How to Propagate Christmas Cactus by Stem Cuttings

You’ll find Christmas Cactus sold practically everywhere during the holiday season making them a very popular blooming houseplant. These succulents are long-lasting and grow along at a steady, moderate pace. Here you’ll learn how to propagate Christmas Cactus so you can have more plants of your own or to give away.

Once they’re happy and burgeoning forth with cheery blooms, you’ll most likely be asked to share the love. Christmas Cactus propagation by stem cuttings is as easy as 1 simple twist. It’s a snap to get a new plant!

How To Propagate Christmas Cactus

close up of a peach christmas cactus thanksgiving cactus with 1 bloom & many buds
A Thanksgiving Cactus with salmon flowers. This one’s so pretty that I may have to get another 1!

Note: The Christmas Cactus plant that you see me propagating here and in the video is actually a Thanksgiving (or Crab) Cactus. It was labeled as a CC when I bought it and that’s how it’s commonly sold in the trade.

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

Schlumbergera truncata: Thanksgiving Cactus, False Christmas Cactus, or Crab Cactus

Schlumbergera bridgesii: Christmas Cactus

When to Propagate

I get the best results propagating a Christmas Cactus 1-2 months after its bloom time is over. I do it in late spring into summer.

You want to avoid propagating yours in the fall while the plant is setting bloom and of course during the flowering period. You don’t want to miss a single one of those beautiful blooms after all!

a christmas cactus thanksgiving cactus plant sits on a table with a smaller pot with cuttings along with a small trowel
The cuttings are all planted up in a 4″ grow pot. The cuttings are small & their root system is fine so a small pot like this works well. They tend to dry out fast in this light mix so keep your eye on them.

Pot Size

Christmas Cacti don’t have an extensive root system. Unless you’re taking a multitude of cuttings, a 4″ pot for your stem cuttings will be fine.

nell foster holding Christmas cactus thanksgiving cactus showing the segment part of leaves
This is a leaf or stem segment. You want to take a whole segment (pictured between my fingers) when propagating Christmas Cactus.
nell foster with floral snips showing where to not cut a thanksgiving cactus christmas cactus cutting
Don’t do this!

Methods Of Propagation

The method that’s always been foolproof and the easiest for me is by stem cuttings in potting mix. That is why I’ll be illustrating here. I know many people have also had success with rooting stem cuttings in water.

Dividing your Christmas Cactus is another option if it’s big enough. It’s fairly simple to do but be careful because those stems easily break off!

The last method that I know of is by seed. I’ve never propagated a CC this way but it does take the longest.

nell foster holding 2 leaf segments of a thanksgiving cactus christmas cactus
A two-segment cutting.

Steps to Propagating Christmas Cactus via Stem Cuttings

Gather your materials.

I take cuttings that are 2 – 6 leaf segments (aka stem segments) long. You can also propagate a single segment.

Hold on to the segments you are taking off. You should also hold onto the segment attached to the mother plant that you’re taking them off of. Twist off the segments (either way, works fine), and they should snap right off.

Make sure you get the entire segment for it to root successfully.

Let the twisted-off ends of the cuttings heal over (exposing them to air, just like we do with a wound) at the base for a few hours up to two days. I plant the cuttings after one or two days.

Christmas Cactus leaves are slightly fleshy because they store water. Just like other succulents, healing the cuttings off (out of direct sunlight) before planting helps to prevent any chance of them rotting out.

Make sure you plant the healed-over end that was attached to the mother in the mix.

Wet the mix thoroughly. The cuttings are usually pretty soft so I dig indents about 1/2 – 1″ deep. How deep depends on how long your cuttings are. I use a mini-trowel (1 of my fav tools for propagating) to do this but a spoon or chopstick would work fine too.

Stick your cuttings into the mix just deep enough to get them to stand up. You can plant them close if you’d like. You may have to fiddle with them a bit so they stay upright.

Fill in around the cuttings with the mix. I lightly pack the mix down around the cuttings to help them stand up and not flop over.

That’s it – easy as can be!

Christmas Cactus propagation video guide:

Christmas Cactus Soil

Fill a pot that has drainage holes (it doesn’t have to be deep) with potting mix. It’s a good idea to use a light and well-aerated blend that lets those fine roots easily develop.

A combination of 1/2 coco coir and 1/2 perlite or pumice would be fine. In case you don’t know, coco coir is an environmentally friendly alternative to peat moss.

Succulent and cactus mix is fine for propagating your stem cuttings also. I used a locally produced cactus and succulent mix in the video above which is a combo of coco coir chips and large pieces of pumice.

I now make my own Diy Succulent and Cactus Mix. I use it for propagating and repotting indoor and outdoor succulents and cacti.

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

Where to Put Your Cuttings

Place them in a location with bright light but no direct sun. Make sure it’s not too warm or too cool. I put mine in the laundry room which gets nice overhead indirect light from the skylight.

How to Water the Stem Cuttings

You don’t want to keep them too wet or let them dry out. I prefer to spray the mix until the top of the soil (1″ or so) is moist. Spray again when almost dry.

As the cuttings are forming new roots, you can water them deeper. A small watering can or a succulent watering bottle like this would work too.

new roots emerging on a thanksgiving cactus christmas cactus
This cutting is about 7+ months old. You can see how fine the roots are.

When Do Roots Appear?

Of course, you can’t see any root action when the cuttings are in the soil mix. I once pulled a cutting out around the 3+week mark and a teeny tiny root was appearing.

If you’re going to transplant your cuttings, they should be ready after 3 months. Smaller cuttings are fine to stay in a 4″ pot they were propagated in for at least a year. Because the roots are so fine, I recommend the later.

Looking for more info? We have you covered with this post on Christmas Cactus Care.

a white christmas cactus with open flowers & many buds sits on a table in a greenhouse
For you fans of white flowers during the holidays; peaceful & beautiful.

Takeaways On Christmas Cactus Propagation

Christmas Cacti and Thanksgiving Cacti also propagate by different methods other than stem cuttings in potting mix. Division of the parent plant, seed (this takes way too long for me!), and stem cuttings in water.

Make sure your Christmas Cactus cuttings are in a location with indirect sunlight while they’re healing over. A warm location is fine as long as the cuttings are out of the direct sun.

Christmas Cacti don’t have an extensive root system. A small pot or even a 6-pak tray works for propagating.

Don’t compost or fertilize your cuttings while they’re rooting. They don’t need it yet.

Many cuttings benefit by covering them with plastic to create a greenhouse effect. This isn’t necessary with a Holiday Cactus.

Christmas Cactus prefer growing slightly tight in their pots. The cuttings are fine to stay in their propagation pot or tray for at least a year so no need to be in a rush to transplant them.

Christmas Cactus are very easy to propagate by stem cuttings so be sure to give it a go. And with an easy twist or 2, you’ll be on your way!

Happy gardening,

Signed by Nell Foster

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Note: This post was originally published on 11/18/2018. It was updated on 11/12/2022 with new images & more information.

3 Christmas Cactus Thanksgiving Cactus cuttings sit on a table with a Christmas Cactus plant, a small trowel & a pot of mix.

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  1. Hi. I tried starting a Thanksgiving cactus. It did great at first. Now it seems to be getting thin and weak. What do I need to do?

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