Christmas Cactus Guide: How to Grow a Christmas Cactus

Christmas Cactus Guide: How to Care for an Easter Plant

We may earn a commission for purchases made using our links.

If you love cacti but aren’t a fan of spines and thorns, and you like bold-colored trailing plants but don’t have the light for a tradescantia, then we may have the right plant for you. The Christmas cactus (or Easter plant) is a forest cactus that requires less sun than its desert counterparts, blooms prolifically in the winter and, like most cacti, hardly requires water at all.

The Christmas cactus is a beautiful, weird, underappreciated houseplant, and we’ve got all the care, propagation, buying and pest-control tips you need to grow your own.

Christmas Cactus Details

Schlumbergera bridgessii

AKA Christmas cactus, holiday cactus, Easter plant, Easter cactus
Ease of Care: Easy
Light: Part Sun
Water: Moderate
Temperature: 60 – 70 degrees
Height: 6 – 12 inches
Growth Rate: Slow
Pest: Thrips and mealybugs
Disease: Basal stem rot, root rot, impatiens necrotic spot virus
Toxicity: Non-toxic to people and animals

Benefits

christmas cactus white bloom on black backgroundIf you’ve never heard of a Christmas cactus, don’t worry. You’re not the only person to ignore this incredible plant. It hasn’t been until recent times that people are beginning to realize the many benefits of this plant.

Unique Appearance

First, there’s the plant’s interesting look. The Christmas cactus isn’t your typical plant. It has droopy branches and bright flowers. Whether it’s flowering or not, the flat leaves of the cactus are appealing. When it is in bloom, the cactus brightens up any living space.

Hardiness

Are you tired of killing off your plants? If so, don’t give up just yet. The Christmas cactus could be the one plant you’re capable of caring for. As long as you don’t pay too much attention to the plant, it should be fine. It’s tolerant of drought conditions, so you can skip a watering here and there. With such a forgiving plant, you’ll be hard-pressed to kill it.

Better Sleep

All plants are good for the air, to a certain extent. However, most indoor plants release oxygen into the air during the day. While this makes it easier to breathe all day long, it doesn’t help you much at night.

Fortunately, the Christmas cactus is there for you. It releases oxygen at night, which makes your air better. If you feel like you’re sleeping better, you may have the Christmas cactus to thank.

Improved Mental Health

There have been several studies on plant care and mental health. By providing care for a plant, you can make yourself happier. Taking care of your holiday cactus is a form of therapy. If you’re feeling particularly stressed, consider learning how to grow a Christmas cactus. The plant may be just what you need to get rid of your stress.

Non-Toxic

One of the most popular holiday plants, the poinsettia is toxic to dogs and cats. Fortunately, there’s another holiday option that won’t put your pets in danger. The Christmas cactus won’t harm your pets during the holidays, or any other time of year.

Brighten Up the Holidays

If you live in a cold climate, there aren’t many plants that brighten up your space. The majority of plants go dormant and have hues of green or brown. For a little brightness during the holiday season, you can grow a holiday cactus. In addition to brightening up your home, the plant also makes a great gift.

christmas cactus from above in red gift container no blooms

Care

One of the benefits of the Christmas cactus is its ease of maintenance. Compared to some other indoor plants, this succulent is simple. You don’t need to be a botanist to keep your plant alive.

Water Needs

The Easter plant needs regular watering. During the growing season, you need to keep the soil moist but not soaking. If you water the plant too much, it will develop root rot.

Keep in mind that your plant’s watering needs will change as the weather changes. Homes tend to be drier in the winter because the heater dries out the air.

Light Needs

If you have a low light environment, the Christmas cactus will survive. But it grows the best in bright light. Without enough light, the plant won’t flower. And with too much light, the plant will receive burns on its leaves.

Before finding a home for your holiday cactus, think about the lighting conditions. Keep in mind that the lighting can change from season to season. You may need to move the plant if you notice a change in the lighting.

Fertilizer Needs

Although a fertilizer isn’t necessary for this plant, it will help the plant grow and flower. About once every other week, apply a mild fertilizer. A generic houseplant fertilizer should suffice.

Temperature Needs

Despite its name, the holiday cactus enjoys moderate temperatures. It’s neither desert-like nor snow-bound. Instead, it prefers temperatures between 60 and 70 degrees. Don’t leave the plant outside in the winter or outside on a hot summer day.

Humidity Needs

The Christmas cactus doesn’t like dry homes. If you have low humidity in your home, you need to make some accommodations for this plant. Either mist it regularly, get a humidifier, or use a water-filled tray to increase the humidity of your home.

After your plant blooms, you can adjust the humidity to get more blooms. If you don’t, the plant won’t go dormant and won’t rebloom until the following winter. Limit the humidity and light, and lower the temperature in your home. Then, the plant will go dormant and get ready to bloom again.

Varieties

There are several varieties of Christmas cactus. To make it easier to choose a variety, we categorized them by color.

Red

If you want red flowers, consider the Dark Marie or Kris Kringle. However, both varieties tend to bloom before Christmas approaches. The Kris Kringle is more upright than most other types, so you might want to plant it in an upright container. For a tropical feel, get the Caribbean Dancer.

    Hirt's Gardens Christmas Cactus Plant

Buy at Amazon
    The Christmas cactus is native to the South American jungles. The flowers bloom once a year and come in shades of fuchsia, yellow, salmon, pink, white, orange, red and sometimes will even have a combination of the colors. This variety blooms a strong red with a paler pink or peach center. It ships in a 4-inch grower's pot.

White

These types of holiday cactus tend to be very unique. For instance, the Thor Britt is white but has pink stamens. Meanwhile, White Christmas is an early bloomer with creamy white flowers.

    Hirt's Gardens White Christmas Cactus

Buy at Amazon
    The Christmas cacti are tropical plants. They require sunlight and the blooms last longer with cooler temperatures. Keep them away from heaters, fireplaces, radiators, furnace ducts, and other heat sources. Place in a sunny location while indoors and if outdoors during the summer, find a place that has a sun/shade mix to prevent the plant from getting burned. This variety blooms white with fuschia pink stamens and ships in a 4-inch grower's pot.

Orange and Yellow

Most of the orange varieties are early bloomers. The Malindi is a bright orange, while the Xmas Fantasy is peach in color. Christmas Gold starts out with purple buds, but soon changes to gold flowers with purple stamens. For a more yellowish hue, go for the Gold Charm.

    HG Yellow Christmas Cactus

Buy at Amazon
    The color of the Yellow Christmas Cactus may vary from yellow to pinkish-yellow, to peach-yellow depending upon temperature, shipping time, pH of the soil, and the fertilizer content of the soil. This one ships in a 4-inch grower's pot.

 Pink and Purple

If purple is more your color, consider the Nicole. It has lavender flowers and white centers. Thor Rit has large flowers that are bright pink.

    JMBamboo Pink Christmas Cactus

Buy at Amazon
    Blooms between Thanksgiving and Christmas, and sometimes in April with proper preparation. Prefers morning sun, or very bright indirect light. Water when dry. Makes a great gift! The plant you will receive is growing in a 6-inch pot.

Propagation

When you buy a Christmas cactus, you can make new generations of the plant. Simply take a cutting, being sure to cut a y-shaped portion of the stem tips. It must be from a healthy plant, or the cutting won’t survive. Once you have it, place the cutting in somewhat sandy soil and wet it.

Pruning

Your holiday cactus will survive if you don’t prune it. But it won’t bloom as much as you might like. To keep your plant flowering, prune it after it blooms. Take one or two segments off of each branch.

Where to Buy

You can purchase this plant online or in stores. Typically, they start appearing in stores shortly before the holiday season, but through summer they’re inexpensive when you can find them.

FAQ

Find out everything you should know about caring for this unique plant.

christmas cactus macro hot pink bloom closeup of stamen

How Can I Get My Plant to Rebloom?

Most people enjoy the Christmas cactus because it blooms near or during the holiday season. But what if you want it to bloom more frequently than once a year? You can reduce light, temperature, and moisture to make the plant dormant. It needs between 12 and 14 hours of darkness to go into this stage and prepare for blooming again.

It’s worth noting that not all varieties of holiday cactus bloom during the holiday season. Some bloom a little earlier, so be sure to familiarize yourself with your type of cactus.

Why is My Plant Limp?

If your plant is limp or wilting, there are two potential issues. Your plant may be receiving too much water or it could be getting too much sun. Check the soil for moisture. If it’s not too wet, then sunlight might be the problem. Try moving your plant to a different location with less sun.

Can I Save a Plant That Has Necrotic Spot Virus?

If your plant has necrotic spot virus, it will have yellow or spotted leaves. To prevent the disease, you can use insect control. If your plant catches the virus, you can try to save it by moving the plant to a new pot with fresh soil.

Can I Prevent or Treat Root Rot?

One of the most common questions about how to grow a holiday cactus is regarding root rot. It often occurs when people give their plants too much water or their pot doesn’t drain well. Extra water gets stuck in the roots and fungus begins to grow.

You can check for root rot by looking at the roots. Are they soggy? If so, you should remove the plant from the pot and rub off the soil from the roots. Then, rinse the root ball with water to wash off disease and fungus. If you see any dead roots, trim them off. Repot the plant in loose soil that drains well.

When you water your plant, be sure not to overwater it. You should also make sure your pot has at least one drainage hole.

 

shares