Durable and beautiful, the Christmas Cactus is a glorious balance of hardy succulent leaves and vibrant, delicate flowers. With proper care, this is a plant that will look beautiful in any room — and has a lot of benefits in each area, too! They will help you stay focused for work on your desk or keep your air filtered by your bedside at night. This versatile plant will live decades and decades — with the right Christmas Cactus care.
Find out what it takes to make this plant bloom and keep it vibrant, stunning, and healthy.
What is a Christmas Cactus?
The Christmas Cactus (or Schlumbergera bridgessii, if you want to get sciency) is a popular houseplant that flowers in the winter, just in time for its namesake holiday. This gorgeous succulent can live up to 100 years when properly cared for.
The Christmas Cactus comes from the humid forests of Brazil. Their leaf segments are quite unique, oval with teeth along the sides. This cactus has flowers that can come in pink, red, and white. Their durability and unique features make them a beloved holiday gift.
They are also an easy plant to propagate, which means the more the merrier!
Are Christmas Cactus Easy to Care For?
The Christmas Cactus can live for decades and decades if given proper care. Luckily, their required care is quite simple! This houseplant thrives in most average living conditions indoors. Just make sure to avoid overwatering them and keep the soil a bit moist!
What Are the Benefits of Christmas Cactus?
The Christmas Cactus is more than just a beautiful plant to look at. This succulent is also known to release oxygen at night, which means it can improve the air quality of any room it’s in. It’s possible that your plant may help you recover from illness faster, too, so keep one on your nightstand!
But let’s not underestimate the benefits that come from this plant’s appearance. Plants are proven to keep people inspired and motivated, so put this colorful cactus on your desk while you’re working. You will most likely notice your attention sharpening. Some research shows that plants can also reduce stress!
How to Care for a Christmas Cactus
As stated earlier, the Christmas Cactus is surprisingly easy to care for. Let’s take a closer look at how you can make sure yours stays thriving for decades.
Finding the Right Pot
Christmas Cactus should be put in a pot that has drainage holes on the bottom. This prevents the soil from getting too wet, which can harm the plant. Watering your plant without giving it an opportunity to absorb the water then breathe can lead to drowning.
Choosing the Right Soil
Most plant experts would suggest using potting mixes meant for succulents. These soils ensure that the pot will drain well and your Christmas Cactus won’t drown in wet soil. If your soil is too wet, you’ll notice limp leaves. Some might even start to fall off.
How Often Do You Water a Christmas Cactus?
As you may have implied from the “cactus” in its name, the Christmas Cactus doesn’t need a lot of watering. But it still needs the wet stuff to live. Plan to water your plant every two to three weeks.
Before you water your Christmas Cactus, check that the top one-third of the soil is dry. Use a finger or toothpick to check. If the soil is dry, soak the soil until water runs through the pot’s drainage holes. When the Christmas Cactus is flowering, make sure it never goes too long without water!
Placement and Lighting
The Christmas Cactus should be kept in bright yet indirect light. A good spot is by an east-facing window. Too much direct sunlight can bleach their sensitive leaves. You’ll notice your plant getting a bit too pale.
Pruning Your Christmas Cactus
If you want to encourage branching and more flowers, try pruning them in the late spring. This can be done by simply cutting off a few sections of each stem.
The pieces you cut off don’t always have to be thrown away. Place them in moist potting soil. They will root easily. After a few weeks, you’ll have a baby Christmas Cactus. This makes for the perfect gift! Or just add some more of this beautiful plant to other rooms in your home.
Humidity and Temperature
The Christmas Cactus, if you remember, is from the humid forests of Brazil. If you want them to thrive, it’s best to try and recreate this atmosphere. If you want your succulent to have a humid environment, try putting them in the kitchen or bathroom. Don’t forget to mist your plant! The best temperature for the Christmas Cactus is about 70 degrees Fahrenheit. At night, it’s okay if it goes down to 60 or 65 degrees.
Feeding a Christmas Cactus
Christmas Cactus can be fed every two weeks with a diluted water-soluble fertilizer during the spring and summer. In the fall and winter, you can feed them monthly with the same balanced fertilizer. This will encourage successful blooming! Once you notice flower buds forming, withhold fertilizer until they bloom, then go back to monthly feeding.
How Do You Get a Christmas Cactus to Bloom?
It should take about six to eight weeks for buds to form. After that, it’s usually another four weeks until they bloom into vibrant flowers. But how do you encourage your Christmas Cactus to bloom effectively and properly?
The first step is to reduce watering. You will want to wait until the top inch of soil around the succulent is dry before you water your plant again. And when you do water it, give the plant enough water to make the soil only slightly damp.
The next step is to reduce the amount of light the Christmas Cactus gets. This might sound strange because most plants love light! But if the Christmas Cactus is placed in a dark area for 12 to 14 hours a day (including overnight) it will be more likely to encourage bud development.
This is another shocking step — reduce the temperature of your home. Bring it down to about 50 to 55 degrees during the day. You will want it around this temperature until the buds have fully formed.
How Big Can a Christmas Cactus Grow?
The Christmas Cactus isn’t the largest houseplant, making it the perfect addition to any room. The hanging branches can grow up to three feet long at their longest.
Common Christmas Cactus Issues
- Too much sun: The Christmas Cactus prefers bright, indirect light. Too much sun can leave the leaves discolored. This means either dark red if they burn or even a yellow, washed-out appearance. They will also start to wilt.
- Not enough water: This plant can also start to wilt if it’s not given enough water. Give your plant a light drink if you suspect it wasn’t getting enough water.
- Too much water: A Christmas Cactus with too much water in its soil will become soft and mushy. If you notice any problem areas, cut out the infected parts of the plant. Repot in clean soil.
- Blossom drop: Stress can often lead to your Christmas Cactus losing its blossoms. This might be due to a sudden change in temperature or the amount of light the plant is getting. Make sure the soil isn’t too dry while the buds are still forming.
How Do I Know if My Christmas Cactus is Dying?
Christmas Cactus can usually survive most situations — and come back even stronger with the right care. But sometimes the situation might become severe. If your Christmas Cactus smells bad (even foul) and the stem is rotting, that means that your Christmas Cactus is close to death. Most likely due to too much water.
If you notice these types of severe problems, remove infected areas immediately. Then repot your Christmas Cactus in fresh soil.
Final Thoughts – Christmas Cactus Care
The Christmas Cactus is beautiful, bright, and full of benefits. All you have to do is water it enough and make sure it has the right amount of light. It’s easy to take care of the Christmas Cactus if you’re aware of its needs. You’ll even have baby Christmas Cactus to give to your friends!