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Best Christmas Cactus Care Tips

Best Christmas Cactus Care Tips. How to grow Christmas cactus successfully.  I share how I get loads of blooms and healthy plants year round!

My best Christmas cactus care tips. I have both the Thanksgiving and Christmas Cactus plants and I treat them the same.

See this article if you want to know the difference between Christmas and Thanksgiving Cactus. They are also called Zygo cactus.

I have included a downloadable check list with this info for easy reference. It is in the Resource Library. 

If you are not already a subscriber just fill out the form below to get access to all the handy resources including this check list.

Christmas cactus blooming in centerpiece,

Nothing beats holiday cactus for bright winter blooms in your home.  I share how I keep mine healthy for tons of blooms! And years of enjoyment.

Blooming Christmas Cactus on Shelf,

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Related: Grow in the Dark, best house plants for low light conditions.

How to Grow Christmas Cactus

Today you will learn..

  • Best soil for Christmas cactus
  • How to water them
  • What and when to feed Zygo Cactus
  • How much light do they need
  • Best humidity levels
  • How to help them bloom
  • Pruning Christmas cactus
  • Repotting

Best Soil for Christmas Cactus

The best thing for any plant whether indoors or out is the right soil.

Plant your Christmas cactus in a light-weight, free-draining soil, such as a succulent, cactus mix or African violet mix. Make sure to use a pot with drainage holes.

Typically I just use a regular good quality potting soil or my DIY Potting soil and add 1/3 builders sand or horticultural sand to it for a well draining mix. 

I prefer Terra Cotta pots and I tell you why in this post.


Water thoroughly and regularly, letting the top inch of soil dry out between watering. The ones I have in Terra Cotta pots are easy to spot when they need water, you can see where the soil is damp on the outside of the pot.

The plants I kept outside needed water more often, just like my other potted plants. For best performance it is important not to underwater these plants or let them sit in water.

For me watering my indoor Christmas cactus every other week has worked well.

Feed Your Christmas Cactus

When do you feed your Christmas cactus? 

The so called experts tell you to stop feeding in late summer then begin again after they start to put on new growth in late winter.

Personally I feed year round every other week with a balanced fertilizer. I do make it a bit weaker in winter as I do all my house plants.

Use a well balance organic plant food like this one

Balanced means when the NPK numbers read like this, 2-2-2 or 20-20-20.   These are not the same as dry desert cactus, they are a tropical and do not take the same care. Most cactus fertilizers are geared toward desert cactus. 

How much light does Christmas Cactus need?

To get your holiday cactus to grow and flourish you need to place them in a bright place that gets indirect sunlight. Direct sun can burn the leaf segments of the plant, it will actually turn red if it gets too much heat or sun.

If you do not have a good bright spot for your Christmas cactus you may wish to try grow lights. These can be especially helpful if you live in a region that gets less than 8 hours of daylight in the winter months.

I have found that these plants love being outside during the summer. Put them in a shady yet bright locations. Mine are on my side covered porch and I kept some in my greenhouse all summer. 

If your plant is getting overgrown or larger than you wish then give it a good prune, I show you how here.

holiday cactus in table center piece

I have also noted that the Christmas – Thanksgiving cactus plants I have in windows that get bright light as opposed to a northern facing window will bloom much more prolifically. 

Big changes in temperature can cause the cactus blossoms to drop before they open. Optimal temp for Christmas cacti is 68-70 degrees F.

Thanksgiving Christmas Cactus in Graniteware tub,

Provide Humidity

The Christmas and Thanksgiving cactus love humidity. At least 50 to 60% levels.

These epiphytes are tropical plants not desert plants and they thrive in humid conditions.

Some say to mist your plants but that really does not do much. If your environment is dry that will last about 2 seconds. Place your Christmas cactus pot on stones with water beneath to create humid a environment if you live in a dry environment or if you heat or cool your house with HVAC.

I use these window sill plant trays. There are bottoms on my pots so I just fill the trays with water and set my potted Christmas cactus in them. I have seen a dramatic improvement in my plants since doing this. Or I recycle jar lids to lift the pot up out of the water.

Thanksgiving Cactus blooming in Pink and White,

Encourage Christmas Cactus to Bloom

Christmas cactus flowers best when slightly pot bound or crowded and doesn’t usually need repotting. (Once every three years at the very most.)

If you do re pot your cactus, do so when it’s not blooming.

About Oct. 1 set your Christmas cactus in a room where you never turn the lights on at night. (I keep mine outside and bring them in before first frost or freeze this gets them started with the dark periods it needs to bloom well).

For the flower buds to set, Christmas cacti need 12 – 14 hours of continuous darkness per day.

After the flower buds have set, the plants can withstand light at night. Cool night temperatures also encourage bloom but they don’t like it below 50 degrees F.

Just a note: I have found that all my Christmas/Thanksgiving cactus I keep outside during the summer bloom much heavier and more reliably than the ones left inside the house.  

Pruning Christmas Cactus

I have an entire post dedicated to the pruning of these plants. Please visit there to get a step by step guide and free video on the best way to prune Christmas Cactus.

Repotting Christmas Cactus

Many people don’t bother repotting their plants. I now people who have 30, 40 and 50 year old plants that are huge and have never repotted them.

But if yours needs re-potting be sure and use the correct potting soil as I mentioned at the beginning of this post.

Pot up into a slightly larger pot, don’t go big! Christmas cactus like to be slightly root bound to bloom well.

Repot anytime if you see your plant is in distress and you don’t know how else to fix it.

If you have a choice, make sure and not interrupt next seasons blooms, try to re pot not long after it has finished blooming. This depends on the plant, whether a Thanksgiving or Christmas cactus.

There is no hard and fast rule. It is almost March for me right now and I plan on potting up a cactus that seems to be struggling and I don’t know why. I have ruled out Fungus Gnats and Spider mites so who knows.

I may have used a contaminated potting soil when I potted it up last Summer. See all about the latest and greatest contaminate that you may encounter one day.

Enjoy your Christmas/Thankgiving cactus!

Want to download a printable checklist of these tips for easy reference?

It is ready for you in the Resource Library. If you are a subscriber your Password is in your latest email.

Happy Gardening!

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Sunday 13th of December 2020

great info thank you

Patricia Benson

Sunday 10th of November 2019

I've always sent my plants to Summer Camp for the warm months...bring them in at the first hint of freezing temps...water it and put it someplace w some sun...and voila la...buds...lve just gotten a supermarket orchid thru summer...I have new growth...first one I haven't killed...


Saturday 12th of October 2019

I purchased a white Christmas Cactus, last December. And, knew nothing about taking care of this plant, all the buds fell off. With your information I am hoping I know what to do now, but have one question. Should the plant be watered during the total dark period?


Sunday 13th of October 2019

I water them as much as they need without overdoing it. Since mine are in the house it is the same year round. How often can depend on your home temperatures and humidity levels. I don't have a total dark period as some do so I don't really know about that.


Wednesday 18th of September 2019

I am just now starting a plant of my own off of my grandmother's plant, the original plant is over 100 years old! It has been passed down through a few generations


Friday 19th of July 2019

Thanks so much for the information

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