Christmas Cactus Repotting: A Step-By-Step Guide

This is all about Christmas Cactus repotting including how and when to do it, the best soil mix to use, and things good to know.

Christmas Cactus, although lovely when blooming, are not only for the holiday season. They’re attractive, long-lasting succulent houseplants. The potting mix mine was planted in was pulling away from the sides of the grow pot and that old soil was in need of replenishing.

First, let’s get a bit technical for those who geek out on all things plant, like me. The Christmas Cacti that you see here and in the video are actually Thanksgiving Cacti (aka Crab Cactus, False Christmas Cactus). They were labeled as CC when I bought them and that’s how they’re commonly sold in the trade.

Nowadays you may see them labeled as Holiday Cactus. Regardless of which one you have, you repot these epiphytic cacti in the same manner.

Note: This post was published on 5/8/2019. It was updated on 11/19/2022 with more information and tips.

Christmas Cactus Repotting

What’s the difference between Christmas Cactus and Thanksgiving Cactus?

Both the Thanksgiving Cactus (Schlumbergera truncata) and the Christmas Cactus (Schlumbergera x buckleyi) fall under the genus Schlumbergera which I learned as Schlumbergia years ago.

The Thanksgiving Cactus has little spine-like notches coming off its leaves (just like a crab claw, hence the common name) whereas the leaves of the Christmas Cactus are smoother and thinner.

The Thanksgiving Cactus (aka Crab Cactus or False Christmas Cactus) is timed to flower in November/December whereas it’s December/January for the Christmas Cactus.

Easter Cactus rounds out the Holiday Cacti trio and gets repotted in the same way except at a different time. You want to repot after it’s finished blooming in mid to late spring.

More helpful Christmas Cactus guides: How to Grow Christmas CactusChristmas Cactus Care FAQsHow To Propagate Christmas CactusHow To Get Your Christmas Cactus To Flower AgainWhat Causes Christmas Cactus Leaves To Turn Orange?Does A Christmas Cactus Flower More Than Once A Year?

Two Christmas cacti, 1 tall & thin & the other shorter & fuller, sit in grow pots on a table
I planted these 2 Thanksgiving Cacti into the same pot. The 1 in the bigger pot on the left got “pruned” by the pack rats so only 1/3 of it remained. I decided to add the 1 on the right to fill out the new pot. Besides, Bach’s Cactus Nursery was having a sale on them so how could I say no?!
Close up of a Christmas Cactus with nubs caused by chewing pack rats

Here’s a closer look so you can see the nubs. My Christmas (Thanksgiving) Cactus grows outdoors year-round on my side patio & the pack rats devoured it one night in Jan.

When to Repot Christmas Cactus

Soon after your Christmas Cactus blooms is the best time. Mine stopped blooming at the end of December. I did the repotting in early spring (the end of March) when the weather warmed here in Tucson.

They start to set their flower buds in late September or early October so you want to transplant yours by end of July / early August at the latest. This way the plant is settled in before the flowering process starts.

Interested in more info on repotting? Here’s a general Guide to Repotting Plants geared for beginning gardeners which you’ll find helpful.

a freshly repotted christmas cactus sits next to a bowl of compost a florist knife a a pair of floral nippers
Repotting done. I ended up snipping off some of the nubs to make it look a little better.

Do Christmas Cactus Like to be Root Bound?

Christmas Cactus plants don’t have extensive root systems. They bloom best when slightly potbound and like to grow a bit snug in their pots.

Pot For Christmas Cactus

In terms of pot size, I go up one. You want to make sure the new container has at least 1 drainage hole so the water can freely flow out.

Mine was in a 6″ grow pot and I repotted it into an 8″ pot.

I’ve seen older Christmas Cacti planted in relatively shallow containers and they were doing just fine.

I used a plastic grow pot that I placed inside a decorative ceramic container for this project. A Christmas Cactus looks and grows great in an unglazed terra cotta or clay pot.

Red Christmas Cactus in bloom with many flower buds
My Thanksgiving Cactus in bloom in late November before the pack rats had their feast.

Best Soil for Christmas Cactus

These succulents are epiphytic cacti and differ from the desert cacti that I’m surrounded by here in Tucson. In their natural rainforest habits, Christmas Cacti grow on other plants and rocks; not in the soil.

They’re sheltered by the canopies of trees and shrubs and thrive when protected from full, direct sun. Their nourishment comes from organic matter leaf matter and debris falling from the plants growing above them.

This means they like a very porous and well-aerated mix that also has a lot of richness to it, just like their fellow epiphytes Bromeliads and Orchids.

I like to use the blend below because it’s rich yet drains well. These are ingredients I always have on hand because my collection of plants is always growing. You’ll find some alternative mixes listed with just two ingredients a few paragraphs down.

The mix I originally used (in 2019):

1/3 potting soil. I’m partial to Ocean Forest & Happy Frog because of their high-quality ingredients. They’re soilless mixes & are enriched with lots of good stuff. Sometimes I use just one, & sometimes I use a mix of both.

1/3 coco coir chips & coco peat.

A couple of handfuls of compost. I buy mine made locally here in Tucson.

A couple of handfuls of worm castings. This is another popular brand.

You can read how I feed my houseplants with worm castings and compost here: How I Feed My Houseplants Naturally With Worm Compost & Compost.

A couple of handfuls of charcoal. Charcoal improves drainage and absorbs impurities and odors. Pumice or perlite also up the ante on the drainage factor and help to prevent root rot.

Charcoal is optional, like the composts, but I always have them on hand and use them on a regular basis.

The mix I use now: As I’m updating this post 3 years later, I now make my own DIY Succulent & Cactus Mix . I use it as an ingredient for Christmas Cactus mix because it has coco chips and coco peat in it.

The mix is 1/3 potting soil, 1/3 DIY succulent & cactus mix & 1/3 coco chips plus a couple of handfuls of compost and worm castings. A wonderful blend for Christmas Cactus!

Christmas Cactus mix alternatives using one or two ingredients:

1/2 potting soil & 1/2 orchid bark or

All cymbidium orchid mix or

1/2 succulent & cactus mix & 1/2 cymbidium orchid mix or

1/2 potting soil & 1/2 coco coir chips.

Christmas Cactus Repotting Video Guide

Steps to Christmas Cactus Repotting

My Christmas Cactus got severely pruned by the pack rats so I combined it with a new 4″ plant as well as a cutting. So, my process was a bit more detailed than yours will most likely be.

You can watch the video to see how I did it.

I’ll simplify the process here:

Water the Christmas Cactus about 5 days before repotting.

Gather your materials.

Remove the plant by squeezing the pot and/or cutting around the sides with a dull knife. I loosen the root ball a bit with gentle massaging if it’s tight.

Place the desired fresh soil mix in the bottom of the pot so that the root ball is even or slightly above the top.

Fill in around the sides with the mix adding in the compost if you have it.

When planting a Christmas Cactus, I top it off with cactus and succulent mix, and a thin layer of compost and worm castings.

a christmas cactus in a green grow pot sits on a teal patio table
After a few weeks, mine had settled in just fine. The older plant is starting to plump back up & both plants feel firmly rooted.

Care After Repotting

You can put your plant back in the location it was growing in. Hopefully, that’s a spot where it gets bright light with no direct sun. I moved mine to the covered side patio (on a plant stand out of pack rat reach!) where it receives indirect sunlight.

I let it settle in for a few days and then gave it a couple of thorough waterings to make sure the mix was moist. It’s warm here in Tucson now (80s into 90s) so I’m watering mine every about every 7 days.

Depending on your environment, pot size, and soil mix composition, you may need to water yours every 10-14 days. I water a newly repotted plant a bit more often while it’s settling in.

These cacti are epiphytic plants and differ from the desert plants that I’m surrounded by here. In their natural rainforest habits, A Christmas Cactus grows on other plants and rocks; not in soil. Their root system needs to breathe.

Give yours a good drink of water and let it all thoroughly drain out of the pot. You want the potting mix to go almost dry before watering again. This is where a well-draining soil mix comes into play.

You don’t want to keep the roots constantly moist or they’ll eventually rot out.

How often should you water your Christmas Cactus?

How often you water depends on your temps, the exposure, the soil composition, and the pot size. 

In a nutshell, you want to water yours when the soil mix is just about dry. When mine is blooming, I water it a bit more often.

When I lived in Santa Barbara, I watered my Christmas Cactus growing outdoors every week (yes, they do grow outdoors year-round in temperate climates) in the warmer weather. In the winter, sometimes not at all, depending on if we had rain or not.

Indoors I watered every 2-4 weeks in the cooler months. Here in Tucson, I water more often because of the amount of sun we get and the low humidity factor.

These Houseplant Watering & Indoor Plant Care in Winter guides will give you more info.

How often should you repot Christmas Cactus?

I’ll repot mine in 4-6 years depending on how it’s doing. Remember, they like to grow slightly tight in their pots so only go up 1 pot size.

It may not need a bigger pot at the 4-6-year mark, but it’ll appreciate the fresh potting mix.

close up of new growth on a christmas cactus thanksgiving cactus
There’s lots of new growth appearing on the older plant as well as the new plant (below)
lots of new growth appearing on a christmas cactus thanksgiving cactus
close up of new growth appearing on the chewed nubs of a christmas cactus
There’s even new growth appearing on the nubs.

Christmas Cactus repotting (Thanksgiving Cactus, Holiday Cactus) is easy to do. I’m sure yours will appreciate some fresh new soil mix. Mine put out so much new growth just a few weeks after its repotting. A welcome sight!

Some Of Our General Houseplant Guides For Your Reference: Guide To Watering Indoor Plants, Beginner’s Guide To Repotting Plants, How to Clean Houseplants, Winter Houseplant Care Guide, Plant Humidity: How I Increase Humidity For Houseplants, Buying Houseplants: 14 Tips For Indoor Gardening Newbies

Happy gardening,


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  1. thanks, great info. I live in Calgary Alberta Canada & so my cacti never get outside. This year one of mine is blooming for the 4th time! It always blooms for American Thanksgiving! but this year it bloomed for New Years, Easter, & summer(we had a whole 5 days) & is now ready for your Thanksgiving! I guess it really wants to be repotted!

  2. Oh my goodness Carol – that’s a lot of blooming! Yours would most likely appreciate a repotting with some nice, fresh mix. Nell

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