If you’ve never seen a Christmas cactus (Schlumbergera bridgesii) you might be surprised to learn that it’s not at all like those you see growing in the Mojave or Sonoran deserts. It lacks the pokey spines of the desert cactus and, although it is a succulent, it hails from the tropics. Plus, unlike it’s arid-loving cousins, it blooms in winter – December, typically.
Christmas cacti, in fact, bloom more prolifically with age and they tend to live a long life, if properly cared for. Paul Brunelle, renowned cactus expert, claims that his 30-year old plant produced 800 flowers between November and May one year.
Pruning is best done when it finishes blooming. This also happens to be the ideal time to take cuttings that you can then root in water.
- What you’ll need to root a Christmas cactus cutting and care for it afterward
- How to root the Christmas cactus cutting in water
- Ongoing care of the Christmas cactus
- Forcing the Christmas cactus to bloom
- Starting a Christmas Cactus from Cuttings
- Do you have a Christmas Cactus you want to propagate from cuttings? I have a quick and easy method to root Christmas Cactus plant (also Thanksgiving Cactus) successfully every time!
- Choose the Christmas cactus plant for Cuttings
- How to take the Christmas plant cuttings
- Best container for rooting Cuttings
- Location of Christmas cuttings container
- How To Propagate And Plant Christmas Cactus Cuttings
- Propagating Christmas Cactus
- Rooting Christmas Cactus
- Growing Christmas Cactus
- How to propagate Christmas Cactus by stem cuttings:
- 7 Things You Didn’t Know About Christmas Cactus Propagation
- How To Plant A Christmas Cactus
- Can A Christmas Cactus Survive an Outdoor Environment?
What you’ll need to root a Christmas cactus cutting and care for it afterward
- Sharp scalpel or small knife
- Small jar, vase or other container that holds water
- Planting pot
- Coarse compost
- Small aquarium gravel or perlite
- Houseplant fertilizer
- 0-10-10 fertilizer
How to root the Christmas cactus cutting in water
Use a sharp scalpel (we like these sterile, disposable cutting scalpels) or small knife to remove a length of Christmas cactus. As long as it has at least two sections, it will root.
Fill the jar, vase or whatever you’ve chosen as the rooting vessel with water and place the cut end of the cutting into the water until two nodes are submerged.
Place the cutting container in an area that receives bright but indirect sunlight and allow it to sit until roots form and grow as long as the cutting. This may take up to eight weeks so you’ll need to keep an eye on the water level to ensure that the two nodes remain under water. Add more water as needed.
When ready, plant the Christmas cactus cuttings into a planting pot filled with three parts of coarse compost (Fafard manufactures a coarse orchid blend, ideal for the Christmas cactus) blended with 1 part of small aquarium gravel or perlite.
Ensure that the planting medium remains slightly moist and that the air temperature remains no cooler than 70 degrees Fahrenheit during the day and between 60 and 65 degrees overnight.
Ongoing care of the Christmas cactus
Remember, your Christmas cactus is more of a tropical plant so treat it as you do your other houseplants. In fact, if you grow orchids, your Christmas cactus will enjoy the same care. Water the Christmas cactus when the top inch of soil is dry and fertilize it monthly, April through October, with a standard houseplant fertilizer.
One of the kindest things you can do for your Christmas cactus is to place it outdoors when the weather turns nice. Never place the plant in direct sun, rather mimic its natural environment by placing it under a tree where it will receive dappled sunlight. Bring it back indoors before fall’s first frost.
Forcing the Christmas cactus to bloom
Force the cactus to bloom during the holidays by providing it with the proper light, moisture and fertilizer. Beginning in September, set the Christmas cactus in a room where it receives bright, indirect sunlight during the days and a pitch-dark room that remains near 50 degrees Fahrenheit at night.
Ensure that no lights are turned on during the evening hours, even for a few minutes. Allow the plant to remain here through the end of October.
Water half as frequently as you do during the growing season during this period. In early November apply a 0-10-10 fertilizer (buy it online, here) to the soil around the cactus according to the rate listed on the label. Reapply, at the same rate in February.
If you’re interested in purchasing a Christmas cactus, Amazon.com has some lovely varieties for sale. We especially like the peachy tones of the Samba Brazil or the striking magenta Christmas cactus, sure to chase away winter’s gloom.
We receive small commissions from purchases made through links in this post. We have not, however, received any products for free — all of the products we refer you to are those that we purchase and use in our own gardens.
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Starting a Christmas Cactus from Cuttings
April 1, 20102 found this helpful
Start the cuttings in water until you see tiny roots forming.( change water once a week )
Then transfer to a pot about 5-6 inches.
Fill with potting soil that is made for Cactus/Suculents. Or if you can’t get that, use some regular potting soil and add a little sand ( about 2/3 cup ) , mix and water well. Let dry for a week or two then water well again.
After that water about once every two-three weeks once the plants start growing new leaves, add a liquid fertilizer to the water.
I make a Gal of water with 14 drops of Schultz plant food added. Shake it up and water with this mixture every time you water, until the blooms start to show.
Usually in Nov. here.
Stop using the the fertilizer until after the blooms drop. Water with plain water during that time. Then after all the blooms are gone start watering with the fertilizer water again.
Sometimes I water once a month by soaking the plants in a tub of water. Just set the pot plant in a tub bigger that the pot, submerge and leave it there for at least an hour or two, then drain and don’t water again until the dirt is dry.
You can tell if the plant is dry by the weight of it. Lift it up and if it is heavy ,don’t water. If it is light, it will float to it’s side.That is when the plant is to dry and you should soak it again. Good Luck. GG Vi
Do you have a Christmas Cactus you want to propagate from cuttings? I have a quick and easy method to root Christmas Cactus plant (also Thanksgiving Cactus) successfully every time!
It is so easy to root Christmas Cactus plant cuttings along with all the other Holiday Cactus, you won’t believe it! I have had pieces fall off my plant with buds on them which still root and bloom.
Just so you know, I have an entire article written on how to tell the difference between a Christmas Cactus plant and a Thanksgiving Cactus CLICK HERE and I will link that at the end of this post so you can check that out later if you prefer.
Because most people call all the holiday cactus Christmas cactus I shall defer to that name.
For a step by step checklist for this fill out the form below at the base of this post.
Choose the Christmas cactus plant for Cuttings
I have this gorgeous Salmon colored Thanksgiving Cactus and I want to really fill a nice pot with it.
It is still on the smallish size and I can get it to fill a pot much more quickly by taking a piece from it, rooting it and then adding it to the pot with the parent plant.
Plus cutting it back like this will encourage it to send out more shoots.
Once it fully opens up I will get another photo of it to share and update this post with it. Here is the updated photo:
On your Christmas or Thanksgiving cactus locate a juncture where you want to take a healthy piece about 3 to 4 inches long, with 3 or 4 leaves (sections).
This one is kind of jutting out to the side awkwardly so it will make a nice cutting.
How to take the Christmas plant cuttings
Sometimes gently bending it and twisting at the juncture is enough to snap it off and sometimes I have to use my thumbnail to cut it.
The video gives you a really good idea of how I do it best. I also explain why taking the cuttings at a Y is best but not imperative.
Many let the end heal over by setting it aside for a few days but I don’t bother but if it makes you feel better then go ahead and do that.
Now most will tell you to put them in a potting soil mix to root but that just has not worked for me.
Best container for rooting Cuttings
I put a few stones in a glass jar, this is a recycled salad dressing jar I was practicing my glass painting on, the stones are about 2 inches deep.
Before I put any water or my cutting in the jar I write what color of cactus it is on one of the sections, I have several and I usually decide to root more than one at a time.
I add water to the jar before placing my cutting in it.
You want the water to barely come to the top of the stones. The cutting is only slightly touching the water, it is resting on the top stones.
Location of Christmas cuttings container
Keep the jar in a spot where you can keep track of the water evaporating. I typically keep it in my kitchen windowsill and I put more water in as needed.
The humidity alone in the jar will let it root without worrying about it rotting. Below is a wonderful example of a cutting that has rooted.
Once I have roots I just pot it up either in the same pot as the parent, if I am trying to fill out a plant or I give it it’s own pot.
Related: Potting up Christmas Cuttings that have rooted
I use Cactus Mix potting soil with great results though I have used regular potting soil with some added perlite which worked too.
And that is really all there is to it. They are actually quite quick to root and I do it any time of year though it will go faster during the active growing season.
Want to know some easy tips and tricks for growing healthy Christmas and Thankgiving cactus that bloom? Go Here!
I hope you get to root some of these wonderful Fall and Winter bloomers soon.
Want a free checklist of this? Fill out here and you can download and print it from the Subscribers Resource Library. (already a subscriber? Then use the password you receive in every email)
Want to see how I pot up my cuttings once rooted?
Click any of these titles for more you will enjoy!
How to tell a Christmas Cactus from a Thanksgiving Cactus
All about Propagating Plants
Clean your Indoor Air with Plants
Start Geraniums from Cuttings
How To Propagate And Plant Christmas Cactus Cuttings
Many people grow Christmas cactus (Schlumbergera bridgessii). This plant makes a great holiday gift for friends and family, so knowing how to propagate and grow Christmas cactus can help make this shopping easier and less hectic.
Propagating Christmas Cactus
Propagating Christmas cactus is easy. In fact, when it comes to the Christmas cactus, propagating is a great way to share this wonderful plant with others.
Christmas cactus propagation usually begins by simply taking a short, Y-shaped cutting from the stem tip. The cutting should consist of at least two or three joined segments. When doing Christmas cactus propagating, always be sure that cuttings are taken from healthy foliage.
Allow the cutting to dry a few hours before potting it up for rooting, as to avoid potential stem rot from excessive moisture.
Rooting Christmas Cactus
Rooting Christmas cactus cuttings is simple. Once you’ve taken your cutting, place the segment in a moist peat and
sand soil mix. Insert the segment about a quarter of its length below the soil surface. Place the pot in a well-lit area, avoiding direct sunlight.
Water the cutting sparingly at first to prevent rotting. After about two or three weeks of rooting, the cutting should start showing signs of growth at the tips of its leaves, which is usually reddish in color.
Once your cutting has rooted, it can be transplanted into a pot with loose potting soil, preferably with a little sand or compost added. The cutting may wilt some in the beginning, but this is normal and will eventually subside once the plant has taken to its new environment.
The Christmas cactus may be watered more frequently, fertilized and given additional light at this time. Christmas cactus propagating doesn’t get any easier than this.
Growing Christmas Cactus
While Christmas cactus can adapt to and be grown in low light, the plant will produce more blooms with brighter light conditions. However, stay away from direct sunlight, which may burn the leaves. Don’t allow this plant to dry out completely between watering intervals. Christmas cactus also enjoys average to high humidity with temperatures hovering between 60-70 F. (16-21 C.)
Placing the pot on a tray of pebbles and water can add more humidity to drier surroundings. Watering should be done frequently and thoroughly, keeping the soil moist but not saturated. Make sure there is adequate drainage provided to prevent the Christmas cactus from rotting.
Apply a mild houseplant fertilizer every other week. Water and fertilize regularly in spring and summer; however, during the winter months, this plant should be kept on the dry side, withholding water for six weeks.
Growing and propagating Christmas cactus can be very rewarding, especially when you give them to others during the holidays.
You can find Christmas Cactus sold practically everywhere during the holiday season making them a very popular blooming houseplant. These succulents are long-lasting (if properly cared for of course) and grow along at a steady, moderate pace. Once they’re happy and burgeoning forth, you’ll most likely be asked to share the love. To propagate Christmas Cactus by stem cuttings with 1 easy twist, and plant them too. It’s a snap!
The Christmas Cactus that you seeing me propagating 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, you propagate these epiphytic cacti in the same manner.
How to propagate Christmas Cactus by stem cuttings:
When to propagate Christmas Cactus:
The best time to propagate a Christmas Cactus is 1-2 months after it’s finished blooming. You want to avoid propagating it in fall while setting bloom & of course during the flowering period. You don’t want to miss a single one of those beautiful blooms after all!
How to propagate Christmas Cactus:
The method that’s always been foolproof for me is by stem cuttings in the mix.
I take cuttings that are 2 – 6 leaf segments (a segment is the whole rectangular joint) long.
Hold on to the segments you are taking off. You should also hold onto the segment attached to the mother plant that you’re taking them off of. Twist off the segments (either way, works fine), and they should snap right off. Make sure you get the part at the base where it attached for it to root successfully.
Let your cuttings heal over (dry off) at the base for a few hours up to 2 days. I usually plant them after 1 day.
The cuttings all planted up. They tend to dry out fast in this light mix so keep your eye on them.
Fill a pot (it doesn’t have to be deep) with a light mix. A combination of 1/2 coco coir & 1/2 perlite would be fine. In case you don’t know, coco coir is an environmentally friendly alternative to peat moss. I used a locally produced cactus & succulent mix which is a combo of coco coir chips & large pieces of pumice.
Wet the mix thoroughly & then dig indents about 1/2 – 1″ deep. How deep depends on how long your cuttings are. I use a mini-trowel (1 of my fav tools for propagating) to do this but a spoon or chopstick would work fine too.
Stick your cuttings into the mix just deep enough to get them to stand up. You can plant them close if you’d like. You may have to fiddle with them a bit so they stay upright. I lightly pack the mix down around the cuttings to help with that.
A Thanksgiving Cactus with salmon flowers. This one’s so pretty I want more!
Where to put your cuttings:
Place them in a spot with bright light but no direct sun. Make sure it’s not too warm to too cool. I put mine in the laundry room which gets nice overhead light from the skylight.
How to water the cuttings:
You don’t want to keep them too wet or let them dry out. I prefer to spray the mix until the top 1″ or so is moist. Spray again when almost dry. As the cuttings root in, you can water them deeper. A small watering can or a succulent watering bottle like this would work do the trick too.
For you fans of white flowers at the holidays; peaceful & beautiful.
Good to know:
Christmas & Thanksgiving Cacti also root by division, seed (this takes way too long for me!) & supposedly by cuttings in water. I’ve never done the later. How about you? Has it worked?
Be sure to keep your cuttings out of direct sun while they’re healing over.
Don’t compost or fertilize your cuttings while they’re rooting. They don’t need it yet.
Many cuttings benefit by covering them with plastic to create a greenhouse effect. This isn’t necessary with a Holiday Cactus.
Christmas Cactus are very easy to propagate by stem cuttings so be sure to give it a go. And with an easy twist or 2, you’ll be on your way!
7 Things You Didn’t Know About Christmas Cactus Propagation
A Christmas cactus plant is a very special tropical plant blooming during the Christmas season. It can also bloom during the Easter. Growing a Christmas cactus requires utmost care because of its sensitivity to direct sunlight and high temperature.
When exposed to sunlight, the leaves may be burned or wilt. It cannot tolerate overwatering due to its tendency to rot. The number of blossoms a Christmas cactus can produce during the holiday depends on the amount of indirect light around it.
Setting a cool temperature starting from November contributes to the success of its bloom. Another effective way to increase its blossom production is the use of dark treatment.
Starting from Mid-October, you can put the plant in a dark room for at least twelve hours every night.
Indeed, quality effort is needed in Christmas cactus propagation. Not all of us are aware of the beauty of its blossoms.
But if we start learning how to plant Christmas Cactus now, I’m sure that when the holiday comes, you will appreciate its blooms.
How To Plant A Christmas Cactus
Do Christmas cactus grow from bulbs like the Amaryllis? The answer is no.
Going back to cutting, first, you have to choose a healthy stem where the cutting would be taken.
Using a scissor or any sharp edged cutter, take a portion from the tip of the stem, cutting it at the joint. Bare hands can also twist it.
The Y-shaped cutting should consist of three segments. Let it dry for few hours in order to avoid rotting when planted. Growing Christmas cactus from cuttings is the most common way to propagate.
When the cutting is ready to be planted, you need a mixture of moistened moss and soil. Plant half portion of the segment to the mixture. The planted part should be long enough not to be uprooted.
Make sure that the moist in the soil is maintained by sprinkling it with small amount of water. The plant should be placed in a room with enough light. Always remember to keep it away from the direct light of the sun.
- Normally, the planted cutting will wilt, but there is no need to be alarmed, that is part of the process. After that, you will notice new growth from the cutting, that’s the sign that it is already rooting.
By this time, additional amount of water and light should be considered. It is very easy to propagate a Christmas cactus.
- Another way of propagation is by division. How do you divide a Christmas cactus? You do it when the cactus is already mature and the roots are more than one.
This is being done after the blooming and resting period. But still growing Christmas cactus from cuttings is more common than this process.
Can A Christmas Cactus Survive an Outdoor Environment?
The question most people ask is; what happens to a Christmas cactus outside the home? Most plants need direct sunlight to survive and produce its food through photosynthesis.
But amazingly for a Christmas cactus, the direct light coming from the sun can burn its leaves. It is one of the most sensitive plants, which requires indoor atmosphere for it to survive.
- The usual advice you can get from any plant expert is to put it inside your home where it can get limited temperature and enough indirect light.
But it doesn’t necessarily mean that you cannot put your Christmas cactus outside the home. The only thing that you have to consider when placing it outside is to choose a shady place where the raise of the sun cannot reach it.
When the outside humidity is lesser that what the plant needs, you can use a tray filled with pebbles and water where you would place the pot. The water from the tray will create temporary humidity for the Christmas cactus outside.
Care of Your Christmas Cactus
Easy to grow, Christmas Cacti often do better when neglected rather than lots of attention.
They can live a long time, and even get passed down through the generations.
Grow your Christmas cactus in a well drained soil mix, rich in organic matter. For a good mix,
combine one part potting soil, two parts peat moss or compost, and one part sharp sand, perlite,
or vermiculite. This mix holds moisture nicely but also drains the excess water.
Keep the soil evenly moist from spring through summer, but allow it to go dry before watering from fall through spring. Fertilize your cactus when new growth starts from the branch tips in late winter or early spring, and monthly through summer. Use a one quarter strength solution of soluble plant fertilizer or an organic fertilizer. A strong fertilizer solution can damage your Christmas cactus fine scant root system.
Your Christmas cactus needs lots of light during winter, but it should be indirect during the summer. Too much direct light is not good for the plant.
Your cactus needs a rest in fall to encourage it to produce flower buds. In mid to late September, let the soil dry out thoroughly before you water. This is the right time to move your plant to a sunnier area if you’ve had it in indirect light during the summer. Always remember, your Christmas cactus needs a cooler location in fall in order to set flower buds.
Flower bud drop is a common problem with Christmas cactus for many reasons. Avoid this by making sure you water properly, especially while it’s blooming. Letting soil dry too much or over watering can both cause bud drop. Also, even slight environmental changes can make the buds fall so don’t move your Christmas cactus to another site if it has buds or open flowers.
Multiplying Your Cactus
If you want to grow more Christmas cacti to pass on to family or friends, try rooting some from cuttings. Make the cuttings at least two stem segments long and let them dry for several days before you plant them. The drying lets the cut end form a callus which prevents rotting. Put your Christmas cactus cutting in sharp sand, vermiculite, or a mix of seventy percent perlite and thirty percent peat moss. Once it takes root, plant it in the recommended soil mix.