Growing Your Christmas Cactus
The Christmas cactus is a very popular plant at Christmas time and for good reason! When they bloom, they have colourful, tubular pink flowers. Their beautiful flowers, long bloom time, and easy care requirements make them a wonderful plant that can last for years, even generations.
Unlike other cacti, the Christmas cactus don’t live in hot, dry environments such as deserts. These succulents are native to the tropical rainforests of southern Brazil, where they grow on tree branches and soak up the high humidity, dappled sunlight, and warm temperatures.
This means that we can’t treat a Christmas cactus like our other cacti and succulents. They can’t take the same sort of sunny, dry conditions. It’s important to water these cacti more regularly but to also be careful not to overwater.
There are three main types of holiday cacti out there - the Easter cactus, Thanksgiving cactus and Christmas cactus. Each holiday cactus typically blooms closest to the holiday that it’s named after.
Christmas cacti grow well in succulent potting mix. The important thing is that your potting soil drains well. You don’t want your plant to be sitting in water.
Plants should be kept in bright, indirect light. An east-facing window or a bright room is ideal. Too much direct sunlight can bleach the sensitive leaves.
A daytime temperature of 70°F (21°C) and an evening temperature of 60-65°F (15-18°C) is perfect for your cactus.
Christmas cacti like a humid environment, which makes a bright bathroom or kitchen a good spot to keep them.
In the summer, Christmas cacti can be placed in a shady spot in the garden or in an unheated porch until temperatures get below 50°F (10°C). Keep them out of direct outdoor sunlight though.
You will only water your cactus when the top one third of soil feels dry to the touch. Use your finger to check!
It’s especially important to water well while the plant is flowering.
From spring to early fall, feed every 2 weeks with a houseplant fertilizer. During the fall and winter, feed the cactus monthly to encourage blooming.
Prune plants in late spring to encourage branching and more flowers. Simply cut off a few sections of each stem; the plant will branch from the wound. You can propagate these cuttings rather than throwing them out. Just place the cut pieces in a lightly moist potting soil—they root easily after a few weeks and make for excellent Christmas presents!
If your cactus is not blooming, it may be getting too much light or too-high temperatures. Here are some tips to encourage yours to produce flowers!
To trigger blooming, nights need to be at least 14 hours long and days between 8 to 10 hours for at least six weeks. If you have indoor lighting that’s on at night, you may need to cover your cactus or move it to an area where it is going to get the darkness.
Flower buds form best when the plant is kept in temperatures between 50 and 60°F (10 and 15°C).
Make sure that you are consistent with watering while the plant is in bloom. If the plant dries out too much, it may drop its buds but if the cactus drops its buds one winter, it should still bloom the next winter.