Tips for Taking Care of Your Christmas Cactus


If you’ve ever been wondering how to care for a Christmas cactus, look no further. The Christmas cactus, also known by its scientific name Schlumbergera, is a popular choice for indoor plants. Contrary to its name, this cactus is not typically found in the desert, but rather in the rainforests of Brazil. This makes it a great option for those who are looking for something different from the typical desert cacti.

To start caring for your Christmas cactus, you’ll want to choose the right pot and soil. The pot should have drainage holes to prevent overwatering, and the soil should be well-draining. A mix of peat moss, perlite, and orchid bark works well. The Christmas cactus prefers slightly acidic soil, so be sure to choose a potting mix that meets this requirement.

When it comes to watering your Christmas cactus, it’s important to find a routine that works for your specific plant. The cactus should be watered when the top inch of soil is dry, usually every one to two weeks. During the winter months, when the cactus is not actively growing, you can reduce watering to every three to four weeks. Be careful not to overwater, as this can lead to root rot.

Fertilizing your Christmas cactus is also essential for its overall health and blooming. It’s best to use an all-purpose, water-soluble fertilizer with an N-P-K ratio of 20-20-20. During the growing season, which typically starts in January and lasts until the end of summer, you should fertilize your cactus every two to three weeks. However, during the winter months, it’s best to withhold fertilizer to allow the plant to rest.

When it comes to repotting your Christmas cactus, it’s important to wait until it’s finished blooming. The best time to repot is usually in the spring. When repotting, choose a pot that is only slightly larger than the current one to prevent overpotting. Use a well-drained potting mix, such as the one mentioned earlier, and be sure to trim any dead or damaged roots before transferring the cactus to its new pot.

Another helpful tip for caring for your Christmas cactus is to clean its surroundings regularly. Dust and debris can collect on the leaves, which can hinder the plant’s ability to photosynthesize. You can simply wash the leaves with water or use a soft cloth to gently wipe away any buildup. Doing this will help to keep your cactus healthy and thriving.

In conclusion, caring for a Christmas cactus is not as difficult as it may seem. By choosing the right pot and soil, watering and fertilizing appropriately, and cleaning the plant’s surroundings, you can ensure that your Christmas cactus lives a long and happy life. With a little extra attention and care, you’ll be rewarded with beautiful blooms year after year. So don’t neglect your cactus and enjoy the beauty it brings to your home!

Issue January 26 2002

When it comes to caring for a Christmas Cactus (Schlumbergera truncata), there are some important things to know. This cactussucculent, native to the natural habitats of Brazil, is known for its beautiful flowers that bloom around Christmas time.

One of the key issues people often have with Christmas Cacti is overwatering. These plants are native to areas with high moisture conditions, so they don’t like to be kept too dry. However, they also don’t like to sit in waterlogged soils. To ensure proper drainage, remove any excess water from the saucer or pot after watering.

Another common issue is root rot, which can be caused by using the wrong type of soil or overwatering. Christmas Cacti prefer well-drained soils with a slightly acidic pH. To prepare the right soil blend, mix some high-quality potting soil with perlite or sand to improve drainage. Avoid using heavy garden soils, as they retain too much moisture and can suffocate the roots.

Repotting is generally recommended every two to three years. When repotting, it’s important to choose a pot that is just slightly larger than the current one to prevent the plant from sitting in too much water. Before repotting, carefully inspect the roots for any signs of damage or rot. Trim away any damaged roots with clean and sharp scissors.

To fertilize a Christmas Cactus, use a balanced houseplant fertilizer and follow the instructions on the packaging. It’s best to start fertilizing in spring when the plant starts to actively grow. Fertilize every two to four weeks until late fall, then stop during the winter months when the plant is dormant.

During the growing season, Christmas Cacti prefer bright but indirect sunlight. Too much direct sunlight can cause sunburn on the leaves. If possible, place the plant near a north or east-facing window. If your cactus is not blooming, it may be due to insufficient light.

It’s also worth mentioning that Christmas Cacti have a unique growth habit. Unlike most cacti, they are tropical plants and are used to growing in the branches of trees. This makes them epiphytic plants, meaning they grow on other plants without causing harm. In their natural habitat, they receive moisture and nutrients from the debris that collects between the branches of the trees.

In conclusion, caring for a Christmas Cactus involves providing the right growing conditions: well-drained soil, proper watering, and the right amount of light. By following these guidelines, you can enjoy the beautiful blooms of this popular holiday plant year after year.

Making potting soil

When it comes to caring for a Christmas cactus, one important factor to consider is the potting soil. Choosing the right potting soil can greatly impact the health and growth of your cactus succulent.

Christmas cacti (Schlumbergera genus) are epiphytes, which means they usually live in debris-filled tree branches in their natural habitat. Therefore, it is best to use a potting soil mixture that is already well-drained and acidic.

You can purchase a ready-made potting soil mixture that is suitable for cacti, or you can create your own. If you decide to make your own, there are a few key ingredients you’ll need: pumice or perlite, peat moss, and washed gravel.

Start by selecting a pot that is the right size for your Christmas cactus. A pot that is just slightly larger than the root ball is usually a good choice. If your cactus is already in a pot that is too large, it may take longer for the soil to dry out between waterings, which can lead to root damage.

Begin by removing the cactus from its current pot, taking care not to damage the roots. Gently wash away any old potting soil from the roots.

In a new pot, place a layer of washed gravel at the bottom. This will help with drainage and prevent the roots from sitting in excess water.

Next, prepare the potting soil mixture by combining equal parts peat moss and pumice or perlite. This will create a light and well-drained soil that will nourish the roots of your cactus.

Once the potting soil mixture is ready, place the cactus in the new pot and carefully fill in the spaces between the roots with the soil. Be sure not to pack the soil too tightly, as this can prevent proper drainage.

After repotting, give the cactus a good watering, making sure to thoroughly wet the soil. Allow any excess water to drain away.

Finally, choose a location for your Christmas cactus that provides bright, indirect light. While these cacti can tolerate lower light conditions, they usually thrive in bright, indirect light.

By making your own potting soil and using the right mixture, you can help ensure that your Christmas cactus has the best possible surroundings to thrive and grow. Remember to water your cactus regularly, but allow the soil to dry out between waterings. With the right care and attention, your Christmas cactus will reward you with beautiful blooms during the holiday season.

How to care for a Christmas Cactus

Christmas Cactus (Schlumbergera spp.) is a great addition to any indoor plant collection. Although it’s called a cactus, it’s actually a succulent, native to the rainforests of Brazil. These plants are known for their beautiful flowers that bloom during the holiday season.

When it comes to caring for a Christmas Cactus, there are a few key factors to consider. First and foremost, they need well-drained soil. Using a potting mix specifically designed for succulents or a mix of potting soil and perlite is ideal. This will ensure adequate aeration for the roots and prevent issues like root rot.

When selecting a pot for your Christmas Cactus, choose one with drainage holes to allow excess water to escape. The pot should also be slightly larger than the current one, as these cacti like to be a bit root-bound. Repotting should be done every two to three years.

Watering is another important aspect of care. Christmas Cacti don’t like to be constantly wet, but they also don’t like to be completely dry. During the growing season (spring and summer), water the plant when the top inch of soil feels dry to the touch. Reduce watering in the winter months, but make sure the soil doesn’t dry out completely.

Feeding your Christmas Cactus is also beneficial. Use a balanced, water-soluble fertilizer, diluted to half strength, every two to four weeks during the growing season. This will provide the necessary nutrients for healthy growth and blooming.

Another important factor to consider is the amount of light your Christmas Cactus receives. These plants thrive in bright, indirect light. Avoid placing them in direct sunlight, as this can cause sunburn. If your Christmas Cactus is not flowering, it may be due to low light conditions.

Finally, it’s important to create the right environment for your Christmas Cactus to bloom. To encourage blooming, the plant needs a period of darkness for at least 12-14 hours each night for about 6-8 weeks before its desired flowering time. This can be achieved by placing the plant in a dark room or covering it with a box or cloth.

In conclusion, caring for a Christmas Cactus involves providing it with well-drained soil, adequate watering, proper lighting, and a period of darkness to encourage blooming. With these conditions, your Christmas Cactus will thrive and bring joy to your holiday season for many years to come.

How should I water my Christmas cactus

Proper watering is essential for the health of your Christmas cactus. While this variety is known for its ability to withstand neglect, it still requires regular watering to thrive. Here’s how to water your Christmas cactus:

  1. Choose a well-draining potting mixture: Christmas cacti prefer a well-draining mixture to prevent waterlogged roots. A mixture of potting soil, sand, and pumice can work well.
  2. Water sparingly: Unlike other succulents, Christmas cacti do not store water in their leaves, so they require more frequent watering. Water your cactus thoroughly but allow the soil to dry out between waterings.
  3. Check the soil moisture: Before watering, check the moisture level of the soil by sticking your finger about an inch into the soil. If it feels slightly dry, it’s time to water. If it’s still moist, wait a little longer.
  4. Water from the bottom: To avoid overwatering and potential root damage, water the pot from the bottom. Place the Christmas cactus in a shallow tray filled with water and allow it to absorb moisture through the drainage holes. After about 30 minutes, remove the pot from the water and allow excess water to drain.
  5. Avoid standing water: Christmas cacti prefer slightly acidic soil, so it’s essential that the water you use is not alkaline. Tap water may contain high levels of minerals, which can be harmful to the plant. Using rainwater or distilled water is best.
  6. Observe the habitat: Christmas cacti are native to the shady forests of Brazil, where they grow as epiphytes in tree branches. Recreating a similar growing environment can be helpful. Provide them with bright, indirect sunlight and temperatures around 70°F (21°C) during the day and 60-65°F (15-18°C) at night.
  7. Repotting and growing media: Repotting should be done every 2-3 years to provide fresh nutrients and improve drainage. Use a well-draining, organic potting soil mix with a pH level of around 5.5-6.0. Adding organic matter, such as compost or leaf mold, can help nourish the plant.
  8. Prepare for blooming: To encourage blooming, Christmas cacti need a period of reduced moisture and light. Start this process in late September or early October by reducing water and light exposure. During this time, keep the plant in a cool spot, around 50-55°F (10-13°C), for about 6-8 weeks. After this period, gradually increase sunlight and water to stimulate blooming.

By following these watering guidelines, you can help your Christmas cactus thrive and ensure beautiful blooms for years to come!

For more information on caring for Christmas cacti, check with your local extension office or gardening programs.

✿ Read More About Cacti and Succulents.

Dr Heidi Parkes

By Dr Heidi Parkes

Senior Information Extension Officer QLD Dept of Agriculture & Fisheries.