Easy Christmas Cactus Care And Growing Tips

christmas cactus care
Help us spread the love

This is a brief guide to Christmas cactus care, one of the most popular houseplants in North America. It has been cultivated for over 300 years and gets its name from blooming around December 25th or when it’s taken indoors as a holiday decoration.

With proper Christmas cactus care, they can live up to 30-40 years but are often discarded after a year because they stop blooming.

The Christmas cactus is not the only plant with this name; there’s also an unrelated South American succulent variety called Schlumbergera truncata which has become popular as well, and you may see that one sold under this name at many nurseries.

But here we’re talking about the North American one.

North Americans love their Christmas cactus and buy it in droves, but there is a dark side: many are discarded after one year because they stop blooming. The plant needs to be cared for well over its lifetime or else you’ll see that need come back as an ugly surprise when your favorite plant stops doing what you want it to do.

Propagating christmas cactus

christmas cactus care

Christmas cactus, also known as Schlumbergera, propagates by offset or from the tip of a stem. These new pieces can be left attached to the mother plant, eventually forming clusters as they age, but many gardeners like to detach and replant them in order to create more space for further growth of both plants.

Detaching an offset requires patience and care when pulling it away from the parent plant. Hold onto it firmly with one hand and use your other hand to carefully work around its attachment point, which may be near a leaf or in an indentation on the stem.

Pull slowly but forcefully until you feel gentle resistance indicating that roots have formed at this site. The new cactus should then be transplanted into a container filled with well-draining soil so that the detached section is just below or even fully immersed in it.

The best time to do this is during winter when watering are less frequent, but offsets can also be severed from mother plants at any other period of their growth cycle as long as they have been separated by a few inches.

The section being detached should be allowed to dry for a day or two before replanting in order to avoid the shock of too much water, which can lead to rotting.

Propagation from the tip is done by removing a stem with at least one leaf and then attaching it loosely into the soil along with its leaves and some rooting hormone. Any type of potting soil can be used, but the best are those for cacti and succulents that have good drainage.

The stem should then be watered with a misting bottle or by placing it in water to soak up some liquid before being transplanted into its final destination and left undisturbed to grow.

Christmas cactus care

christmas cactus care

Light requirements

Christmas cactus needs low light in order to thrive. They will grow weak and spindly if they get too much sunlight, which can also damage their leaves. If possible, give your plant a nice east-facing window with plenty of indirect natural or artificial light from other sources (e.g., lamps, grow light, e.t.c.).

You should not put your plants in a dark room, as this will not only stunt their growth but may also cause the cactus to lose its color.

Christmas cactus soil/potting mix

Your plant will need a pot with good draining soil, such as cactus mix. If you don’t have this type of soil available or can’t keep it from drying out too quickly, try using an all-purpose houseplant fertilizer once per month (typically in liquid form).

If your plant is showing signs of rot or root damage due to overly wet soil, repot your plant into a pot with better drainage.

Christmas cactus fertilizer

You should fertilize your plant every month or two with a low-nitrogen fertilizer. If you’re using a liquid form, dilute it in water to make the solution more manageable for watering into potting soil.

In addition, if you notice any damaged surfaces on your cactus’s leaves (e.g., brown spots), this is likely due to a lack of magnesium in the soil. You can address this by adding Epsom salt (magnesium sulfate) to your potting mix, at about one tablespoon per two gallons of water and then use it to water into the plant’s roots.

Christmas cactus watering

Water your plant sparingly, as too much water can lead to root rot. You should give it a good drink of water once every two weeks and never over-water the soil.

If your plant is showing signs of rot or root damage due to overly wet soil, repot your plant into a pot with better drainage.

Temperature

Christmas cactus prefer warmer temperatures. The range that’s ideal for them is between 65-75 degrees Fahrenheit during the day and 55-65 at night. If you live in an area where it gets colder than this, your plant will need to be moved into a heated space or brought inside until spring.

Humidity

Humidity is the most important factor for a healthy Christmas cactus, and an annual ritual to monitor this plant’s needs. Misting once or twice per day will provide your plant with enough water without overwatering it. You want to avoid wetting leaves when spraying in order to prevent algae growth.

But because humidity levels range depending on room temperature and the seasons, you need to be attentive to your plant.

The ideal humidity level is around 40% so keep an eye out for any dryness in between watering sessions.

Christmas cactus repotting

christmas cactus care

Every two to three years, your Christmas cactus will require repotting. This is done in order for it to continue growing and thriving as well as shedding its old leaves.

A good rule of thumb is when the plant’s roots are becoming visible at the edge of the pot, you know that it’s time to give it some more space.

Pruning

The most important thing to do is never remove all of the stems. Always leave at least one, or you might have a difficult time re-growing another stem on your plant and it will also take much longer for any new growths to overcome the lack of light that would normally be there from other removed stems.

If you’re careful to only removing any dead or dying leaves, you’ll be able to keep your plant looking great for at least a year.

When removing the stems, always pinch them at their base as close as possible to where they are attached rather than cutting with scissors—this will help avoid potential damage and infection of the wound.

Growth rate

The growth rate of a christmas cactus will vary depending on the plant’s age as well as temperature and humidity levels. The younger it is, the quicker its growth rate will be.

If you grow your own plant from a cutting or seedling, expect it to take at least six months before any new stems are visible on top of the soil. This process can be sped up by placing it in indirect sunlight for 12 hours per day and keep watering it fairly regularly.

Toxicity

The toxic components of this plant are saponins and alkaloids that have effects on the heart, lungs, kidneys, and liver. It may also cause coma or even death if ingested in large doses.

Pets should be kept away from these plants because they can get intoxicated by licking or chewing leaves with a high amount of saponins.

Pests and diseases

Christmas cactus are prone to root rot and mold. A common pest is the spider mite that feeds on sap from leaves, buds, or flowers of cacti.

One disease which affects Christmas cactus is leaf spot caused by a fungus called “Cercospora purpurea.” This disease starts with silver spots on the surface of the plant’s leaves and eventually causes the plant to turn brown.


Help us spread the love