Known by a fantastic and almost magic-like ability to bloom during holidays, this charming houseplant blooms at its most during winter.
Being similar to succulents in terms of maintenance, it’s not a demanding one to take care of as long as you know what to do.
Here are some of the most common tips for all of you who are interested in growing Schlumbergera bridesii.
Find out how to water Christmas cactus, how to make it bloom and much more.
Tips On Watering Christmas Cactus
“How to water Christmas cactus” comes as one of the burning questions for all those who own succulents or plants similar to them.
General rule goes like this – do not overwater or underwater it, both options are harmful to the plant.
Finding the balance between these two is the key to owning a healthy and happy plant. In addition to this, mist the leaves.
You can use a really simple trick to check whether it’s the right time to water your plant:
Check the top inch of the soil. If it’s dry, then you know that the time has come to water it.
Of course, no two plants grow in the same conditions, even if they are in the same house.
Some of the aspects you should take into consideration when it comes to maintaining this adorable plant is the time of the year and the climate.
Moreover, those which are kept indoors require a different approach from those that are outdoors in a dry and hot climate.
When a plant grows in such conditions, you should water it every few days, particularly if it’s been in the sun.
A plant kept inside the house, where it’s humid and cool requires watering once a week approximately.
Moreover, if you want to stimulate flowering, you should water it less often during fall and winter.
There’s one important thing to mention regarding this plant. Even though it is called “cactus”, this one’s a tropical, not a desert plant.
This means it doesn’t tolerate soil which is completely dry.
Overly dry soil results in buds dropping, and then the plant wilts. That’s why the simple test, feeling the soil with fingers, prevents this sad scenario from happening.
On the other hand, too much or too often watering leads to spots appearing on the leaves.
Adequate Soil And Proper Fertilizer For Healthier Christmas Cactus
To start with the container, you will need the one that drains well. Even some cheap nursery, as well as the orchid planters, can do the job.
The most important is to combine it with the one that will hold the water and allow the basket to fit down into it.
Of course, it has to be the one with the drainage hole.
You can help by making the ideal conditions for proper drainage by adding sand or several rocks in the pot base.
As for the soil, the best would be to mix 3 parts potting soil to one part sand or use another option, which is – a part of potting soil, a part of perlite or sharp sand and 2 parts of compost or peat moss.
I used to plant my cacti just any soil that I could find in a shop before, but then I discovered this Espoma soil mixture that works much better with cacti and succulents.
It helps unneeded water drain faster and therefore it is less likely that you will hurt your beloved plant.
Proper fertilizer is of vital importance for the healthy growth of any plant.
With fertilizer, you strengthen the fragile joints preventing them from breaking apart.
How often you will fertilize it depends on many conditions.
Many people do that once a month and withhold it about a month before flowering, which is around the end of October.
Again, please, do not just use any fertilizer. It is not good for the plants. I mane mistakes, trust me.
A fertilizer that I found out works perfectly for me is this EarthPods organic fertilizer.
It comes in 9 different mixtures and no matter if you are having succulents, herbs or orchids – their mixture works pretty well. I’m happy with it.
The Ideal Light for Growing a Christmas Cactus
Each plant is a story for itself and it requires different conditions to grow properly, even if they are of the same kind.
The best combination to grow this plant is placing it in bright but indirect light.
So, do not expose it directly to the sunlight, but make sure the position is well-lit. Excessive heat and light lead to stunt growth and it can burn the leaves.
Keep in mind there are various sources of hot air in your home, such as heat vents, drafts, fireplaces.
Place the cactus away from any of those.
If the plant is placed in the one facing north or east, no worries about the light.
However, if it is facing west or south, you should reduce the light. Use come device or curtains for the purpose. Check out some good grow lights, they might be of help!
During the summer you should keep it in a shadier location and maintain some normal temperature, about 18 to 20 °C or 65 to 75 °F.
The Importance of Humidity for a Strong Christmas Cactus
This plant does the best when the environment is humid. The ideal level is around 50-60% and if you are close to that, your plant will grow fine.
However, if you live in a dry climate (referring both to indoors and outdoors), you need to make several adjustments.
Once again, a simple trick does the job perfectly. Just put a tray of water near the plant, and it will naturally evaporate and create the desired humidity.
There’s another option as well. Take a dish, put gravel into it and pour water.
Then place a pot with a plant onto it, making sure it is not in contact with the liquid. If that happens, the roots of the plant will rot easier.
Another way to maintain the needed humidity and freshness for your plant is to mist it.
Again, make sure it doesn’t turn into giving the plant a shower, but just a gentle sprinkle.
Christmas Cactus Blooming Cycle
If you let the plant act naturally, it will bloom at any time. However,
if you want to justify its name, there’s a certain procedure you need to follow in order to have those breath-taking flowers right during the holiday season.
We could call this procedure “sending the plant into dormancy and coaxing it out when the time comes”.
Here are the steps to follow:
- Reduce watering in mid-October. Quit fertilizing during this time and water just in cases when the soil is dry an inch below the surface.
- Keep it cool, around 12°C or 50 to 55 °F.
- Limit the light, particularly during the night. Keep it in indirect light during the day, but place it in total darkness at least 12 to 14 hours. Put it in the closet, for example, and cover it with a dark cloth for additional protection against the light. This procedure should last about six to eight weeks. This is when the budding starts.
- Once this happens, move the plant out of the dark and place it close to the window, where it’s bright. Mind the coldness and drafts, because they can harm the buds and cause them to drop.
- A couple of weeks from that point, around Christmas time, you should notice flowers opening. They remain open at least six days and continue blooming for about 4 to 6 weeks.
Related: How to Propagate Christmas Cactus
1. How often should I repot the plant?
The ideal time is after the blooming ends. But do not rush with repotting as this one doesn’t mind crowded roots.
2. Why do people prune Christmas cactuses?
You do this for two reasons, either to reduce its size or to make it grow more fully. For more info, check out how to prune Christmas cactus.
3. Can I give coffee to my Christmas cactus?
As a matter of fact, you CAN enjoy your morning coffee with the lovely plant being your company. It’s an old trick for healthier and better blooming. Of course, it has to be a pure black coffee, no cream no sugar.
4. Is Christmas cactus a succulent?
It is not, but it acts similar to them, meaning it stores the liquid in the leaves, but you need to water it.
My Short Cactus Story
I must be deeply honest and admit that I’m somehow emotional when it comes to cacti.
Let me share a small secret with you. When I was a kid, my very first plant to take care of was a lovely cactus with a gorgeous flower. (I can’t even remember which one, it was a long time ago, you know).
Long story short, I accidentally killed it because I thought I should water it every day.
I was only a child, and a sad one, because I made a mistake.
For that reason, I always try to be as precise as possible with these amazing plants, so that even young enthusiasts can understand how to take care of them properly.
All in all, I hope my brief guide on taking care of this one was useful to you.
As you can see, it’s not a demanding one, as long as you know precisely what to do. Having in mind that the most common doubts regarding this one has to do with how to water Christmas cactus, I shall conclude with a simple yet precise point.
Remember that less is better than too much when it comes to watering.
You can always fix the issue when there’s not enough water, but you cannot reverse the procedure if you pour too much of it. I’ve learned this lesson the harder way.
Did anything similar ever happen to you? What was your first plant? Feel free to share it with us below!