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How to Care for Christmas Cactus – Ultimate Guide

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The Christmas Cactus is a cactus plant that gets beautiful during the winter. In the coldest months of the year, many beautiful colored flowers bloom from it, ranging from pink to white to red, lilac, and yellow. If you’re a gardener looking to learn how to care for your Christmas cactus, you’ve come to the right place. This comprehensive gardening guide will provide you with all the information you need to keep your Christmas cactus healthy and thriving. These gardening tips will help you successfully care for this beautiful plant throughout the year. Let’s start!

Christmas Cactus Care

The Christmas cactus, (Schlumbergera truncata or Zygocactus truncatus), is a native plant of Brazil, which lives in the warm and humid forests in the trunks of the trees. It is, therefore, an epiphyte plant that grows in places where direct sunlight does not reach. For these reasons, it requires more water than most succulents (remember to let the soil dry out before watering), and thrives better than them indoors.

It is one of the most durable cactuses since, in a pot, it has a life of between 3 and 10 years! Amazing, right?

Besides being relatively easy to care for, it propagates quickly and quite easily.

christmas cactus care outside and inside
How to Care for Christmas Cactus.

Indoors Christmas Cactus Care

One of the most important aspects of caring for a Christmas cactus is providing the right amount of light. These plants thrive in bright, indirect light, so placing them near a window with filtered sunlight is ideal. Avoid exposing them to direct sunlight, as it can cause the leaves to burn. The room must be bright, but the plant must be kept away from air currents.

Pot: it is preferable to use a mineral substrate, such as volcanic sand. But if it is not possible to obtain it, the universal substrate mixed with perlite in equal parts will be useful.

American Plant Exchange Christmas Cactus Zygocactus Live Plant, 6" Pot, Assorted Colors Growers Choice
  • This item DOES NOT SHIP to California.
  • Our growers will select the best available from bright pinks, dark reds, deep purples and snow white.
  • Christmas Cactus, schlumbergera bridgesii, is one of the most popular houseplants during the holiday season.

Outdoor Christmas Cactus Care

Another key factor in caring for your Christmas cactus is maintaining the right temperature and humidity levels, especially if the Christmas cactus is growing outside.

These plants prefer temperatures between 60-70°F (15-21°C) during the day and slightly cooler temperatures at night. Additionally, they appreciate higher humidity levels, so misting the leaves or placing a tray of water nearby can help create a more humid environment.

When growing outside, it should be placed in a semi-shade area where it does not get direct sunlight.

It is a plant that does not resist the cold or frost. Due to its tropical origin, the minimum annual temperature must be 59°F (15ºC).

Gardening Tip: the soil must have good drainage. Otherwise, the roots will rot.

Watering Christmas Cactus

Proper watering is also crucial for the health of your Christmas cactus. These plants prefer to be kept evenly moist but not overly saturated. Allow the top inch of soil to dry out between waterings, and be sure to use well-draining soil to prevent root rot.

Therefore, on average, you should water once a week in winter and about two or three times every seven days the rest of the year. However, if you have it in a pot, it is essential not to put a plate under it; this way, you will prevent it from rotting.

watering christmas cactus
How to Care for Christmas Cactus.

Fertilizer

Now, let’s see the importance of fertilizing your Christmas cactus and provide tips on how to do it effectively.

As it flowers in winter, it is interesting to fertilize it throughout the year, especially in summer. To do this, you must use a specific fertilizer for cactus liquid, following the indications specified on the product packaging since there may be a risk of overdose.

Coffee grounds on Christmas cactus is a good option to fertilize.

Pruning

If your Christmas cactus is getting too big, you can always prune it in the spring. Use scissors previously disinfected with alcohol or other disinfectants, and reduce the length of the stems as much as you consider necessary. Do not worry if you prune too much, as it is a plant that will grow back well.

pruning christmas cactus
Care for Christmas Cactus.

Pests and Diseases

It is very resistant, but snails and slugs seriously damage it by eating its stems. To avoid it, you can keep your plant protected with molluscicides.

On the other hand, if we talk about diseases, we have to control the watering and NOT spray their leaves. Excess humidity can weaken it to the point that any virus, fungus, or bacteria could kill the cactus. In fact, during the rainy season, or if there is a suspicion of overwatering, it is highly advisable to treat it with a fungicide, such as copper or sulfur powder, applied to the surface of the substrate.

How to Propagate Christmas Cactus

The ideal time to multiply our Christmas Cactus is in the spring, but it can be done during the summer. If we live in an area with a mild climate, without frosts or very weak, we can also do it in autumn.

1- The first thing to do is to cut segments of the leaves that we like the most. These have to be healthy and strong. Otherwise, they will have more difficulties getting ahead.

2- Then, we let them dry for 24 hours by placing them in a dry place without direct light.

3- The next day, we plant them in pots by nailing them in a vertical position with vermiculite or pumice, for example, and a little bit moist.

4- That’s it! In a couple of weeks, they will start to take root.

If you want, before planting them in the pot, you can impregnate the base with rooting hormone powder or with some homemade rooting agent. This way, you will have more possibilities to produce your roots.

Learn more about propagation in these two gardening guides: Christmas Cactus Propagation Step by Step and Christmas Cactus Propagation in Water Step by Step

What is the difference between a Christmas, Easter, and Thanksgiving cactus?

The key difference between these cacti is the time when they bloom and the leaf shape. The Christmas cactus blooms in the Christmas season, while the Easter cactus blooms in February. The shape of the leaves is the easiest method to distinguish between Christmas, Easter, and Thanksgiving cactus, as you can see in the scheme below.

what is the difference between a christmas, easter, and thanksgiving cactus

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About Henry Morgan

Henry Morgan is an agronomist horticulture founder of The Garden Style Company and The Garden Style Website. He previously worked for Mondelēz International as an Agronomist Engineer specializing in agricultural products management in highly populated areas. In 2000, Henry started working with farmer-producers in agricultural businesses selling wholesale fresh produce and retail plants in Van Buren, Arkansas. Nowadays, Henry lives in California, where he offers expert consulting services for organic vegetable gardening. As a science writer working with his wife, Julia, Henry shares his passion for gardening and farming, trying to reach and teach as many folks as possible.

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