How to Care for a Christmas Cactus and Help It Bloom

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Learn how to properly care for a Christmas cactus to ensure it blooms and stays alive all holiday season.

The Christmas cactus is a lovely houseplant found all over the United States. This low-maintenance and pet-friendly plant is a popular choice among novice and expert gardeners, and its brilliant — usually pink — blooms delight onlookers year after year. Learning how to care for a Christmas cactus ensures that you’ll have those signature flowers when holiday guests arrive.

There are a few things you’ll need to do to help your Christmas cactus flower. When cared for correctly, these green beauties flourish indoors, growing to incredible sizes. Like many holiday houseplants, a Christmas cactus relies on lighting and temperature to bloom at the right time.

Psst—here’s how to care for poinsettias after the holidays.

Is the Christmas Cactus Actually a Cactus?

Yes, it is, but it is much different from desert cacti like the golden barrel cactus. The Christmas cactus is a tropical plant native to Brazil, so it likes more water and humidity than the average cactus houseplant. If you tend to overwater other cacti, a Christmas cactus might be a better option for you.

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How to Care for a Christmas Cactus: Lighting

A Christmas cactus prefers indirect light. That’s one of the reasons it is such a common indoor plant. Miracle-Gro recommends placing your Christmas cactus near a north- or east-facing window. A Christmas cactus can tolerate some direct sunlight, but be careful about placing it in the hot afternoon sun. Too much light will cause discoloration in the leaves.

If you notice burning, move it away from the window. Christmas cactus blossoms fall off easily, so try to find the right lighting during its growth season to avoid moving the plant while it flowers.

Check out the top 10 best houseplants for low light.

How to Care for a Christmas Cactus: Water

A Christmas cactus needs plenty of food and water. Plant it in well-draining potting soil, then water when the top one or two inches are dry. Use Miracle-Gro Succulent Plant Food or a similar product between blooms to fuel fresh bud growth. Adding humidity to a dry home will also help your cactus thrive, especially in the winter.

Learn how to propagate succulents (for more free plants!)

How to Make a Christmas Cactus Bloom

Colorful flowers make the Christmas cactus a showstopper, and it will bloom more than once with the proper care.

Start by planting your cactus in the right pot. If the pot is too large, you’ll have fewer flowers, so don’t size up by more than a couple inches. Don’t re-pot while it blooms or you’ll lose all the flowers. A Christmas cactus likes crowded roots, so you won’t need to re-pot very often.

The Chicago Botanic Garden explains that a Christmas cactus’ bloom cycle depends on temperature and lighting cues. Decide when you would like your plant to flower. Start preparing eight weeks before your chosen date. For six weeks, give your plant 13 to 15 hours of darkness per day, or keep it in a cool environment at night. When you return the Christmas cactus to warmer temperatures and brighter light, flower buds will form — just in time for the holidays.

Next, learn how to grow and care for amaryllis (and make the bulbs rebloom!)

The Family Handyman
Originally Published on The Family Handyman