Easy Christmas Cactus Care tips to grow happy healthy plants.
Christmas cactus care is easy for beginners. This is how you can get loads of blooms and healthy plants year-round!
I have the Thanksgiving (schlumbergera truncata) and Christmas Cactus (schlumbergera x buckleyi) plants. Another name for them is Zygo cactus, both are treated the same. I have yet to try the Easter Cactus.
You will often see Thanksgiving Cactus sold as Christmas Cactus during the winter holiday season.
Nothing beats these beautiful plants for bright winter blooms in your home. Today you will learn how to give them proper care for tons of blooms, and years of enjoyment.
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 begin blooming in November.
That is in the Northern Hemisphere, in Brazil, their native territory, these are called May Flowers since they bloom in May there.
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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 encourage your Christmas Cactus to bloom
- Pruning Christmas cactus
Christmas Cactus Soil
The best thing for any plant whether indoors or out is the proper soil.
Typically I use regular quality potting soil or my DIY Potting soil and add 1/3 builders sand or horticultural sand to it for a well-draining mix. Sometimes I just use straight good quality potting soil.
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.
When kept outside during the summer they needed water more often, just like 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 in avoiding root rot which can occur with excess water.
Christmas Cactus Fertilizer
When do you feed your Christmas cactus?
The so-called experts tell you to stop feeding in late summer and 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.
Zygocactus are not the same as dry desert cacti, they are tropical and do not take the same care. Most cactus fertilizers are geared toward desert cacti.
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. Mine have done well in an east-facing window.
Direct sun can burn the leaf segments of the plant, it will 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.
Though growing as indoor plants I have found that they love being outside during the summer time of year.
Put them in a shady yet bright location. Mine are on my side-covered porch and I kept some in my greenhouse during the summer months.
I have also noted that the Christmas – Thanksgiving cactus plants I have in windows that get bright light will bloom much more prolifically as opposed to a north-facing window.
Big temperature changes can cause the cactus blossoms to drop before they open. They bloom longest in cooler temperatures. The optimal temp for Christmas cacti is 60-70 degrees F.
The Christmas and Thanksgiving cacti love high humidity. These epiphytes are tropical plants, not desert plants and they thrive in humid conditions.
Some say to mist your plants but that 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 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.
Encourage Christmas Cactus to Bloom
Christmas cactus flowers better when slightly pot-bound or crowded and don’t usually need repotting. (Once every three years at the very most.)
get consistent results!
Get These Plants to Bloom Reliably Every Year!
I share my best tips and tricks to get massive amounts of blooms each year. I don’t follow the typical advice!
Hop on over and see what works best for me plus it is just easier.
If you do re-pot your cactus, the best time is when it’s not blooming.
I shared how I get consistent blooms from my Christmas and Thanksgiving Cactus here, but if you want to go about it differently, you can try what many others say works.
About Oct. 1 set your Christmas cactus in a room where you never turn the lights on at night.
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, 50 to 55 degrees.
Some cover their plant with a paper bag each evening and remove it in the morning to give them the darkness it needs.
Those techniques are much to fussy for me, I am a lazy gardener and need quick and easy.
Just remember, it also should have cooler temps to set a good amount of buds.
Pruning Christmas Cactus
I have an entire post dedicated to the pruning of these plants. This is a good time to make new 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 cacti 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 contaminated potting soil when I potted it up last Summer. See all about the latest and greatest contamination that you may encounter one day.
Common questions about Zygocactus – Christmas Cactus
How often do you water Christmas cacti?
As needed. The best way to gauge is to use a Moisture Meter. Let your plant dry out between waterings and avoid too much water.
Zygocactus do like bright indirect light but not direct hot 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.
I have some in a window that gets just a little bit of direct sun in the winter when it is weaker, you will see in my video at the end of this post.
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.
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 the 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.
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- Christmas Cactus Plant
- Pot or Container
- Plant in a lightweight, free-draining soil, such as a succulent or cactus mix or
African violet mix, in a pot with drainage holes.
- 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
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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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