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How To Get Your Christmas Cactus To Flower Again

Your Christmas Cactus may flower on its own, depending on the environmental conditions. But if not, here's what you need to do to force it into dormancy & get it to bloom.

How To Get Your Christmas Cactus To Flower Again

Your Christmas Cactus may bloom on it own, but if not, here’s what to do.  It can take a little effort, but when it’s covered in flowers, it’s so worth it.

I’ve been growing Christmas Cactus since I was a little girl.  We had quite a few of them in our greenhouse in Connecticut which bloomed at the holidays with no effort at all.  Now I grow them in my garden in Santa Barbara where they enjoy our year round temperate climate.  Even if mine didn’t bloom, I’d love them anyway because of their unusual, appealing foliage and somewhat wacky growth habit.

This epiphytic tropical cactus goes by Schlumbergia x buckleya or bridsii in botanic circles and has a somewhat confusing history regarding their genus.  There is also a Thanksgiving Cactus, Schlumbergia truncata, so if yours blooms earlier then it could be this 1 and not the Christmas Cactus.

Mine is actually a Thanksgiving Cactus but was sold as a Christmas Cactus as many of them are. Sometimes the 2 are just called Holiday Cactus but regardless of which 1 you actually have, you get them to bloom in the same way.

Here I am with 1 of my Christmas Cactus in my side garden giving you some blooming tips:

There are a few things I want to tell you about the Christmas Cactus flowers & related tidbits before I get to the blooming part.  This is just in case you’re brand new to this popular holiday houseplant!

1-  They bloom at the end of the leaves (which are technically stems) & are quite prolific bloomers  especially as they age.

2-  Each individual bloom lasts 5-7 days, depending on the temps.  They tend to bloom in stages so the flowering should last for 3-6 weeks.

3- They originally had red flowers but now hybrids are sold in white, pink, magenta, lavender & peach.

4- You can remove the flowers as they die, just simply pinch them off.

5- They bloom best when tight in their pots so don’t rush to repot them every year.

6- If yours doesn’t flower the 1st year, 1 of the reasons could be that it’s simply be acclimating to the dry air in your home.

7-Remember, this is a tropical cactus not a desert cactus.

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This Christmas Cactus of mine grows nestled between my Variegated Pineapples & Neoregelias along the driveway.

I did a video on Christmas Cactus care last year which you can find in the video at the end of this post.   I do virtually nothing to mine growing in the garden except water them more often than my other succulents.

I never let them go completely dry, and if you do, the leaves tend to shrivel and turn reddish.  Mine that you see in the video is reddish because it was getting more sun this summer but now is getting much less as we head into winter.  The change in color is due to environmental stress.

Your Christmas Cactus (or Holiday Cactus in general) may flower on it’s own, depending on the conditions.  It needs to go into a dormant cycle to get it to bloom again.

Here’s what you do to get your Thanksgiving or Christmas Cactus to bloom again:

1-  12 – 14 hours of darkness per day.  It needs to get this reduction in light approximately 8 weeks before you want it to bloom.

2- To be kept drier.  Wait until the top 1/4 to 1/2 of the soil dries out before watering again.  This could be anywhere from every 3-6 weeks depending on the temps, the mix it’s in & the size & type of pot it’s planted in.

3- A temperature  kept between 50 & 65 degrees F.

As I said, it can take a bit of effort to move it into a closet or basement every night but perhaps you have a spare room which naturally has these conditions.   It’s now October 12th so you may want to start this process soon.  After the buds start to appear, then you can move it back to a bright spot, resume the care you were previously giving it and enjoy the beautiful flowers.

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This 1 has reddish tinges because of the amount of sun it’s receiving.  If more shaded in summer, it will be more green.

By the way, there’s another extremely popular flowering holiday plant which requires conditions similar to this to bloom again and that is the poinsettia.  You’ll see 1 in the video growing just down the street from me which is just starting to change color.  Poinsettias are trickier to grow as a houseplant much less getting it to bloom again so it’s best to stick with the Christmas Cactus.

Mine grow outside and naturally set buds later in fall because these changes naturally occur as we get darker and cooler.  I think they’re especially attractive in hanging baskets and a welcome sight in stores, nurseries and flower shops come holiday time.  An old favorite that gets extra attention come December!

Happy gardening,

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40 comments:

  1. Thanks for sharing . I live in Texas and I have never had mine to flower yet . I was told to up it in the closet . And thanks for talking about hoe to water it . I think I must be over watering mine .

  2. You’re most welcome Renee. Just follow what I outlined in this post & video, & yours should flower. It’s a tropical cactus so it needs more water than desert cactus but on the other hand, it doesn’t need as much as most blooming plants. Also, because it’s an epiphyte (in nature it grows on other plants & not in the soil, like most orchids) it doesn’t like to sit in water. Let me know if it blooms! Best, Nell

  3. Pingback: 13 Christmas Blooming Plants |

  4. Hi Nell
    Thank you for explaining why the Christmas cactus takes on a reddish hue. My plant has been outside all summer on the north side of the house in Northern California. We have had freezing temps the last two nights so I brought the cactus into the house (about 65 degrees inside) and I already notice small buds forming.

    Love your explanations! So glad to know that there is a difference between Thanksgiving & Christmas cactus.

  5. Hi Alaina – You’re very welcome. My Christmas Cacti are covered in buds right now & should be in full bloom right around Christmas. Easter Cacti are totally different but Thanksgiving & Christmas Cacti are the same, just timed by the growers or homeowners to bloom differently. Happy Holidays! Nell

  6. Hi Nelly!
    Thank you for your valuable information on getting the Christmas cactus to bloom. I received my cactus at Christmas time in 2015 and expected it to bloom on its own in 2016 because my friend told me that it would on its own because her’s dI’d. Well, mine didn’t. So, my disappointment brought me to your video.
    I actually do keep my cactus on the drier side, and living in Ohio does give my cactus a lot of darkness come October thru March. But, I will give your suggestions a try, and I will definitely look forward to some beautiful blossoms! Thank you again for your information!
    Stephanie

  7. Greetings Stephanie! Yes, just follow those few points & your Christmas Cactus (which may actually be a Thanksgiving Cactus as many are) will bloom again. Just remember, the earlier you start the process, the earlier it’ll bloom. Happy gardening & you’re very welcome, Nelly

  8. Very interesting article. I live near Green Bay, WI, bought a small transplant last summer. Had 4 stems with 3 or 4 leaves. I sat it in my kitchen window, facing south. By Christmas I had 2 flowers. No special treatment. In March a bloom was developing but drop off, for lack of water, I believe. Now the end of May, there is another flower forming, doing very well. My question, why? Are their ever blooming Christmas Cactus? I do nothing except water it. Thanks for any input.

  9. Hi Jesse – I have never heard of an ever blooming Christmas Cactus on the market. I do know that some people have had theirs bloom sporadically throughout the year in reaction to lower light levels & cooler temps. Nell

  10. I was given two Christmas cactus for Christmas last year I brought one from BC to Ontario. Before leaving BC it had grown many new leaves. It sat in an window all summer with filtered light. Now 5 months later it blooming. The only thing the blooms were red last time and now the blooms are white.
    WHY

  11. Hi Daphne – When a CC changes colors, it’s due to some sort of environmental stress. I’m at a client’s in the SF Bay Area & she has a CC that I brought her 4 years ago. It sits outside on the porch table where it only gets watered when I’m here 3 times a year. It’s currently blooming white right now & it was red. Nell

  12. I have a Christmas Cactus that gets buds all year, but they fall off. I have had no blooms since it left the store in 2016. It sits in a window facing east.
    I’ve fertilized it, but I’ve never replanted it. What is my problem?

  13. Hi Susan – When the buds fall off, it’s usually caused by too much water (root rot) or a change in environment. Because they are photoperiodic, if something is off with that, there’s another reason. Here’s a new post & video I just did on CC care which you might find helpful: https://www.joyusgarden.com/how-to-grow-christmas-cactus/ Nell

  14. I have a Christmas Cactus as was wondering if you could tell me why it only blooms on one side. What can I do to get to bloom all over. Thanks

  15. Hi Paul –
    I would say it has to do with the light exposure. CC like equal periods of light & complete dark for 6-8 weeks to bloom. I don’t know what situation you have it growing in but perhaps the not getting the light/dark it needs on that non-blooming side. Nell

  16. Thankyou so much for.your great info on the cactii. Got started late, but i have buds for the first time. Next year I’ll start in October. Thanks again.

  17. My pleasure Diane! Nell

  18. Just read your tips, I am so happy to read your in S.B. which I grew up there. Thanks for the advice on how to care for my Christmas catus . Living in North Dakota, and was feeling I was doing something wrong,but I’m on track can’t wait for the blooms. My mother always had many be I remember growing up.Thanks . Pastor LaVerne Gonzalez

  19. Here it is, Jan 2018. What do I do now to get blooms in december2018

  20. You are certainly welcome Pastor Laverne. They need equal parts light & complete darkness to bloom again successfully. I think they’re an attractive houseplant especially when they start to trail. I left SB over a year ago & moved to Arizona. I miss those beach walks but have beautiful mountains here. All the best, Nell

  21. What about pruning or cutting back? Will that stimulate growth or even new buds ?

  22. Hi Mary lou – It takes about 6-8 weeks for a Christmas (or Thanksgiving) Cactus to set buds. You can find the steps you need to take in the blog post towards the end. Nell

  23. Hi Pam – Not that I know of. Cutting back a bit will force the stems to branch which should bring more flowers. I never prune my Holiday Cactus (except for propagation) because I like the look when they start to arch & trail a bit. Nell

  24. I live in Canton, Ohio. I bought a Christmas cactus in early December but it never bloomed. I thought maybe it had already bloomed and dropped them before I bought it possibly. It’s February 24th and I just woke up to seeing a lot of buds, two of which look like they may bloom soon! I’m wondering how many times a year it can bloom and if I should try again in October by putting it in a darker area?

  25. Hi Mary – It may be a Thanksgiving Cactus & already bloomed before you bought it. One of mine which bloomed in Nov. is blooming again now in Feb. I’ve had some which has bloomed 3 times a year. Yes, you can stimulate blooming by putting it in a dark room & reducing watering 6-8 weeks before you want it to flower. Nell

  26. I’ve had my Christmas Cactus for 2 years. Both years it has bloomed at Christmas as expected. I keep it with my other plants in the living room near the window but also supplement with a grow light several hours a day. I just noticed today (March 10) that is is blooming again! Not that I’m complaining, but why is it blooming again so soon? Will this affect the Christmas time bloom?

  27. Hi Susan – Funny you should bring that up. My Christmas Cactus (actually a Thanksgiving Cactus) is blooming again right now too. They can bloom again in late winter/early spring although many don’t. I’m publishing a post & video on this subject in a couple of weeks so check back on the blog. Nell

  28. Hi Nell,
    When you take a cutting off of your Schlumbergia, I noticed it causes a hard scar. Will this scarred area start to re grow or even bloom again? Will it take a while to start growing there again or bloom again?
    Thank you Nell

  29. Christine Sargent

    Hi Nell!
    Love reading all your articles and seeing your gorgeous plants! I currently have seven different Thanksgiving cactuses along with two true Christmas cactuses and three Easter cactuses. This year the Thanksgiving cactuses have bloomed three times since November and it seems like buds just keep in appearing on different plants all the time! The Christmas cactus bloomed twice (Dec and then again in March). The Easter are currently in bloom now. I keep mine directly on the windowsill in an east facing window so they get sun in the morning and early afternoon with no artificial light. This room also remains on the cooler side with no direct heat. I only water them when they are almost totally dry and they are pretty close to being rootbound. I think the lower temperatures and keeeping them in a tight pot are what really helps them to keep developing new buds and rebloom!

  30. Hey, if you want a real kick, trick the plant into producing fruit. The fruits are pretty and last a really long time. The darker the flower color the darker red/purple the fruits will be. White flowers produce a light pink fruit. You have to have two genetically different plants, a paintbrush, and a little knowledge about flower sex. Take the paintbrush and get pollen from the anthers of one plant and dust it on the end of the long skinny central (female part of the plant). Keep going back and forth between the two plants and you will produce a few fruits. For those in warm climates you may be able to get a natural pollinator such as bees to do the work for you if you keep the two different plants in close proximity

  31. Thank you for sharing Christine! Sounds like you have a blooming jungle. I just did a post on this subject as my Thanksgiving Cactus just got through blooming. You might want to give it a look: https://www.joyusgarden.com/do-christmas-cactus-flower-more-than-once-a-year/ Enjoy! Nell

  32. Hi Suzie – The scarred end goes in the mix & produces the roots. The tips produce the new growth & eventually bloom. I just did a post & video on this: https://www.joyusgarden.com/how-to-propagate-christmas-cactus-holiday-thanksgiving-by-stem-cuttings-with-1-easy-twist/ Hope that helps! Nell

  33. Hi Elizabeth – Yes, I know they produce fruit but it’s good for those who geek out on “all things plant” to find out about. The downside is that the leaf with the fruit won’t produce a flower until the fruit is removed. Oh well, it’s fun to do anyway! Nell

  34. Is it possible for a Christmas cactus to bloom now? I mean my mom’s is. It seems like it’s a Christmas and Easter cactus.

  35. Hi April – Yes it is. A post on that here: https://www.joyusgarden.com/do-christmas-cactus-flower-more-than-once-a-year/ Or, it could be an Easter or Spring Cactus. I’m doing a post on this plant next week. the flowers on the holiday cactus are different from those on the spring cactus. Nell

  36. My cactus was beautiful in December, and now I also see some buds again. Thanks for article

  37. You’re welcome Jeanette. Some people are surprised when theirs blooms again so I wanted to do a post on it. Nell

  38. What fertilizer should I use.?

  39. I have not fertitilze my Christmas cactus for maybe a year but it is nice and green but has not bloomed since I got it and that’s about 2 years ago . I do not over water it .

  40. Hi Fran – It may not have gotten long enough periods of darkness to induce budding. Nell

  41. Hi Fran -I don’t fertilize mine & there’s a lot of out there. I’d use an all-purpose orchid food (or any general fert.) with the formulation 20-10-20. Feed in Spring & summer at 1/2 strength. Nell

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