How to Get a Christmas Cactus to Bloom

A beautiful Christmas cactus in full bloom is a real showstopper. But getting your cactus to bloom can be tricky. With a little bit of patience and the following tips, you’ll have your Christmas cactus blooming year after year.

Christmas cacti are known for their beautiful flowers. However, getting your Christmas cactus to bloom can be a bit of a challenge. Today, we will discuss some tips I have learned from experience on how to get your Christmas cactus to bloom reliably. Keep reading for more information!

Note: Though most Christmas Cactus now sold are actually Thanksgiving Cactus the care and tips are the same.

christmas thanksgiving cactus in a half wine barrel in front of a brown wall

Start with a Healthy Plant

Start with a healthy plant. A Christmas cactus that is already healthy is more likely to bloom than one that is not.

easy tips and tricks

Keep your Holiday Cactus Happy!

Are you looking for an easy-to-care-for house plant that will add some extra color to your home in the winter? If so, then you should consider growing a Zygocactus! These plants are tough and bloom with just a little bit of care.

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Though sold as a houseplant, Christmas and Thanksgiving Cactus love the great outdoors during the warmer months of the year.

Plus the bright outdoor light is far superior to what you can give it indoors. It uses that light to store energy for a lot of blooms in the cooler months of the year.

So if you have a covered porch or outdoor area where you can place your plant during the warmer months of the year then give it a summer vacation outside.

Believe me, it will just bloom better in winter.

It will need bright but indirect light so place it under cover, not in direct sunshine. Read on for when to bring it back inside.

Thanksgiving Christmas Cactus in Graniteware tub,

Set Buds for Fabulous Blooms!

Many will tell you to place your Christmas Cactus in a dark closet or other such space which is cool and dark for a few weeks to set buds.

They also recommend temperatures of 55 or below. Who in the world has their indoor temps below that temperature in the Fall? Not me, I don’t let it get that cold in my house in winter much less Fall.

My Christmas and Thanksgiving Cactus get the chill they need by being outside during the time the temperatures do get down to that or below.

So even though the daytime temps get much warmer the Zygocactus are getting the chill they need. (see how much easier this is?)

bright pink zygocactus blooms, thanksgiving cactus with evergreen background

Also many claim you need to restrict watering but I haven’t found that necessary either. But if you feel it helps then go ahead.

Putting them in a closet and paying attention to watering them separately from my other plants is too much work for me. I am much too busy and lazy for that.

To sum up, I leave them outside until the days have shortened considerably and the nighttime temps are dipping down into the 40’s. I bring it in before the first frost.

Typically here in my region, this is mid-October. I don’t always see buds when I first bring it inside but within a week I will see little buds forming on the ends of the stems.

As a gardener, I am always keeping an eye on the weather and temperatures so it is easy for me to bring it in sooner if I see the temps dropping below what is ideal for my Christmas and Thanksgiving Cactus.

how to tell

If You Have a Thanksgiving or Christmas Cactus

Thanksgiving cactus vs Christmas Cactus, many times they are confused or mislabeled.  I show you how easy it is to tell which one is which and why it matters!

(if you live in an area where the nighttime does not dip down into the 50’s at night during the late summer and Fall then other methods may be needed)

Light requirements for Christmas and Thanksgiving Cactus Bloom

It is said for Christmas Cactus to bloom it needs 12 hours of darkness each day for 6 weeks. (some actually say 16 hours)

Since all my Christmas and Thanksgiving cacti are outside once the Autumnal equinox hits they are getting 12 hours of darkness or less from that date on.

This is not a hard and fast rule, if it is close then you are covered. I will explain…

This year, I brought all my zygocactus indoors mid-October as the nighttime temperatures were beginning to dip into the 30’s F.

So they really had 4 weeks of 12 hours or less of light each day. But in the weeks leading up to the Autumnal Equinox (usually around the twenty-first day of September here in the N. Hemisphere), the dark hours were close enough to 12 hours to help set buds.

How do I know?

Because I am sitting at my desk with a Thanksgiving cactus in front of me full of buds getting ready to bloom and that is how it was treated. There was no formal putting it in a dark closet or covering it up for 6 weeks.

My true Christmas Cactus resides in my Garden Cottage during the cooler months and though it hasn’t set buds I know it shall, it is still getting the darkness it needs as I am not out there after it gets dark so it isn’t experiencing any artificial lighting.

It will bloom nearly a month later than my Thanksgiving Cactus, which is why knowing the difference can help you. (see article listed on How to Tell If you Have a Thanksgiving or Christmas Cactus)

How to Care for your ZygoCactus.

Once you bring your Cactus indoors keep the temperature fairly consistent. Sudden changes in temperature can shock your Christmas or Thanksgiving Cactus.

Temps between 60 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit are considered ideal.

Drafts or extreme changes in temperature can cause your cactus to drop its buds.

The cooler the temperatures the longer the flowers will last. The zygocactus in my home I keep in my office and bedroom which are naturally cooler than my living room.

We heat with a wood stove and the living room gets quite warm during the cooler days of Fall and winter.

Watering During Bloom

Water when the soil is dry. Did you know that over-watering can also cause flower buds to drop?

A good rule of thumb is to allow the top inch of soil to dry out completely before watering again. And be sure to empty any water that accumulates in the saucer beneath the pot to prevent root rot.

(keep an eye on ones that have become very root bound, they tend to need watering a bit more often)

I like to use a moisture meter as it gives me a better feel for how dry or moist the soil is that trying to stick my finger down into the pot.


As I stated before all my holiday cacti whether Christmas Cactus or Thanksgiving Cactus live outdoors on my covered back deck during the warmer Summer months and they are treated the same as my other plants.

That includes fertilizing. I stop fertilizing them in September and this works great.

blooming red christmas cactus sitting on a chair,

By following these simple tips, you’ll have your Christmas or Thanksgiving cactus blooming year after year!

Just remember to start with a healthy plant, provide bright indirect light during the warmer months of the year, once buds set keep the temperature consistent, water when the soil is dry, and give your plant a cool, dark period from September through October. (true Christmas Cactus want the darkness into November)

With a little bit of patience, you’ll be rewarded with a stunning display of blooms during the dark days of winter!

it’s so easy anyone can

Propagate Christmas Cactus!

It is so easy to root Christmas Cactus (Schlumbergera) plant cuttings you won’t believe it! I have had pieces fall off my plant with buds on them that will root and bloom. This method is so easy even beginner plant growers can do this and succeed.

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