Updated April 16, 2022 by Mark Marino
A Christmas cactus is a member of the genus schlumbergera. A winter-blooming plant, the Christmas cactus can add a cheerful note to any room with its beautiful flowers. Christmas cacti can provide vibrant red, pink, purple, yellow, or even white flowers during the bleak winter season. For this reason, this plant is dubbed a holiday cactus and is suitable for gift giving. When properly cared for, your Christmas cactus should bloom for a long period of time. Here, we’ll explore how to care for Christmas cacti indoors.
Identifying Christmas Cacti Plants
There are different types of holiday cactus plants. How do you know if you have a Christmas cactus, a Thanksgiving cactus, or an Easter cactus? Christmas cacti and Thanksgiving cacti are actually members of the same genus; however, the Easter cactus is not a close relative of Christmas cacti or Thanksgiving cacti.
A Thanksgiving cactus has leaves with clawed edges. Christmas cacti have leaves that have notches but they aren’t as pointy as the leaves of a Thanksgiving cactus. An Easter cactus is not a member of the same genus as these too, but it is a succulent, which is why it is sometimes referred to as a holiday cactus. Its blooming period is usually between four to six weeks. You can encourage blooming by following the care tips outlined here.
Christmas cacti produce tubular flowers along their tree branches. Its gorgeous blooms often last a few weeks or longer. Native to Brazil, Christmas cacti are unlike succulents from arid settings. Instead of direct sunlight, they prefer indirect sunlight and humidity. While desert cacti prefer dry conditions, Christmas cacti have very different care requirements.
How to Care for a Christmas Cactus Indoors
Your Christmas cactus does not require an abundance of maintenance to thrive. You can use these tips to care for your holiday cactus plants and prevent them from dropping flowers prematurely. Remember that your holiday cactus lives in a rainforest setting; if you can mimic those conditions indoors, you can set your cactus up for success. For your cactus to bloom, be sure to follow these tips.
Best Pot for Christmas Cacti
An unglazed pot is ideal for growing Christmas cacti. Glazed pots are not porous and will not allow for good air circulation. When choosing a pot for your holiday cactus, opt for an unglazed vessel with good drainage. If you’re unsure which pot to choose, consider a terracotta pot with drainage holes; clay is an ideal pot material for these plants. If the pot does not have holes, you can drill a drainage hole. Be sure the pot has enough space to accommodate the cactus plant’s root ball with room for growth.
Light Requirements for Christmas Cacti
Too much sunlight is not ideal for Christmas cactus plants. Direct light can cause its beautiful blooms to drop. Indirect light is ideal for Christmas cacti. In the rainforest, these plants would receive dappled sunlight through the forest canopy. Too much light in a south-facing window is not conducive to this cactus plant’s health. Instead, place your Christmas cactus in an east-facing window that receives indirect light for best results.
Soil for Your Christmas Cactus
When planting your Christmas cactus, a well-draining potting mix that’s rich in humus as well as other nutrients. You can opt for potting soil that contains a mixture of peat moss, perlite, and sand. Well-aerated potting soil is also important for the health of your holiday cactus.
Christmas Cactus Watering
To care for your Christmas cactus, be sure to water it evenly. You can also mist it between waterings to encourage a humid environment. Be sure the soil of your pot is moist enough to support the needs of the plant’s roots. However, don’t overwater your Christmas cactus plants either. Too much water can cause root rot in your cactus.
Fertilizing Your Christmas Cactus
Once your Christmas cactus has flower buds, you can fertilize it every two weeks using a high-potassium fertilizer. You can also use a balanced houseplant fertilizer to feed your Christmas cactus. During fall and winter, you can add fertilizer on a monthly basis.
How to Care for Your Indoor Holiday Cacti
To care for your holiday cactus, be sure to maintain the care requirements listed above. Indirect light is best for a Christmas cactus. Also, avoid poorly draining potting soil. Avoid placing your cactus in a window that receives direct light. If you want to encourage your Christmas cactus to bloom, you can withhold fertilizer and keep the potting mix barely moist. Also, avoid keeping your plant in cool, drafty areas. When flower buds appear on your Christmas cactus, you should move the plant to a warmer location.
If you notice that your plant starts to drop its flowers, check to ensure you’re meeting its care requirements. Also, look for signs of bugs like aphids. If you spot pets, place some rubbing alcohol on a soft cloth to rub them away. You can also try insecticidal soap for your holiday cacti.
Christmas Cactus Care FAQs
Does the Christmas cactus like sun or shade?
Christmas cacti prefer partial sunlight or indirect light. Care for Christmas cactus and Thanksgiving cactus means avoiding too much direct sunlight.
How often should you water Christmas cactus plants?
To maintain the health of your Christmas cactus, be sure its soil is evenly moist. Avoid overwatering it, however. Holiday cacti should not be overwatered or placed in direct sun.
Can Christmas cacti survive inside?
Yes! Christmas cacti can thrive in indoor settings providing you meet their care requirements. Keep their soil moist, mist them between waterings, maintain temperatures above 55 degrees Fahrenheit, and ensure they don’t get too much sunlight. Most succulents in this genus will happily live indoors given their growing needs are met.
Why are the leaves on my Christmas cactus limp?
If the leaves of your Christmas cactus are limp, you’re either watering your cactus plant too much or it’s getting too much exposure to bright light. Excess water is not good for these plants. Check to make sure its pot has drainage holes and that its potting mix is not over-saturated with water. Also, too much light exposure is also cause for concern for the holiday cactus, so avoid giving your plant too much sun. Moderate light rather than direct sun is ideal for holiday cacti.