Your Christmas Cactus may flower on its own, but if not, here’s what to do. Getting your Christmas Cactus to bloom can take a little effort, but it’s so worth it when it’s covered in flowers.
I’ve been growing Christmas Cacti since I was a little girl. We had quite a few of them in our greenhouse in Connecticut that bloomed during the holidays without effort. Then, I grew them in pots in my garden in Santa Barbara, where they enjoyed a 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. They’re long-lasting houseplants that are very easy to care for.
This is one of my Christmas Cacti (actually it’s a Thanksgiving Cactus which you can tell by the notched, pointed ends on the leaf segments) that blooms red & white. The growers sometimes plant 2 or 3 colors of cuttings in the same pot.
This epiphytic tropical cactus goes by Schlumbergia x buckleya or Schlumbergia bridsii in botanic circles and has a somewhat confusing history regarding their genus. There’s also a Thanksgiving Cactus, Schlumbergia truncate. If yours blooms earlier (mid to end of November), then that’s what it probably is, not a Christmas Cactus.
Most of mine have been Thanksgiving Cacti but were sold as Christmas Cacti, as many of them are. We start to decorate for Christmas right after Thanksgiving and buy our Poinsettias at this time so it makes sense from a marketing standpoint.
Sometimes the two are sold as Holiday Cacti. Regardless of your one, you get them to bloom similarly, just as different start times. I refer to them and mine as Christmas Cacti because that’s what most people know them as.
Here I am with 1 of my Christmas Cactus in my side garden, giving you some blooming tips. Warning: this is an old video!
There are a few things I want to tell you about Christmas Cactus blooms and related tidbits before I get to the flowering part. You may be brand new to this popular holiday houseplant and below are some points that might help you out.
- They bloom at the end of the leaves, which are technically stems. They’re pretty prolific bloomers, especially as they age. Older plants can get covered in flower buds.
- Each individual bloom lasts 5-7 days, depending on the temperature of your home. The warmer your home, the faster the blooms will fade.
- They tend to bloom in stages, so the flowering should last for 3-6 weeks.
- They originally had red flowers, but now hybrids are bred and sold in white, pink, magenta, lavender, peach, salmon, and yellow.
- You can remove the flowers as they die. Just simply pinch them off.
- They bloom best when tight in their pots, so don’t rush to repot them yearly.
- If yours doesn’t flower the 1st year, one of the reasons could be that it’s simply acclimating to the drier air in your home. They’ve been grown in greenhouses with high humidity, after all.
- Remember, this is a tropical cactus, not a desert cactus. Christmas Cactus plants don’t grow as well in dry environments.
Do you love Christmas Cactus? We have more guides for you! Christmas Cactus Care, Christmas Cactus Repotting, Christmas Cactus Propagation, Christmas Cactus Flowering More Than Once A Year, and Christmas Cactus Leaves Turning Orange.
I did virtually nothing to mine growing in the garden to get them to bloom. I did water them a bit more often than my other succulents.
I never let them go completely dry because if you do, the leaves tend to shrivel and turn reddish.
The one you see in the video above is reddish because it was getting more sun that summer than others. It got much less sun as we headed into late fall and turned back to green. Then, the color changed again when the evening temperatures dipped in winter.
The color change is due to environmental stress. My former client’s Christmas Cactus turned orange all over. It grew on her front porch and rarely got watered. Check out the post to find out how resilient these succulent beauties are!
Your Christmas Cactus (or Holiday Cactus in general) may flower on its own, depending on the environmental conditions.
It has to go into a dormant cycle to bloom again. In case yours doesn’t, check out what needs to happen below.
My what beautiful peach/salmon blooms you have. You can see the number of flower buds on the end of each segment. This is why we want our Christmas Cactus to bloom again!
Here’s what you do to get your Thanksgiving or Christmas Cactus to bloom again:
1- Give it 12 to 14 hours of darkness per day. It requires this reduction of light starting approximately 8 weeks before you want it to bloom. Mine growing in the garden naturally got these hours of total darkness as the sun shifted and the daylight hours got shorter.
If you want it to bloom around Thanksgiving, it must start in early October.
2- To be kept on the dry side. Wait until the top 1/4 to 1/2 of the soil dries out before watering again. This could be anywhere from every 3 to 6 weeks, depending on the temperature, the mix, and the size and type of pot it’s planted in.
3- A temperature kept between 50 & 65 degrees F. So, a cool room is best.
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 that naturally has these conditions.
After the buds start appearing, you can move it back to a spot with bright light, resume the care you previously gave it, and enjoy the beautiful flowers.
By the way, there’s another trendy flowering holiday plant that requires conditions similar to this in order to bloom again, and that is the Poinsettia. You’ll see one in the video that grew down the street from me that was just starting to change color.
Poinsettias are trickier to grow as a houseplant (they’re deciduous for a good portion of the year) much less getting it to bloom again. It’s best to stick with the Christmas Cactus.
My Christmas Cacti that grew outside set flower buds late fall. The changes required to bloom naturally occured as the days got darker and cooler.
I now live in Tucson, AZ and brought one of those Christmas Cactus with me when I moved. I grow it indoors now, and although it still blooms here, the quantity of flowers is much less.
Let’s just say it’s not as fond of this dry climate and misses growing 7 blocks away from the Pacific Ocean. Getting my Christmas Cactus to bloom now takes a bit more work!
I think they’re beautiful in hanging baskets and a welcome sight in stores, nurseries and flower shops come November. It may take a bit of effort to get yours to bloom, but it’s well worth it. An old favorite that gets extra attention at the holiday season – a Christmas Cactus flowering is a festive sight!
Want to learn more about how to care for succulents indoors? Check out these guides!
- How to Choose Succulents and Pots
- Small Pots for Succulents
- How to Water Indoor Succulents
- 6 Most Important Succulent Care Tips
- Hanging Planters for Succulents
- 13 Common Succulent Problems and How to Avoid Them
- How to Propagate Succulents
- Succulent Soil Mix
- 21 Indoor Succulent Planters
- How to Repot Succulents
- How To Prune Succulents
- How To Plant Succulents In Small Pots
- Planting Succulents In A Shallow Succulent Planter
- How to Plant and Water Succulents in Pots Without Drain Holes
- How To Make & Take Care Of An Indoor Succulent Garden
- Indoor Succulent Care Basics
Note: This post was originally published on 10/13/2015. It was updated 9/2021 with new images & more info.
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Nell, the founder of Joy Us garden, was born into a gardening family and grew up in Connecticut’s countryside. After living in Boston, New York, San Francisco, & Santa Barbara, she now calls the Arizona desert home. She studied horticulture & garden design, working in the field all her life. Nell is a gardener, designer, blogger, Youtube creator, & author. She’s been gardening for a very long time & wants to share what she’s learned with you.