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Christmas Cactus Care: Easy Care Indoor Plant That Flowers

If you are looking for an easy care indoor plant that flowers, look no further than the Christmas cactus. It is my favorite houseplants to grow and I know you’ll love growing it too. Learn all about Christmas cactus care and how to get a few sets of blooms throughout the year in today’s post.

Christmas Cacti, aka Schlumbergera bridgesii, is a small genus of cacti that is super simple to grow.

It is a resilient indoor plant that makes a wonderful addition to any decorating aesthetic. This popular plant propagates pretty easily and if cared for really well, can last a very long time!

I’ve had mine for 15 years already and it’s still doing amazing.

With proper care, the right amount of water, and indirect sunlight, holiday cactus plants can produce beautiful blooms for decades.

Want to learn more?

Here are some Christmas cactus care tips you need to know so you can grow and enjoy these beautiful houseplants.

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What Is a Christmas Cactus?

While considered to be a long lasting holiday houseplant, the Christmas cactus is an attractive plant that can flower several times a year with bright colored beautiful flowers that you can’t beat.

I mean, instead of giving a poinsettia as a hostess gift for the holidays, you can snag one of these for a few dollars at the nursery or even the local grocery store!

It’s actually a great budget-friendly option as a hostess gift for any reason, so if you see one, buy it!

close up of christmas cactus at the nursery with pink flowers

Christmas Cactus vs. Thanksgiving Cactus vs. Easter Cactus: What’s the Difference?

While they look the same, they are different plants. And you can tell by looking at the leaf segments.

The foliage of the Christmas cactus (Schlumbergera x buckleyi) has a scalloped shape to them.

On the outer edges of a Thanksgiving cactus (Schlumbergera truncata), the foliage has more pointed or claw-shaped leaves.

And the Easter cactus (Schlumgergera gaertnerrii) foliage has more rounded edges.

If you look closely at them next time you are the nursery or garden centers, you’ll see the how not similar they are.

But it’s not easy to tell!

So you really have to look.

close up of christmas cactus that is just starting to bloom im the sunroom with checkered tile floors
My Christmas cactus in the sunroom is just starting to flower

Christmas Cactus Care

I know it’s called a Christmas cactus, so the name implies this indoor plant will thrive in hot dry conditions and poor soil.

But they actually need a little more attention than your average succulent.

So it does not thrive on neglect or lack of water.

christmas cactus at the nursery with white flowers

Light Conditions

In general, Christmas cacti require bright indirect light or filtered light and enough moisture that the potting material does not dry out.

During the colder months, in my former former home, I kept mine in a west facing window in my living room and it lives in this spot every year.

When the danger of frost has passed, I used to bring it outside to summer on the deck where it stayed under the roofline and would get watered when I watered it.

Since moving to our new home, I keep it in the sunroom which is located on the northern side of our home.

I still move it outdoors to summer and keep it under the back porch so it can joy the outdoors with indirect light.

If you move a Christmas cactus outdoors in summer, they need to be kept shaded or in a semi-shaded location.

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close up of festive christmas cactus with red flowers - Christmas Cactus care tips and tricks
Photo by 1800 Flowers

If the Christmas Cactus gets too much sunlight, the leaves may turn red, burn the leaves or make them limp.

My indoor plant loves to be outside and starts blooming as soon as I bring it out.

When it’s time to bring the plants back in before the first frost, it is advisable to slowly adjust plants by gradually increasing the number of hours they spend indoors each day.

Do I do this?

No.

I just bring mine in before the first frost. It used to go right in front of that west facing window but now has a prominant place in the sunroom.

With each move inside and out, it never skips a beat!

Christmas Cactus with pink flowers in front of a window
Every year, my Christmas cactus enjoyed this spot in front of a west side window in my former living room.

Soil Requirements

These plants like to be a little root bound.

When you first bring your plant home, it’s not necessary to repot it right away. I waited a bit to repot mine.

And have not repotted it since.

When you do eventually repot it, use a container only slightly larger than what it is currently growing in.

The Christmas Cactus grows best in well-drained soil.

SouUse a commercially packaged potting mix for succulent plants or mix your own by combining two parts plain potting soil with one part clean sand or vermiculite.

Christmas Cactus outside on deck with buds getting ready to bloom ona  deck with spider plant and dumbcane
Every summer, my Christmas Cactus enjoys this corner spot under the roofline on my deck. It does not receive any direct sunlight here.

How to Water

Water the Christmas cactus when the top 1-2″ of soil feels dry to the touch.

When to water will vary with the air temperature, amount of light, rate of growth and relative humidity of your home’s microclimate.

So what works for me, may not be the same for you.

For giving it the optimal care, test the soil for dryness using this method before watering.

You could also use this moisture testing meter. I haven’t used it before myself but I know others who have.

Where my houseplants are concerned, I lean towards under-watering as opposed to over-watering.

The Christmas cactus will let you know when it’s thirsty because the foliage will start to pucker. So it’s pretty obvious when it’s thirsty.

During the winter months, I water mine about every other week.

When it’s outside and blazing hot out, I probably keep it watered weekly.

But I always check the soil first.

Christmas Cactus with pink flowers in front of window

How to Get a Christmas Cactus to Bloom a Few Times Per Year

There is a lot of information out there that says it will only bloom once a year.

I’ve had mine for over 15 years now and my Christmas cactus blooms about 3x per year.

Here’s how I do it.

  • I start feeding mine in February with a slow-release fertilizer that will feed for a few months.
  • Since I live in Zone 6a, in New Jersey, our last frost date is mid-May. So I will feed it again in May.
  • I feed it again in early August.
  • And then allow it to go dormant.

My Christmas cactus blooms in May-Junish, August and November.

And it’s just gorgeous when it’s in full bloom!

Christmas Cacuts Care Growing Tip: Before I started regularly bringing my houseplants outside to summer, my Christmas Cactus did not bloom 2-3x per year – it was maybe more like 1-2x per year. It only started blooming more, once I started bringing it outdoors in summer.

Bee skep and Houseplants in my sunroom After the renovation - how to paint over faux finish in the sunroom renovation. Houseplants in the sunroom
Sunroom Before and After With My Houseplants that Include Christmas Cactus, Snakeplant, Boston Fern and an Anthurium

Christmas Cactus Propagation

I propagated the Christmas cactus a few times now, and it was not on purpose!

The first time I did it was when a small piece broke off. Instead of tossing it, I stuck it in the soil of another houseplant and it rooted! (I still need to dig it out by the way but that’s for another day.)

Most recently, a large branch broke off while it was flowering.

I was devasted it broke but thought I’d try to do what I did before with the smaller piece that rooted.

So I added fresh soil to a pot I had laying around and hoped it would eventually root.

I thought the blooms wouldn’t stick around but they did!

The branch rooted and it’s become a strong plant today.

Isn’t that so easy?

Christmas Cactus Photo by Plants.com with red and white flowers
Christmas Cactus Photo by Plants.com

Why Won’t My Christmas Cactus Bloom?

In general, there are two things needed to get a Christmas cactus to bloom.

And that is light and temperature.

Because Christmas cactuses prefer to flower in a cooler environment short day cycle, the blooming process needs to be several days of less light to kick of the colorful flowers.

And that’s why you see it bloom in November as we approach the holiday season.

Since it is a short-day plant it needs hours of darkness to promote flowering.

To initiate flowering, these holiday cacti need at least 8 days of 16 hours of darkness with 8 hours of bright light. So if your environment isn’t providing short days, then Christmas cactus plants may not flower.

You can simulate this by moving it into a dark room without any lights, a dark closet, or warm dry basement for 16 hours a day. And then give it 8 hours of artificial light.

I’ve never needed to do this. However, it’s possible that the sheer act of bringing these tropical plants indoors after summer outside, might simulate those conditions because the plant is receiving much less light.

It’s also recommended that since it loves cool temperatures to flower. The ideal temperature should also be set around 61 degrees. I keep my house pretty cool, so I’m fairly certain we are pretty close to that, maybe slightly higher.

Just make sure you keep it away from cold or hot drafts.

So, if your holiday cactus plant isn’t blooming?

Pay attention to the light and temperature in the space you are caring for it.

To encourage it to bloom a few times per year, I strongly suggest bringing it outdoors in summer so it can enjoy the higher humidity level before going back indoors and fertilizing it.

Happy Gardening!

close up of christmas cactus at the nursery

My Favorite Indoor Plant That Blooms

What is your favorite indoor plant that blooms? I would love to know more in the comments below.

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close up of Christmas Cactus - how to Care for
Christmas Cactus close up in sunny western facing window
Christmas cactus close up with pink flowers in western facing window - how to care for a christmas cactus

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10 Comments

  1. Stacy,
    I really need all the help I can get when it comes to house plants. I appreciate your posts.
    Rachel.

    1. Thank you Rachel! If you don’t have one of these try it. You will appreciate how easy it is to care for and LOVE when it blooms!

  2. Last year I bought one loaded with buds. Every last bud fell off and it didn’t bloom. I put it in a bucket outside and kept it watered. It was full of blooms this year.
    I used to have a lot of them, but the feral cat got so mad because he couldn’t go out, he dug up the dirt in my Christmas cactus and p’d in them. Killed all of them !

  3. A variation on the theme—-I use bamboo skewers that I can leave in my potted plants (hidden in the foliage) to test the root zone before watering. They are cheap and can be easily trimmed to size for the pot &/or plant.

  4. This is the one plant that I don’t have! My Mom has one that given to her that’s over 50 years old now…it’s huge!!

      1. The Christmas Cactus is my favorite indoor plant too. I’ve had mine for over 30 years. It blooms every November and looks beautiful. Tried rooting some new plants from it last spring with some some success ( I put cuttings in water to root which took forever) Going to try rooting in soil next and getting it to flower more than once a year. Thanks for your tips!

        1. Aren’t they so fun? I haven’t tried rooting them in water – when I put the cuttings in soil I literally left them alone for several months (Didn’t try to pull them or anything). I was surprised that huge branch rooted. It broke off in late fall, flowered, and still looks great! Such a fun plant to grow!