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Caring for a Christmas Cactus

Category House Plants
Christmas Cactus in bloom
The Christmas cactus is an easy to grow house plant with a little understanding of its needs. This is a guide about caring for a Christmas cactus.


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July 22, 20160 found this helpful

This guide is about damaged Christmas cactus. This house plant may need some TLC from some pest or abuse.

Christmas Cactus on white background

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Ask a QuestionHere are the questions asked by community members. Read on to see the answers provided by the ThriftyFun community or ask a new question.

By 1 found this helpful
March 25, 2010

My Christmas cactus blooms, but is not growing taller or fuller. It is just staying the same size. How can I increase plant growth? What kind of fertilizer should I use?

Hardiness Zone: 6b

By Gayle from Rochester, NY

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March 30, 20100 found this helpful

Repot the cactus into a larger pot.

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April 1, 20100 found this helpful

I use Schultz 10-15-10 Plant food plus. It is liquid, I mix about a Gal of water to 14 DROPS of the plant food. Water plants about every 2-3 weeks. Don't over water. GG Vi

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October 8, 20110 found this helpful

I use Miracle Gro liquid fertilizer on my Christmas Cactus about once a month and not too much. I mix up a Tbsp. in a gallon of water and just put a small amount on each plant.

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March 19, 20121 found this helpful

How do I separate a Christmas Cactus that is root bound?

By Marcia from Spokane Valley, WA

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By 0 found this helpful
February 1, 2011

I got my mother's Christmas plant just after she pasted away in March of 2010. The plant was doing great until I got it. I water it about once a week and give it plant food about once a month (Miracle Gro 24-8-16). Can someone help me with my dying cactus? If I am using the wrong plant food can I run it under water continuously to get the remaining plant food out? Please can you tell me what I should do. Thank you very much.

By duane

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February 1, 20110 found this helpful

When I had a cactus plant, I used cactus food for it, rather than Miracle-Gro. I don't know if it's available everywhere, at the time, I lived in the desert Southwest, but it should be available online, if worse comes to worst.

I would also guess that you're really over watering your cactus. These plants are made to survive in the dry desert climate, there's only a "monsoon season" once a year, and some rain in the valleys if it snows heavily in the mountains. I hope someone else here will have more specific advice, but for the time being, stop watering the cactus. Then find out how much you really should water it, by researching online, or calling garden centers that sell cacti.

Hopefully, once you stop over watering the plant, and give it plant-specific nutrition, it will perk up and be healthy again. I can see why the plant is so important to you. I'm very sorry to hear of your loss.

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February 2, 20110 found this helpful

If you can repot your Christmas cacti as I think you will find you have over watered it and the roots are probably starting to rot , pot it up again with new compost. Then leave it for a while about a month and then only a little, as already has been said Christmas cacti or any cacti for that matter only need watering infrequently! my inlaws always watered theirs with cold tea now and again.

In the spring when the weather warms up a bit I put mine outside in a shady spot and virtually forget about it until autumn then I bring it in and you will soon see buds forming, but once again neglect it it will repay you by flowering a couple of times, it is natural for them to have a long resting period before they flower again.

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February 2, 20110 found this helpful

Cut some of the arms off of the plant and place in a clear glass jar in a sunny location. They will start to root this way and you will be able to start a new plant (or a lot of new plants!). The advise given was on-spot: these are cactus and only require a bit of water every-so-often. I got mine from cuttings where the summer temp was 100 or so, ours is closer to 70. It's a great plant and should bloom for you year after year. I am sorry for the loss of your Mother. I know that this is an important plant for you to tend.

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February 4, 20110 found this helpful

I understand about having your mom's plant now that she's gone. I did the same thing after my mom passed away. With a Christmas cactus, as with any succulent or cactus, less is more. Don't water it unless it thoroughly dries out in between watering and then only enough to moisten the soil. And stop feeding it so often, too...they really thrive on neglect. I've had one for over five years that blooms profusely every year and sometimes I've forgotten to water it for a couple weeks at a time and I've never fed it. And I'd take the advice of putting it in a new pot and getting rid of all the soaked potting soil, too. Don't give up, I think your cactus will be just fine. :-)

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February 4, 20110 found this helpful

I have a Christmas cactus that I got as a one-stalk cutting from my sister-in-law. I took it home and stuck it into a glass of water until roots grew. I planted it into some cactus-type soil and it grew. That was thirty five years ago! It grew because I forgot about it, sometimes only watering it once a month, if then. It has been re-potted only twice in 35 years. This year was the first year that it had a profusion of blooms. Last year I moved it to a west window that gets lots of light and sun. I guess it likes it there!

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By 0 found this helpful
July 21, 2006


I have 3 Christmas Cactus, one of them has ruby red leafs on the ends of it. What causes this?

Hardiness Zone: 5b

Thanks for reading,
Dee49 from PA



The red leaves on your Christmas cactus indicate that it has experienced some type of stress. This is usually related to a lack of nutrients and being exposed to excessive bright light (like being set outdoors in the sun). Leaves contain a flavonoid called Anthocyanin, which functions to provide the colors we see in flowers and fruit. In some plants, it is also thought to protect leaves from ultraviolet radiation. (In other plants, it's thought to repel browsing herbivores!) Leaves also contain carotenoids called Xanthophylls. These also help absorb and dissipate any damaging excess light energy that cannot be harvested by the leave's chloroplasts and turned into food. The red leaves on your cactus are an indicator that it has suffered sunburn. This could be from sudden exposure to excess light, or due to the fact that is lacks the nutrients necessary to help filter out damaging ultraviolet light. Check to see that it isn't pot bound, which can effect the root's ability to take up nutrients. As long as it's not pot bound, a boost of fertilizer will probably be enough to turn the leaves back to green again.

Good luck!

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June 22, 20060 found this helpful

i do believe that is your bloom.

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By guest (Guest Post)
June 23, 20060 found this helpful

I think the red leaves on your Christmas Catus is sunburn. I have mine in the south window, in the winter the sun is hot and the leaves get red. In the winter time they get green again.I think they are pretty that way.

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By guest (Guest Post)
June 23, 20060 found this helpful

I also have noticed red ends on my Christmas cactus plant that I have outside now on my deck. I've never seen this before and have been wondering what it might be. I thought it might be new leaves growing. To me, it doesnt look like buds forming for blooms...

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By guest (Guest Post)
June 23, 20060 found this helpful

On mine, the new leaves are red and then turn green. Also, could be the blooms although I think you would know a bloom.

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June 23, 20060 found this helpful

The red ones are simply the young, immature leaves. Some varieties are a little redder than others. Once they grow larger and mature, they turn green. When yours blooms, you'll easily tell the difference between these leaves and the buds.

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By 0 found this helpful
December 15, 2010

I have had a Christmas cactus for a couple of years and it finally started to bloom. It was so beautiful, well until about 2 days ago. We forgot to bring it in the house and the temperature dropped to 19 degrees. When I got home from work at 7am the leaves and blooms were frozen. I brought it in, but it is flaccid, just flopped down. Please tell me is there any help for my cactus? What should I do?

By Shannon from Roanoke Rapids, NC

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December 16, 20100 found this helpful

Usually you can revive them with wind. Put an oscillating fan, one that swings back and forth, in front of it, and give them a bit of warm water.

Have FUN!


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December 19, 20100 found this helpful

Chances are the roots are fine. Just water as you usually do and keep it in the same location that it was in. If the top does not perk up, just cut the whole plant back to the top of the pot and be patient. It should regrow slow but sure. I have saved many plants that seemingly had no hope just by continuing to care for them.

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By 0 found this helpful
August 23, 2010

After many years of regular blooming and growth my Christmas cactus has turned purple and droopy. It is in a large hanging pot in full shade and has done well for 6 years. What could be wrong?

By Irwin from Paso Robles, CA

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August 30, 20100 found this helpful

I would say it is getting too much water. I let mine dry out completely before watering.

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September 9, 20100 found this helpful

Too much water, roots being bound or poor drainage. Take some of the root from the bottom of the plant off. Put your plant in a pail with a couple drops of dish soap and a touch of bleach. This removes dust, etc. Rinse and re-pot in new soil. The roots need room to travel in the pot. You would be amazed what this method does to a spider plant.

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By 0 found this helpful
December 2, 2009

My Christmas cactus has lots of blooms but they are falling off before they bloom.

Hardiness Zone: 7b

By Debbie from Orangeburg, NY

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December 3, 20090 found this helpful

I am no gardening expert; just reporting what I found online. The links below address the issue. It sounds like it might be from a difference in light, temperature or watering.

http://www.dail  ,0,4079437.story

http://en.allex  mas-Cactus-4.htm

http://davesgar  ides/pf/go/1510/

http://www.ehow  tmas-cactus.html

http://www.ext.  ts/xmascctus.htm  Christmas-Cactus

My mom used to have a huge Christmas cactus. They are so beautiful.

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December 4, 20090 found this helpful

Have you moved it? Even turned it round? They don't like that much. Happy Christmas. Marg from England.

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December 18, 20130 found this helpful

What causes buds to fall off a Christmas cactus without opening?

By Billie B from Garland, TX

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September 23, 20120 found this helpful

My xmas cactus is wilted and the leaves are really flat. It got too much water so I transplanted it into fresh dry soil.

By Cathy

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By 0 found this helpful
February 23, 2010

I need to know how to replant a Christmas cactus that needs to be trimmed.

Hardiness Zone: 6a

By Vicki from Conneaut

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February 24, 20100 found this helpful

Hi Vicki, I grow epiphyllums (commonly called orchid cactus) and I think the care is the same as Christmas cactus. If you want to cut off some of the fronds, you can actually let them sit (out of the sun, but just laying on a table, etc.) for a few days until the cut end seals and plant them for a new plant. Then just pot up the old plant in a slightly larger pot using 1/2 orchid bark (medium will do) and potting soil. Since it is a succulent, don't water it much for the first two weeks, especially the new cuttings. Good luck!

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By 0 found this helpful
September 28, 2015

So I have been putting my Christmas cactus outside for a couple of years now in the spring and bring it in about now. It then blooms when I bring it in, too early for Christmas, but that is OK. So I go to bring it in now and it has already started blooming! So what do I do? If I bring it in it will kill the buds and I can't leave it out it will freeze!

Thank you!

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ThriftyFun is one of the longest running frugal living communities on the Internet. These are archives of older discussions.

March 25, 20102 found this helpful

Caring For A Christmas Cactus

How do I care for my Christmas Cactus? Advice from the ThriftyFun community.

Thanksgiving Cactus Care

I have a Thanksgiving cactus that I have had for over 20 years, it is similar to a Christmas cactus. It is in a small ceramic pot. I keep it on my deck in the summertime and feed it with rose food. I bring it in in October and do not water until dry. It blooms at Thanksgiving time. I continue to feed with rose food until after it blooms. The blooms on mine are peach-colored. It is a beautiful sight at Thanksgiving.


Keep Them Rootbound And Dry

Christmas Cactus love to be rootbound and watered infrequently. Always let the dirt dry completely out before watering, too much water will kill them. It will take some time to "recover" from being transplanted twice, but they are hearty and as long as you don't over water it should be fine.

By Judy

Care Throughout The Year

"Watering seems to be the source of most problems with the Christmas cactus. The plant is a tropical type cactus and is not quite as drought tolerant as the name implies. However, it is a succulent plant and can store a reasonable quantity of water in the leaves. Water thoroughly when the top half of the soil in the pot feels dry to the touch. Discard the excess water, then do not water again until the top half becomes dry. The length of time between waterings will vary with the air temperature, amount of light, rate of growth and relative humidity.

After the blossoms fade, the plant isn't much to look at. But a little extra care will help bring it back to full bloom next year.

While the Christmas cactus can adapt to low light, more abundant blooms are produced on plants that have been exposed to high light intensity. Keep your plants in a sunny location indoors. Plants can be moved outdoors in summer, but keep them in a shady or semi-shady location. Too much direct sunlight can burn the leaves. When it's time to bring the plants back inside in the fall, slowly adjust the plants to life indoors by gradually increasing the number of hours they spend indoors each day.

Well-drained soil is a must for Christmas cactus. Use 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.

Pruning your Christmas cactus after blooming will encourage the plant to branch out. Remove a few sections of each stem by pinching them off with your fingers or cutting with a sharp knife. These sections can be rooted in moist vermiculite to propagate new plants. Christmas cactus will bloom if given long uninterrupted dark periods. Begin the dark treatments in about mid-October to have plants in full bloom by the holidays. Christmas cactus will also bloom if they are subjected to cool temperatures of about 50 to 55 degrees Fahrenheit at night. Plants will be ready for the holidays if the cool treatments are started by early November."

By sabrina_ca

When It Starts To Bloom, Don't Move It

My Christmas cactus is only 2 years old and is in an 8" pot. It blooms from the mid November on. Mine is still blooming.

The idea is once it starts to get buds on it, "don't move" it. They don't like to be moved when the budding starts. I water mine once a week it is in a well draining pot. I also give mine a shower once a month in the tub. That counts for a watering.

Do not fertilize in the spring. Fertilize once a month from summer to winter. When it starts to bloom, stop fertilizing it.

Good luck, it will survive I just know it.

Watch Out For Squirrels When Outside

They thrive when rootbound. Also, they like to dry out between waterings. They love to be outside in summer (northern climate) and brought in in fall, but be careful squirrels love to munch on them. Some called Christmas cactus are not, there are Thanksgiving and Easter cacti out there, also. They are all beautiful, but different.

By Judy

Step By Step Care For Mother Plants And Cuttings

I have grown several varieties of Christmas cactus for many years. I have a mother plant that is 40 years old and weighs over 200 lbs. I use clippings from that and create new ones with my other varieties to create different variations and colors. Some have double and triple blooms. Those are sometimes called mother-in-law cactus. They are all the same in essence. Mine bloom at Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas, etc. except during the heat of summer unless you put them in a lightly shaded area. They do not require watering other than once a week. They love to have their soil loosened when transplanted. They hate being pot bound. Just remember when you transfer them to loosen soil, put in a larger pot. They will become bigger each time you transfer over years into larger pots, it's like creating mother plants. You can't make many more from those for propagation purposes.

Also, remember they do not direct sunlight in summer, that's when leaves will turn yellow some and may wilt. They are from the succulent family, hence don't like over watering. Soil will become moldy and you are inviting plant insects to feast on them. Also, always use a light soil fertile mix when transplanting and try and keep it loose every once and awhile. At this point, I would suggest that you take a clipping also from the plant. You do that by snapping off a piece or two where it is jointed. Put that in a clear container filled with water in a sunny spot until you see visible roots. Change water in container every once in a while. It really doesn't take long to root new ones. You can arrange them so they will begging to hang over nicely. They also like to have a hair cut when they become huge. You can make a ton of new plants from the clippings. Once they are rooted, just plant them in new pots by sticking the rooted part in soil.

Once you have established plants, there is a product called Bloom or Peter's that works on all kinds of blooming plants.

Good luck.

By Dee

Post your own tips here.


Caring For A Christmas Cactus

I left the cactus outside all summer on a patio that received morning sunshine. I brought it in in late October before frost and placed it in a West window with partial shade. It was loaded with buds when I brought it in and I was careful to turn it to face the window on the same side that faced the sun outdoors. (12/06/2007)

By agritate

RE: Caring For A Christmas Cactus

Caring For A Christmas Cactus

I have two Christmas cactus and I water mine with my leftover coffee. They must like it because I have had two buds in the same place all over my cactus and they both bloom. (11/02/2009)

By sistine

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