, which is the average temperature of most homes. Christmas Cactuses require 50 to 60 percent humidity, so if your home has drier air, you will need to create this level of humidity artificially.

Repotting and Pruning Needs

Christmas Cactus plants prefer to be confined to a snug pot where the roots are nearly too large for the pot. This lack of space for the root system actually produces the best blooms. This means that the plant will not need to be repotted more than once every two to three years. When the transfer does need to occur, never repot a Christmas Cactus while it is in bloom. I have found that repotting the plant in spring or early summer works the best, and it allows the plant time to settle before blooming for the holiday season.

Pruning the plant should occur about a month after the blooming period is complete. This will encourage the plant to branch out and start growing again after a short period of rest. To prune a Christmas Cactus, simply twist the stem between the segments on the stem and remove the section. If your plant is becoming unruly, then you can remove up to 1/3 of the Christmas Cactus each year without causing damage to the plant.

Propagating a Christmas Cactus is easy, all you need to do is take the trimmed sections of the plant that you cut off during the pruning process and place them in a new pot of soil to grow. For the best results, propagation should be done in the spring of the year, and at last one segment of the plant should be buried underneath the soil.

Christmas Cactus Facts

Origin: Brazil
Names: Schlumbergera buckleyi, Zygocactus buckleyi
Poisonous for pets: N/A
Watering: Requires moist soil to grow
Light: Moderate light, partial shade
Temperature: Between 65 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit
Fertilizing: Feed every two weeks with a diluted liquid fertilizer
Common Problems Stem Rot, Root Rot, Botrytis Blight

Common Problems That Christmas Cactus Plants May Have

The most common issue you might face with a Christmas Cactus is dropping buds. This can occur when there is any type of change in the temperature, lighting, humidity, or the amount of water the plant is receiving. This is because the tropical forests of Brazil have a thick canopy that creates a womb-like atmosphere for the plant to bloom. To keep blooms from dropping, the soil must remain moist, the temperature a steady 65 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit, no fertilizer in the late summer to fall months, and 14 hours of darkness each day. Other issues that could affect your Christmas Cactus are:

• Stem Rot – This fungal issue occurs when the soil is too damp. The best course of action is to start a new plant before the infection spreads too far.

• Root Rot – If the roots are soggy, then there is a chance that root rot will form. The plant can be saved at this stage as long as the damaged root is removed, but if it moves up the stem, it can be deadly for the plant.

• Botrytis Blight – This is effectively grey mold, which can be removed if discovered early. Reducing the humidity level can prevent this disease.

How to Get a Christmas Cactus to Bloom

To encourage blooms to form you must create certain conditions for the plant. The temperature must be between 50 and 55 degrees Fahrenheit each night from the end of October, which is about six to eight weeks before Christmas. The room must be completely dark for 12 to 14 hours each night as well.

Christmas Cactuses can be difficult plants to care for, but with a little bit of effort, you will have a delightful blooming plant right around the holiday season that your family and friends can envy.

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Schlumbergera spp.

Ah, the Christmas cactus. Perhaps you received one of these as a holiday gift, wrapped with a red ribbon or nestled in a festive planter. Maybe you forgot about it, sitting on your mantle, after the holiday frenzy.

And yet, to your surprise, your neglect failed to do it in. So you began a watering routine, and it became one of your cherished houseplants.

Christmas cacti are fairly hardy as far as houseplants go. But they do require special conditions to coax out their blooms every year.

Sometimes called zygocactus or holiday cactus, this houseplant typically blooms just in time for the end of year holidays. I’ll cover everything you need to know about growing and caring for this winter-blooming succulent plant.

Cultivation and History

You might be wondering if this pretty succulent is actually a cactus, and the short answer is – yes! However, this houseplant originates from a tropical environment rather than a dry desert, so its care is a bit different than what you may be familiar with for other types of cacti. We’ll get to that a little later.

In addition to being members of the cactus family, Christmas cacti are also epiphytes, meaning they don’t naturally grow in soil, but rather in shallow organic debris found on rocks or in the crevices of tree trunks.

The plants in the Schlumbergera genus are all native to the coastal mountains of southeast Brazil, and grow in tropical rain forests where they are pollinated by hummingbirds.

Like other types of cacti, Christmas cacti don’t grow leaves; instead, they have jointed stems made up of flattened segments called cladodes.

Flowers grow from the last segment on the end of these stems. Unlike some of their prickly cousins, these cacti do not have sharp spines, which makes handling them less of a thorny issue.

Previously – and mistakenly – known as S. bridgesii, the true Christmas cactus (S. x buckleyi) is a hybrid of two species of Schlumbergera, S. truncata and S. russelliana. This particular cross was created in England at the Rollison Nurseries by William Buckley in the 1840s.

These days, many houseplants sold as “Christmas cactus” in garden centers and grocery stores are actually cultivars of S. truncata, more commonly known as crab cactus, false Christmas cactus, or Thanksgiving cactus. As its name suggests, it typically blooms about four weeks earlier than Christmas cactus.

There are a couple of surviving cultivars from the original S. x buckleyi, but most plants you’ll find today will be hybrids of the Thanksgiving cactus, S. truncata, and the true Christmas cactus, S. x buckleyi.

Apart from their differences in bloom time, there are a few other ways to distinguish Christmas cacti from Thanksgiving cacti:

  • Thanksgiving cacti have toothed segment margins; Christmas cacti have scalloped segment margins.
  • Thanksgiving cacti have yellow anthers and pollen; Christmas cacti have pink to purple anthers and pollen.
  • Thanksgiving cacti hold their flowers out horizontally; Christmas cacti have flowers that hang down.

To make things a little bit more confusing, commercial growers sometimes group these different species under the heading “holiday cactus.” This broad term can also include Easter cactus, Hatiora gaertneri, which may look similar, but only flowers once a year around Easter.

If you buy a plant called “Christmas cactus” it could well be a Thanksgiving cactus, or a hybrid of some type.

Luckily for us, no matter which species or hybrid you have, the required plant care will be the same. Correctly identifying your specific plant’s species and scientific name is not necessary to enjoy this lovely houseplant. Only the bloom time may be different.

Propagation

While Christmas cacti can be propagated from seed, the easiest and fastest way to propagate them is from cuttings.

Propagation from cuttings should be done in the warm growing months, April through September. Wait until at least a month after flowering to take cuttings.

Photo by Kristina Hicks-Hamblin

Cut stems back at the joints between the fleshy segments, shaping your plant so you don’t leave it lopsided as you take the cuttings. Each cutting should be 2-5 segments long. Make sure you always cut at the joints and not through the center of a segment, with a clean pair of scissors or a sharp knife.

Photo by Kristina Hicks-Hamblin

If you’d like, you can dust the ends of your cuttings with rooting hormone powder, but this is not required. Place the cut stem segments in a spot with bright, indirect light and good air circulation to let the cuts heal over and dry out for two to four days before planting.

Photo by Kristina Hicks-Hamblin

When you’re ready to plant, place the root ends of the cuttings into a container with potting substrate that is moist but not wet. Plant the cuttings about 1/2 to 1 inch deep, or just deep enough so that the cuttings will remain upright. Place the container with the propagated cuttings in a spot that receives bright, indirect light – not direct sun.

After you see some new growth starting to develop, give them some water. It will take 3-12 weeks for the cuttings to become established. You’ll need a bit of patience, as this new plant can take up to 2-3 years to mature and produce flowers.

How to Grow

Christmas cactus is actually not all that demanding as a houseplant, so don’t let these care requirements scare you. The most important thing to remember is not to overwater this plant. Providing it with a little extra care, as noted below, will ensure that your plant really thrives.

Water Requirements

Since this plant is native to tropical rain forests, it thrives in an environment with high humidity, but does not appreciate having wet feet.

Let the top inch of soil dry out between waterings. Depending on the conditions in your home, this will mean watering every two to three weeks in midwinter. Everyone’s home is a little different, so you’ll need to adjust how often you water based on how warm and dry your home is.

When it’s time to water, soak the plant in a sink or tub until water runs out of the pot’s drainage holes. Do not let the pot sit in a saucer full of water – toss any that accumulates underneath after watering.

If your home is quite dry, you can provide extra humidity by placing the pot on top of a small container filled with pebbles, then add water to the pebbles. Just make sure the pot is sitting above the water line rather than in the water. As the water evaporates, it will moisten the air around the plant.

Alternatively, you can mist the foliage of your cactus on a regular basis to provide a more humid environment.

Water your houseplant regularly when it is budding or in bloom, and less frequently during dormant periods when it is not blooming or putting on new growth. If in doubt, keep in mind that it will fare better being a bit under-watered rather than being over-watered.

Light Requirements

Replicating the natural growing conditions of this houseplant will help to ensure that it thrives in your home. Remember that this plant grows naturally in rain forests, and you should try to provide it with similar light conditions. Bright, indirect sunlight is best.

Whether you keep your houseplant indoors all year or give it an outdoor hiatus during the warm months, make sure it gets bright but indirect sunlight.

Don’t let your cactus be scorched by the sun – too much direct sunlight will cause the stems to turn red or purple.

Temperature Requirements

During its growing season – April through September in the Northern Hemisphere – these plants thrive in temperatures between 70 and 80°F.

In fall, however, they prefer nighttime temperatures ranging from 55-65°F. These cooler temperatures signal the plant to produce flowers.

Once your plants begin to put out flower buds, avoid sudden temperature changes, which can cause the buds to fall off.

Feeding Requirements

If you’d like to feed your cactus, wait until the active growing season begins. You can give it a liquid houseplant fertilizer, but I like to go the more natural way and give mine a little worm compost.

Worm compost provides macro and micronutrients that the plant needs, as well as balancing the soil pH.

If you do add compost, just make sure that you don’t raise the acidity of the soil too high, as doing so could cause the stems to rot. And do not feed this plant while it is in bloom.

Tips for Getting Christmas Cactus to Flower

According to the Royal Horticultural Society, getting your Christmas cacti to bloom requires providing these houseplants with two resting periods throughout the year. These resting periods are defined by lower temperatures, longer nights, and less frequent watering.

The first resting period should happen six to eight weeks before you expect your plant to flower. It’s worth noting that you can’t force a Christmas cactus to flower at a different time of the year – you can simply take these steps to encourage it to bloom.

During this period, keep your Christmas cactus in a room with bright, indirect light during the daytime, with nighttime temperatures at a chilly 55-60°F, and 13-15 hours of uninterrupted darkness. Also reduce watering, but do not let the soil dry out completely between waterings.

Some Christmas cactus owners solve the need for darkness by placing a brown paper bag over their plants, since even exposure to artificial light can prevent flowering.

Others move their plants in and out of a closet every day, but this is not recommended – Christmas cacti do not like to be moved frequently, and the stress that this can cause may prevent them from blooming.

For its pre-bloom resting period, I like to place my Christmas cactus in a room on the north side of my house where there is bright, diffused light, and where the temperature remains cooler than in the rest of the house. This is also a room we don’t use in the evening, so my plant also gets enough nighttime hours of darkness.

Once your plant begins to produce buds, the first resting period is complete, and you can return it to its normal temperature, light, and watering conditions.

The second resting period is after flowering. Reduce water again and return your plant to a room with cooler temperatures until the growing season begins in April.

Repotting

Considering the conditions they have adapted to in the wild, it makes sense that these houseplants prefer to be slightly pot bound.

A good rule of thumb is to plan to repot about every three years in springtime, at the beginning of the plant’s growth season.

Replant in potting soil with good drainage and aeration – 60% potting soil and 40% sand or perlite is recommended. Heavy, waterlogged soils can lead to disease.

When repotting, handle with care – this plant does not like having its roots disturbed.

And remember, this plant does not naturally grow in soil, so make sure to move your plant up to a pot size that is only slightly larger than the existing one when you repot.

Managing Pests and Diseases

Christmas cacti can be attacked by pests and diseases, but healthy plants are unlikely to be a target. Your main strategy in preventing both pests and disease is to make sure you don’t overwater your plant, which can lead to rot and make it more susceptible to disease and insect infestations.

Pests

A strategy I use to keep some of my houseplants pest free is to give them a shower when I water them, and I include my Christmas cactus in this routine. I use the spray nozzle in my sink or shower to wash off the stems, which helps to prevent insect problems.

However, even the most vigilant houseplant owner sometimes experiences a pest outbreak. Pests you will want to be on the lookout for are fungus gnats, flower thrips, and root mealybugs.

Inspect your Christmas cacti regularly so that if you do have pests, you can address the problem before they are badly damaged. And review our article on integrated pest management for thorough guidance to prevent and manage pest problems.

Diseases

According to an article by Judy Stevens at the Iowa State University Extension, Christmas cacti only tend to suffer from diseases when they are over-watered.

In overly moist soil, these plants can be targets of certain bacteria and fungi. It may be hard to identify what type of disease is affecting your cacti since many produce the same unhappy results.

Bacterial Soft Rot

Encouraged by high humidity and temperatures over 86°F, Pectobacterium carotovorum is a bacterium that can cause bacterial soft rot in produce and certain houseplants. While types of fungi that may plague this plant can be treated with fungicides, these will prove ineffective against P. carotovorum. You can read more about bacterial soft rot in our full guide.

Damping Off

A water mold that is known for causing damping off in young seedlings, Pythium aphanidermatum may be another possible culprit if your Christmas cactus has root rot. Phytophthora nicotianae, also a water mold, can cause root rot in many garden plants and some houseplants. As its common name “black shank” suggests, it turns diseased stems black. See the full guide to damping off and how to prevent it.

Fusarium Wilt

Fusarium oxysporum, a soil-borne fungus that causes fusarium wilt, can cause dieback, stem rot, and root rot in these plants. Another fungal plant pathogen, Bipolaris cactivora causes stem rot in cacti.

If you follow best practices for soil content and watering, however, it is unlikely you will have issues with these diseases.

Cultivars to Select: Your Christmas Cactus Palette

These houseplants come in a wide array of blossom colors. While local garden centers and grocery stores stock these cacti during the holidays, if you’re looking for a specific color, online sources can offer a greater selection of hues.

Red

Red is the most commonly encountered – and expected – bloom color for this houseplant. These festive red blossoms will fit right in with your holiday decor.

Red Christmas Cactus in 6-inch Pot

Live plants in 6-inch pots are available from Hirt’s Gardens via Amazon. And they are also available from Costa Farms via Home Depot.

Pink

The vibrant color of the pink blossoms on these plants offers an alternative to the traditional holiday color scheme – and this hot pink hue will be sure to knock your socks off.

Pink Christmas Cactus in 6-inch Pot

You can buy live plants in 6-inch pots from JM Bamboo via Amazon. Or if you’d like more than one color, you can find packages of two 6-inch pots available from Costa Farms via Home Depot.

White

White flowers on Christmas cacti provide more neutral beauty – they can blend in with your holiday decorations, or they can blend in with your usual decor, offering a peaceful vibe.

White Christmas Cactus in 4-inch Pot

Four-inch pots are available from Hirt’s Gardens via Amazon. They are also available from Costa Farms via Home Depot.

Yellow

Yellow may be one of the most unexpected colors to see on holiday cacti blooms. I have a soft spot for yellow blossoms, especially the pale yellow that this houseplant comes in, so this is one of my favorites.

Yellow Christmas Cactus in 4-inch Pot

You can find the unusual yellow Christmas cactus in 4-inch pots from Hirt’s Gardens via Amazon.

Quick Reference Growing Guide

Plant Type: Epiphyte Flower / Foliage Color: red, pink, purple, white, yellow, orange, salmon
Native To: Brazil Water Needs: Low to moderate
Hardiness (USDA Zone): 10-12 Maintenance: Low
Bloom Time / Season: Late fall to early winter Tolerance: Drought
Exposure: Indirect, bright light; long nights during dormancy Soil Type: Average
Time To Maturity: 2-3 years Soil pH: 5.7-6.5
Spacing: 2-4 cuttings per pot Soil Drainage: Well-draining
Planting Depth: 1/2-1 inch Uses: Ornamental houseplant in hanging baskets or pots
Height: 1 foot Family: Cactaceae
Spread: 2 feet Subfamily: Cactoideae
Attracts: Hummingbirds Genus: Schlumbergera
Pests & Diseases: fungus gnats, flower thrips, root mealybugs; bacterial soft rot, damping off, fusarium wilt Species: S. x buckleyi, S. truncata

Let that Succa Grow

Whatever color your cactus blooms, it will be a faithful companion to you for decades, provided you offer this vibrant succulent the somewhat neglectful care that it thrives on. Christmas cacti can live for over 50 years as houseplants, with one spectacular specimen in North Dakota living to be over 111 years old.

Do you have an age-old Christmas cactus in your houseplant collection? If so, let us know in the comments – and be sure to post a photo.

If you are crazy about succulents like so many of us here at Gardener’s Path, you’ll find more food to feed your fanaticism right here:

  • How to Become a Succulent Pro: Tips for Home Growers
  • Propagating Succulents in 5 Easy Steps
  • 11 Easy-Care Exotic Succulents to Grow at Home

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Photos by Kristina Hicks-Hamblin © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Product photos via Costa Farms, Hirt’s Gardens, and JM Bamboo. Uncredited photos: . With additional writing and editing by Clare Groom and Allison Sidhu.

About Kristina Hicks-Hamblin

Kristina Hicks-Hamblin lives on a dryland permaculture homestead in the high desert of Utah. Originally from the temperate suburbs of North Carolina, she enjoys discovering ways to meet a climate challenge. She is a Certified Permaculture Designer and a Building Biology Environmental Consultant, and holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in liberal studies from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Kristina loves the challenges of dryland gardening and teaching others to use climate compatible gardening techniques, and she strives towards creating gardens where there are as many birds and bees as there are edibles. Kristina considers it a point of pride that she spends more money on seeds each year than she does on clothes.

Guide To Christmas Cactus Feeding – Best Fertilizer For Christmas Cacti

If you have been lucky, you might have received a Christmas cactus as a gift around the winter holidays. There are a couple of varieties of Schlumbergeria blooming cacti that tend to come into flower during certain holidays. These popular plants, which include Easter and Thanksgiving cacti, often come from the nursery bursting with blooms, but getting them to flower the next year can be tricky. This is where the importance of Christmas cactus feeding comes into play. Fertilizing Christmas cactus at just the right time can help ensure your plant is filled with brightly colored tubular blooms.

Christmas Cactus Fertilizer Requirements

Christmas cacti produce trailing jointed stems and wonderful flowers. These plants are epiphytes native to Brazil and make perfect houseplants. For the most part, the cacti are easy to care for and thrive in indirect, bright light, well-draining soil and average moisture. Christmas cactus feeding takes place monthly during the growing season, generally April through October. This will keep your plants in tip-top condition to form buds and eventually that fully bloomed look in time for Christmas.

If you don’t want to keep your cacti gift, you don’t necessarily need to fertilize it. Eventually, the soil will release all it has to offer and the plant will slowly starve to death. New soil and the addition of houseplant food will

perk up any lethargic cactus, but timing is essential.

Christmas cactus set buds in fall during cooler days with shorter daylight hours. They need 12 hours of darkness to trick the plant into pushing out buds. Fertilizing Christmas cactus during the spring and summer months allows the plant to produce healthy growth to support the flowers. The plant also stores energy to fuel the production of buds. Once autumn arrives, a punishing routine of darker periods, cooler temperatures, reduced water and no additional food, drive the plant to form brilliant hot pink to red flowers.

How to Feed a Christmas Cactus

A bloom formula houseplant fertilizer or a half strength water soluble formula, such as 20-20-20 or 20-10-20, makes an ideal fertilizer for Christmas cactus. Feed monthly during regular watering from late winter to late summer. Alternately, you can choose a time release balanced plant food or one just slightly higher in phosphorus once per month in mid to late summer to enhance flowering.

On alternate weeks, fertilize monthly with one teaspoon per gallon water of Epsom salts. This routine will fulfill all the Christmas cactus fertilizer requirements, including the high magnesium needs of this epiphyte. Stop fertilizing in late summer or flower production may suffer. There is no need to fertilize in winter, as the plant is not actively growing.

Follow the application rates carefully on any formula to reduce the chance of salt build up in soil. If you are concerned about heavy salts, set the plant in the shower and drench the soil to release any stored salt. Allow the pot to drain freely and the planting medium to dry out before watering anew.

General Care for Christmas Cactus

Using a fertilizer for Christmas cactus is only part of the care ritual. These plants rarely need repotting since they like a crowded environment, but every few years it is necessary to replace the soil. A mixture of half potting soil and half sand or perlite is adequate.

Prevent the bottom of the pot from standing in water or root rot may occur.

Pinch off the ends of stems after blooming to encourage branching. You can actually root the cuttings after allowing the edge to callus in a sand/soil mixture or pure vermiculite.

Move plants outdoors in summer if you wish, but avoid harsh sunlight which can burn the stems.

Watch for mealybugs or scale insects and combat with a good horticultural soap spray.

Other than that, Christmas cacti are one of the easiest houseplants to grow with year-end rewards to rival those holiday presents.

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