Although the Christmas cactus bursts into prominence during the holiday season, you can grow this succulent year-round. The seasonal appeal is down to its colorful flowers that dazzle in hues of red, purple, orange, lavender, white, and cream.
Christmas cactus (Schlumbergera x buckleyi) is distinguishable by the more rounded edges on the flattened stems, called phylloclades, while the Thanksgiving cactus has more claw-like edges. Also, the Christmas variety blossoms during winter rather than fall.
Left to grow unchecked, it can become a full, sprawling plant. Snipping some cuttings will help to keep it in check. And growing those cuttings will let you enjoy more of these stunning plants around your home. Here’s how.
What You Will Need
Growing a Christmas cactus from cutting isn’t a complicated task. However, there are a few supplies you have to equip yourself with to get the job done. Find the list of essential items below:
- 5 to 6 cuttings
- Sharp knife (optional)
- Jar or glass
- 4- or 6-inch terracotta or clay pots with drainage holes
- Rooting medium, such as perlite, pumice, or coarse sand
- Well-draining potting soil
- Sulfur powder (optional)
- 20-10-20 or 20-20-20 fertilizer
Time Your Propagation Right
The best time to grow a Christmas cactus from cuttings is in late spring, or May or June. This is the beginning of the plant’s growing season, after it has been dormant during the winter.
Prune Your Christmas Cactus Cutting
You will get the healthiest new Christmas cacti by taking cuttings from a healthy parent plant. Each cutting should have three to five stem segments or phylloclades.
Use your fingers to twist off the cutting, or use a clean, sharp knife. Prune where two cladophylls — or branch sections — join. Note which end of the cutting is the top or the bottom. If planted the wrong way up, the cutting will not grow.
PRO TIP: To distinguish the bottom from the top of the cutting, prune at an angle. You will know that the angled end is the bottom.
Propagate Christmas Cactus in Water
Place the cutting directly into a glass or jar with water, which should reach halfway up the bottom leaf. If your glass or jar is too tall for the cutting, place some rocks at the bottom.
Put the glass or jar with the cutting in a sunny location. Between six to eight weeks, you should see some roots. Once the roots are about 1 inch long, plant the cutting in a breathable pot with well-drained potting soil.
Propagate Christmas Cactus in Soil
Alternatively, you can start to grow your Christmas cactus cuttings in soil. Start by placing the cuttings outside in a shady area for at least two days to allow a callus to form. This helps to prevent the cutting from rotting in the growing medium.
Prepare breathable pots, such as terracotta or clay pots. Disinfect them by scrubbing them with hot water and soap and rinse thoroughly. Add well-drained potting soil with a balanced pH to the pots.
For a 4-inch container, place three cuttings about 1 inch deep into the soil. If you are using a 6-inch pot, plant five cuttings. Water the soil thoroughly. You can cover the pot with a clear plastic bag to create more humidity and boost rooting, but it isn’t essential. Place the pot in an area with bright, indirect light for three to eight weeks.
PRO TIP: The larger your cuttings, the more days it will take for the callus to form. You can speed up the process by dipping the cutting ends in sulfur powder.
Grow Christmas Cactus Cutting in Rooting Medium
Some gardeners prefer to start their cuttings off in a rooting medium. You can use perlite, coarse sand, pumice, or a mix of peat moss and coarse sand.
Water the rooting medium and allow it to drain for two to three minutes. Put each cutting about 1 inch down into the medium. Pat the medium around each cutting to secure them. Water the medium again and place the container in a spot with bright, indirect light.
After about three to eight weeks, rooting will be well underway. Repot the cutting into a pot with well-drained soil when the roots are about 1 inch long.
Watering and Fertilizing a Christmas Cactus Cutting
Check if the cutting needs water by placing your finger about 1 inch deep into the soil. Keep the soil or medium moist but not wet. It’s better to let it dry out a bit than to water it too much.
After about eight weeks, you can feed the Christmas cactus cutting with a diluted fertilizer when you are watering it. These plants prefer a 20-10-20 or 20-20-20 fertilizer with trace elements.
Cutting to the Point
Growing a Christmas cactus from cuttings is a simple gardening task that even beginners can do with great success.
A healthy parent plant will recover well from pruning. In fact, the process will make it sprout more branches and become fuller, giving you even more cuttings in the future.
Treated well, this succulent that stands out during the festive season can last more than 20 years. Will the Christmas cactus become one of your family heirlooms? Comment below.