easy Christmas Cactus Care

Easy Christmas Cactus Care tips to grow happy healthy plants. Zygo cactus care is easy for beginners.  This is how you can get loads of blooms and healthy plants year-round!

Easy Christmas Cactus care tips and tricks for healthy, happy, and repeat blooming plants. I have both the Thanksgiving and Christmas Cactus plants which are also called Zygo cactus and they are treated the same. You will often see Thanksgiving Cactus sold as Christmas Cactus during the winter season.

See this article if you want to know about the types of Christmas Cactus.

Nothing beats these cacti for bright winter blooms in your home.  I share how I keep mine healthy for tons of blooms! And years of enjoyment. Do keep in mind that Zygo cactus aka Christmas Cactus is an epiphyte and not a true cactus.

Just as a quick reference, Christmas Cactus plants bloom in December and Thanksgiving Cactus typically starts to bloom in November. That is in the Northern Hemisphere, in Brazil, their native territory, these are called May Flowers since they bloom in May there.

Blooming Christmas Cactus on Shelf, flowerpatchfarmhouse.com
True Christmas Cactus

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How to care for Christmas Cactus – Zygocactus –

Today you will learn..

  • Best soil for Christmas cactus
  • How to Water
  • Christmas Cactus fertilizer tips
  • How much sun or light do they need
  • Best humidity levels
  • How to encourge your Christmas Cactus to bloom
  • Pruning Christmas cactus
  • Repotting

Christmas Cactus Soil

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

Plant your Christmas cactus in rich yet 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. 

Terra Cotta pots have lots of benefits as planters and I tell you why in this post.

Christmas Cactus Watering

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 but if outdoors and it is especially hot then I water once a week. If you want to be more precise I have found using this Moisture Meter very helpful.

Christmas Cactus Fertilizer

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. So you choose what you prefer to do.

You can use a well balanced organic plant food like this one. 

Zygocactus are not the same as dry desert cactus, they are 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 location. 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 brighter light will bloom much more prolifically as opposed to a north-facing window. 

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

Thanksgiving Christmas Cactus in Graniteware tub, FlowerPatchFarmhouse.com

Provide Humidity

The Christmas and Thanksgiving cactus love humidity. 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. This method has been disputed as to providing enough humidity but so far it has helped in my home.

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.

This year I have added this humidifier in my office, where I keep many of my houseplants and I can see a difference in their health.

Thanksgiving Cactus blooming in Pink and White, FlowerPatchFarmhouse.com

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 the 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.  

Instead of placing them in a room I recently spoke with someone who put a brown paper grocery bag over her Christmas Cactus plant. She would lift the bag off for a few hours per day if she thought of it. This way it got the dark period without having to move it. I thought I might give this a try to see how well it works for me.

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

Unless your zygocactus is struggling repotting is optional. Many people don’t bother repotting their plants. I know 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 mentioned earlier in this post.

Pot up into a slightly larger pot, don’t go big! Christmas cactus like to be somewhat 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 to not interrupt next season’s blooms. That means you should try to re-pot not long after it has finished blooming. When 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.

Common questions about Zygocactus – Christmas Cactus

How often do you water Christmas cactus?

As needed. The best way to gauge is to use a Moisture Meter. Let your plant dry out between waterings. When your cacti need water, give it enough to run through the pot. Let the plant absorb the water that runs through into the tray for half an hour, then drain off any excess.

Do Christmas cactus need a lot of sun?

Zygocactus do like bright indirect light but not direct sun. Direct sun will cause leaf scald and burn the fleshly leaves. You will know that they are getting too much sun if they start to turn red or develop tan blotches on the leaves.

How do I keep my Christmas cactus blooming?

You will read many methods but first, you need to know that true Christmas cactus typically bloom just one time, though it can spread over several weeks. The Thanksgiving Cactus can bloom numerous times from late Fall on into Summer if given the right conditions. See the section above on how to Encourage Christmas Cactus to bloom.

Do you water a Christmas cactus from the top or bottom?

You can choose either. But just be sure to not let the plant sit in the water for more than half an hour.

How many times a year does a Christmas cactus bloom?

See answer to How to keep Christmas Cactus blooming.

Do Christmas cactus like bathrooms?

Zygocactus love humidity so keeping them in a bathroom is great if that location also meets its other needs.

Exotic Dancer Thanksgiving Cactus in bloom

Happy Gardening!

easy Christmas Cactus Care

Red christmas cactus, Thanksgiving cactus, How to Propagate Christmas Cactus (including Thanksgiving) from cuttings.  Rooting cuttings is super fast and easy with Schlumbergera. in bloom

How to Care for a Christmas Cactus for years of enjoyment.

Prep Time 5 minutes
Active Time 5 minutes
Difficulty Easy

Materials

  • Christmas Cactus Plant
  • Soil
  • Pot or Container
  • Water
  • Fertilizer

Instructions

    1. Plant in a lightweight, free-draining soil, such as a succulent or cactus mix or
      African violet mix, in a pot with drainage holes.
    2. Water it thoroughly and regularly, letting the top inch of soil dry out between
      watering. Feed during the active growing season. Late Winter Late Summer
    3. Christmas cactus flowers best when slightly crowded and doesn’t usually need repotting. (Once every three years at the very most.) If you do repot your cactus, do so when it’s not blooming.
    4. If you did not set your Christmas Cactus outside for the summer then about October 1 set your plant in a dark room or cover with a large paper bag. For flower buds to set, Christmas Cactus need 14 hours or more of continuous darkness per day
    5. 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.
    6. Keeping your Christmas cactus plants in an indirect sunny location indoors is the key to prolonged blooms. During the summer put them outside in a shady spot.
    7. Christmas cactus will blossom longer when exposed to only cool temperatures. Big changes in temperature can cause the cactus blossoms to drop before they open. The optimal temp for Christmas cacti is 68 70 degrees F.
    8. The Christmas cactus loves humidity. These epiphytes (not really a cactus) are tropical plants, they thrive in humid conditions. Place pot on stones with water beneath to create humid environment if you live in dry climate. Or invest in a humidifier.

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6 Comments

  1. 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

  2. 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?

    1. 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.

  3. 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…

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