Houseplant Care Tips

Various Houseplant Care Tips Including Watering and Lighting Requirements.

Houseplant Care Tips

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Christmas Cactus Plant Care

Common Name: Christmas Cactus, Thanksgiving Cactus, Holiday Cactus
Scientific Name: Schlumbergera bridgesii
Lighting: Moderate to Bright
Water: Low to Moderate

Christmas Cactus

Christmas Cactus plants are characterized by flat green foliage, which blooms periodically. Blooms are tubular in shape and can be in shades of reds, pinks, whites and yellows. These houseplants are extremely easy to care for. The trick comes in getting them to bloom.

Christmas Cactus prefer high amounts of indirect sunlight. Too much direct sunlight can burn the plant. These plants will grow in lower light levels; however will do much better in a more lighted location. A plant that receives its preferred light level will usually have more flowers during its blooming period. As with all houseplants, be sure to keep away from drafts, heating / cooling sources.

Even though its name contains Cactus, a Christmas Cactus is not a true cactus. Allow the soil to dry out in-between watering however do not let it dry completely. If your plant is not looking up to par, it is probably due to incorrect watering. I water mine thoroughly once every two weeks, however this will vary depending on your location of the plant.

To get your Christmas Cactus to bloom depends with the amount of sunlight it receives and temperatures. Temperature is a much harder variable to control. Most sources I've read have said you need a temperature range of 55 to 60 degrees for 4 to 6 weeks. However, temperature is something I don't have much control over so I use the following more common method to get my Christmas Cactus to bloom. Place your Christmas Cactus in complete darkness until buds develop. I use my spare room closet because no one is opening and closing it. If you are looking to have a beautiful bloomed plant by the holiday season, place your plant in darkness in mid to late October.

One pest that is common in this plant are mealy bugs. They are attracted to the sap of these cacti and will suck the sap. If you see the appearance of white bugs on your plant, try spraying with a soapy dishwater mixture twice a day. If within a week the bugs still remain, go to your local garden center to find the right spray to kill them.

Overall, this is a good choice for beginners or those without a great deal of time. View my list of easy to grow houseplants for other plant choices.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have a question about my christmas cactus. I received a cutting almost 2 years ago, planted it in a potting mix and have kept it watered, but not too wet. My issue is that it has done absolutely nothing. I did not put it away in the dark to bloom, but it has not grown at all. Any advice? Can I fertillize?

5:13 PM  
Blogger drayas said...


I use Miracle Gro's Houseplant food about once a month. You just mix it with the water. I have actually never put mine in the dark either. It seems if I forget to water it for awhile it seems to then bloom after I water it again. So usually if I want it to bloom, I won't water it for about 2 weeks. Then when I water it, the plant starts blooming again.

In terms of growth however, mine has not grown in size at all really. I've had it for a couple years now.


8:12 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I recived a cutting about two months ago, and ever since I've planted it at school it has grown to about almost tripple it's original size. I did not use a mix for the soil, but there has been a fertilizer in the water that we used. I cannot tell you the name of the fertilizer because I really don't know it. But, it has been doing alright to me. Our also never bloom because to get it to sprout more secure roots, we plucked off the flowering budds. It has a few smaller budds, but I am not sure if they are flowers or not. Not sure if that helps or not. I thought it might be at least a little bit helpful.

6:29 PM  
Anonymous Joann said...

I have a Christmas cactus that hasn't bloomed in a long time. The leaves toward the base of the plant don't look healthy, they are dull ans light green. There are areas of new growth that are green and shiny. I am not sure what I am doing wrong. I repotted it last year, I water once a week, and it is in a window that gets morning sun and light. I use a plant food every couple of waterings. Any ideas?

3:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have a christmas catcus I have had for 2 yrs its beautifull it has triple in size and is healty all over I have baby this plant ever since I got it..I have it in a clay pot..But it never has bloomed I want it to bloom all my other friends plants has blooms on it but mine does not and they keep it in their windows..I dont know what to do to make it bloom..They have never put theirs in darkness so I dont know what Im doing wrong please help me I just want blooms!!!!! I love this plant HELP PLEASE

6:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

in order for this plant to bloom it needs to be in a small pot so that it can be root bound. mine is very small (5-7 leaves long/section) and it had 4 large flowers on it!

4:36 PM  
Blogger ladylovebird said...

i have 3 Christmas cactus' from last year that i put outside under a tree in my backyard after they stopped blooming. they received partial shade all year. i left them alone for the year, and they received water about 1-2 times a week (with my sprinkler system) and they all bloomed again for this Christmas. i think it is very important that they DO NOT get artificial light during the months of September/October, because i had a small one that i kept inside in a room with natural and artificial light and it did not bloom. i am going to try and repot them in new fertile soil, and start some cuttings for next year. i live in Florida, and i don't get too much cold weather in the fall, and they still bloomed on time. not very scientific, but maybe they just don't like to be fussed over too much? happy gardening and good luck!!

7:07 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mine blooms every year at around the same time, we keep our house pretty cool in the winter and I leave it in the bathroom we don't use, it gets a good amount of natural light during the day, as well as being uneffected by artifical light at night. Initially when putting it there I was striving to create an enviroment as natural as possible since I have read that is difficult to get them to bloom in artifical conditions. I took some cuttings last year after blooming and the cuttings all have buds on them now. The parent plant is still blooming, been about 3 weeks now.

5:34 PM  
Anonymous Nic said...

I have found that Christmas cactus are very unlikely to bloom ever if they are over watered at all, maybe watering them every two weeks instead of every week, would help.
My grandmother kept two Christmas Cacti for very long, not sure how long exactly, she had them bloom twice a year every year, I continued that for some time after her death trying not to water them more than monthly unless it was rather hot.
I have a question though, I have never managed to get a cutting to live, how can I make it grow roots?

10:01 PM  
Blogger L'inspiratrice said...

I have this plant since 2000, and it has been kept in the same pot , same soil , no holes in the pot , i water it once every 2 or 3 weeks , and it s been slowly growing , but surely , never bloomed , i know i don t know much about this , but i m willing to learn , and do all tips u give me , thkx .

5:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I had exactly the same experience. I just left in my kitchen windowsill, & watered it once in a while. It stayed green, so I just kept up what I was doing. After 2 1/2 years, I noticed it had 2 more little sections! It's been about 2 more years, & it is about 3" tall with 5 or 6 segments. I am going to try to have it bloom this year. I guess my only advice is PATIENCE! (And some love, and I told it how beautiful it is everyday!)

2:29 PM  
Blogger Sheila said...

For what it's worth, my Christmas Cactus has outgrown it's pot ... again. I have 4 different colors in a 12 inch pot. After danger of freezing weather I place it outside on an East porch. It remains there until there is danger of temperatures below 40. While it is outside I water it when other outdoor things get watered and of course when it rains. I use Miracle Gro houseplant food about every 2 months. When I bring it in, about mid October, I put it in a bright location. By Thanksgiving it is bursting with colorful blooms. I am getting ready to divide it into 2 pots. It is about 5 years old and this is the 3rd time I have had to make more room for it to grow.

4:27 PM  
Anonymous dhopinco said...

I have a Christmas cactus that blooms about every 3 to 4 months. It had about 20 some flowers on it back in the beginning of December and it has more then 20 buds and flowers on it right now. A piece broke of of it a while ago and I just put it in a pot with some potting soil and it has even bloomed, the piece was very small and had two flowers on it. I know that I tend to forget about it for a while between waterings. I probably water about every two weeks, but then I water it really good. I have the large plant in my bedroom window facing the West, with a large tree outside, so it never get any direct sunlight. The smaller piece sets in my kitchen window with all of my Africian Violets, that window faces East, with a large tree outside. It gets a little sunlight in the morning, but not alot. I live in Colorado, so they never get put outside. I have been very happy with all the beautiful flowers several times a year.

2:40 PM  
Blogger junebugg said...

Hi i recieved a Christmas cactus from a friend that blooms all colors on the one plant yellow ,pink, purple white and some are mixed,but my question is when i transplant to a bigger pot,can i separate it into two plants without damaging it? Thank you for any tips or help you can give me. junbugg

4:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have had the same Christmas Catus for about 40 years when my husband brought home a cutting from a class on flowers he took at the local school. I put it outside from May - September under a bush. When I take it in I only water it about every two weeks. It has bloomed every year in Nov and Dec and sometimes into Jan. It is huge and is in a 12 inch pot

12:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have a ten-year-old Christmas Cactus that has outgrown a huge pot and I have nowhere in my house to put a larger pot. I want to know if it can be pruned back. If so, when is the best time to do this? When the blooms are finished?

6:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have a Christmas cactus which is about 10 years old. I repotted it over the summer and since then I have leaves turning yellow and falling off. It still blooms and produces new leaves. I used a cactus soil mix. Does anyone know what is wrong?

10:55 PM  
Anonymous Janice said...

HELP......I got this Christmas Cactus plant in November. It was beautiful when I got it and now all the greenery is falling off. I have been feeding it once a month and might water it every other week. I have moved it to a cooler area. What else should I do??? I'm very sad about this. HELP PLEASE!

7:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is march and my Christmas cactus has been blooming since Thanksgiving,is this normal?

12:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

While I was out of town, a few stems mysteriously broke off my Christmas Cactus. Do I need to put them in water until they grow roots and then plant or just plant them now as is? Also, does the cactus plant prefer to be in tight surroundings or a pot with room to grow? Thanks for any help on this!!!

2:14 PM  
Blogger Cheryl Groat said...

I have found that if you put your Christmas Cactus outside in fall, before frosts hit,you can get it to bloom. It needs cool nights(50's) and moderate-to-hot (70-80). Watch for buds-about a week. I tried it for the first time, last month and was shocked to see buds.I had it out for the summer,except when it was drought-hot.I may put it back out for more buds if this cold snap stops.I certainly don't want it to freeze.

3:59 AM  
Anonymous Terri R said...

I have had my Christmas Cactus for a year now, it has no new growth at all!!! I have no idea what to do with it? Do I clip it back a little? If so, how do you do it? I am open to any suggestions anyone has. Thanks

7:08 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just have 1 segment of a Christmas Cactus in a small container on my windowsill . I've had it for about a month, and it's turning a pale green, drooping, and the tops are turning yellow! Help! I do live in Saskatchewan, and it's the middle of winter, so that probably has something to do with it.

7:44 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i had 2 took 1 to a freinds and forgot it in a storm that rained for a week strait. strangly it LOVED it once the sun came out it grow like 20 more arms so i took my other out and watered it and left it in the sun. that night i looked it had all turned white on the top of the leave s this sunburn or what .... the 1 at my freind went though hell of alot of wind rain and cold but grow great why is the 1 i took out my house turning white and droopy?

5:31 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have found that my Christmas cactus does really well in a south window. for new cuttings start out with a small flowerpot and replant to bigger and bigger as the plant grows. They grow better if slightly pot bound. I get mine to bloom by putting in closet around October and don't water it either. I take it out of the closet around Thanksgiving time, water it and watch it do its' thing. Will have a full plant of blooms by Xmas

4:01 PM  
Anonymous Mae said...

After transplanting my Xmas cactus the leaves are falling off almost daily. Help please.

11:09 AM  

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