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Care for a Christmas Cactus

Care for a Christmas Cactus

The Christmas cactus is a favorite holiday plant. The delicate white or pink blooms are a contrast to the otherwise somewhat plain appearance of the plant itself.


The Bloom Cycle of a Christmas Cactus

This plant (Schlumbergera bridesii or Schlumbergera truncata), although known as cactus, is really a succulent, having its origins in the tropics. Like the poinsettia, the Christmas cactus needs to follow a pretty strict regimen in the fall in order to bloom at holiday time. In order for the plant to form flower buds for holiday blooms, it needs extended darkness for at least four weeks prior.


Step 1

In late September or early October, place the plant in a dark room or keep covered (under a box or bag works fine) for at least 12 hours a day.


Step 2

When the tiny buds appear (after three to four weeks), the light/dark schedule can cease.


Step 3

As the buds get bigger, move the plant to its "display area", avoiding extreme temperature or lighting changes.


Step 4

Continue to water and feed while budding and blooming.



General Tips for Growing a Christmas Cactus

When growing and displaying your cacti:

  • Keep them potbound in sandy soil.
  • Water only when the soil is completely dry.
  • Provide some humidity to the environment.
  • Don't worry if some of the buds drop off - it's natural for the plant to lose a few.
  • Keep the temperature above 70°F in the daytime, from 55°F - 65°F at night.

No matter what regimen you use or how strictly you adhere to it, the bloom time may vary based on the variety. Whether or not it blooms right on time for the holidays, you still have a treat to look forward to.



Yearly Plant Care Schedule for a Christmas Cactus

Spring - Fertilize after flowering.

Summer - Move outdoors to shady area. Maintain water and fertilizer.

Fall - Move indoors before frost. Maintain drier soil. Start the budding regimen in September.

Winter - Put it in a location where it will get four to six hours of indirect sunlight. Keep soil moist. Do not let the air get too dry.