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.
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.
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!