Beloved by generations of houseplant lovers, Christmas Cactus delight us with bright colored blossoms in the dark days of winter when little else is in bloom. Easy to grow and long lived, they can be easily forced into blooming.
Unlike desert cacti, Christmas Cactus are epiphytes* native to tropical Central and South America and grow in the same environment as orchids. They are at home growing in tree limbs with their roots in decaying leaves. They enjoy high humidity, along with consistent moisture.
As houseplants, replicating their home environment is the key to happy Christmas Cactus.
*Ephiphytes are plants that grow on other plants but are not parasitic, such as ferns, bromeliads, air plants, and orchids growing on tree trunks in tropical rain forests.
Light: Indoors plants prefer bright, indirect light. Place near a window, but away from direct light. During summer months place plants outside in a shady location. Bring plants back inside before the first frost.
Water: Christmas Cactus prefer moist soil, but not soggy. After flowering, stop watering for 30 days. Resume watering when you see new growth.
Soil: Potting soil should be well drained. Mix 1 part potting soil with 1 part fir bark, or 3 parts potting soil to 1 part sand.
Humidity: Christmas Cactus prefer 50-60% humidity. Place pot on top of a dish of wet pebbles. Pot should not be sitting in water.
Temperature: To set flower buds, Christmas Cactus needs cool 60-65 F days and 45-55 F nights. Keep your plants in a spot away from cold drafts, heating ducts and fireplaces.
Fertilizer: Christmas Cactus that are growing and blooming benefit from all purpose fertilizer applications. Follow manufacturer’s instructions. When plants stop blooming they will enter a 4-6 week resting period and should not be fertilized at this time. When plants begin to put out new growth, fertilizing should resume.
Pruning: To encourage new branches, prune plants after their rest period. Plants should not be pruned while blooming.
Forcing Christmas Cactus Into Bloom
Short, cooler days are needed to bring Christmas Cactus into bloom. They also require 12 hours of darkness and less water. 6-8 weeks before you want your Christmas Cactus to bloom begin dark treatments.
- Place plants in a cool environment, 60-65 F days and 45-55 F nights.
- Place plants where they receive total darkness for 12 hours or more a day.
- Water sparingly, keeping soil barely moist.
- Once flower buds start forming you can increase watering.
After blooming, Christmas Cactus will enter a rest period for 4-6 weeks. Do not water or fertilize at this time. Resume watering and fertilizing when new growth appears.
Reasons Flower Buds Fall Off
- Too much water. Buds, flowers and leaves will fall off if roots are too saturated.
- Not enough humidity.
- Insufficient light.