Tips for Caring for Your Christmas Cactus

Updated: Mar. 09, 2023

Learn how to care for a Christmas cactus to ensure it blooms in time for the holidays.

The Christmas cactus is a lovely houseplant found all over the United States. This low-maintenance and pet-friendly plant is a popular choice among novice and expert gardeners, and its brilliant—usually pink—blooms delight onlookers year after year.

There are a few things you’ll need to do to help your Christmas cactus flower. When cared for correctly, these green beauties flourish indoors, growing to incredible sizes.

Is the Christmas Cactus Actually a Cactus?

Yes, it is, but it is much different from desert cacti like the golden barrel cactus. The Christmas cactus is a tropical plant native to Brazil, so it likes more water and humidity than the average cactus. If you tend to overwater other cacti, a Christmas cactus might be a better option for you. Did you know there’s such a thing as Thanksgiving cactus?

How to Care for a Christmas Cactus: Lighting

A Christmas cactus prefers indirect light. That’s one of the reasons it is such a common indoor plant. Miracle-Gro recommends placing your Christmas cactus near a north- or east-facing window. A Christmas cactus can tolerate some direct sunlight, but be careful about placing it in the hot afternoon sun. Too much light will cause discoloration in the leaves. Also, learn how to care for an Easter cactus.

If you notice burning, move it away from the window. Christmas cactus blossoms fall off easily, so try to find the right lighting during its growth season to avoid moving the plant while it flowers. Also, learn how to care for poinsettias, one of the most popular Christmas flowers and plants.

How to Care for a Christmas Cactus: Water

A Christmas cactus needs plenty of food and water. Plant it in well-draining soil, then water when the top one or two inches are dry. Use Miracle-Gro Succulent Plant Food or a similar product between blooms to fuel fresh bud growth. Adding humidity to a dry home will also help your cactus thrive, especially in the winter. Here are some of the easiest houseplants to care for.

Make a Christmas Cactus Bloom

Colorful flowers make the Christmas cactus a showstopper, and it will bloom more than once with the proper care.

Start by planting your cactus in the right pot. If the pot is too large, you’ll have fewer flowers, so don’t size up by more than a couple of inches. Don’t re-pot while it blooms or you’ll lose all the flowers. A Christmas cactus likes crowded roots, so you won’t need to re-pot very often.

The Chicago Botanic Garden explains that a Christmas cactus’ bloom cycle depends on temperature and lighting cues. Decide when you would like your plant to flower. Start preparing eight weeks before your chosen date. For six weeks, give your plant 13 to 15 hours of darkness per day, or keep it in a cool environment at night. When you return the Christmas cactus to warmer temperatures and brighter light, flower buds will form—just in time for the holidays.

Next, read up on the houseplants that can spruce up your home in the new year.

The Family Handyman
Originally Published on The Family Handyman