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Getting a Christmas Cactus to Bloom

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Pink Christmas Cactus

You have a beautiful green Christmas cactus, but sadly, no blooms. This is a guide about getting a Christmas cactus to bloom.

Solutions: Getting a Christmas Cactus to Bloom

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Tip: Beverages for the Christmas Cactus

I have a 55+ year old Christmas Cactus that I got after my grandmother's death. It didn't do very well and didn't grow much and I was about to throw it away; then, I remembered seeing my grandmother pour whatever she was drinking on the cactus, (tea, coffee). I started giving the cactus a cup of coffee once a week and it has just exploded! It blooms twice a year and has grown by leaps and bounds. Try coffee!

By Liz from Birmingham, AL

Editor's Note: This works really well but make sure it is has no sugar or cream in it.

Article: Coaxing Christmas Cactus

Christmas_CactusIf your Christmas cactus blooms on the 4th of July, consider yourself lucky. Many people who grow them would settle for any blooms at all. If you're willing to follow a few simple rules, you can coax this shy cactus into blooming for you year after year-just in time for the holidays.

At Home in the Forest

If you are already growing a Christmas (or Easter) Cactus, then you know they're not like other cacti. Even though they are succulents, they have much different requirements than their spine-covered cousins from the desert. That's because their natural habitat is actually in the forest-more specifically woodlands and jungles. In fact, they are actually referred to as Forest Cacti.

A typical forest cactus has leaf-like stems and a trailing growth habit that makes them suitable for hanging baskets. But their greatest feature is really their flowers. From creamy whites to vibrant reds and fuchsias, the flowers on some varieties get as big as saucers.

Shy Bloomers

Unfortunately, unless you are able to meet their specific needs, Forest Cacti can be shy bloomers. If you want a good display ever year, you need to provide them with a cool, dry place to rest in the early spring, be careful not to move them an inch once buds appear, and allow stems to harden outdoor during the summer. To complicate things, each type also has specific needs.

Growing a Christmas Cactus
From creamy whites to vibrant reds and fuchsias, the flowers on some varieties get as big as saucers.

General Growing Requirements

Temperature: Ideally, Christmas Cacti prefer temperatures in the range or 55-70 degrees F. During their resting period, most prefer cooler temperatures of 50 to 55 degrees F.

Light: These plants need a well-lit location out of direct sunlight.

Food and Water: After a period of rest, watering should be increased when buds begin to form. During flowering and active growth, water and feed as you would most houseplants. Water liberally when soil starts to dry. Christmas cactus don't like hard water, so use rain water or filtered water if possible.

Humidity: Leaves need misting frequently.

Repotting: Christmas cacti benefit from annual repotting after they finish flowering.

Propagation: Christmas cacti root easily from cuttings. Take stem cuttings from a terminal stem tip in the summer. Allow it to cure for a few days before inserting in into a peat-based compost.

Calendar of Care

Mid-November through January: This is the normal flowering period. Water normally and maintain a minimum temperature of 55 degrees F.

February and March: This is the important period of rest. Move plant into cooler temperatures (50-55 degrees F.)

April and May: Resume normal feeding and watering. Water well when compost starts to dry out.

June through Mid-September: Set your Christmas cactus outdoors. Forest Cacti need a spell outdoors to harden their stems in order to produce next year's flower buds. Place cactus in a shady spot and protect it from snails and slugs by placing crushed eggshells (or other sharp material) around its base.

Mid-September through Mid-November: This is considered the pre-flowering period. Keep plants on the cooler, dryer side until you see flower buds form. Then increase water and temperature and leave it alone to flower.

By Ellen Brown

Tip: Castor Oil For Christmas Cactus

If you add 2 Tbsp. of castor oil around the roots of a Christmas cactus in October, it will bloom in December.

By Janette from Parkersburg, WV

Article: Getting a Christmas Cactus to Bloom

christmas_cactus

Fertilizer And Sun Exposure

I had this problem for many years until my older neighbor told me that she got her Christmas cactus to bloom by placing one feed stick into the plant pot each month. She would break them in 1/2 and stick them into the soil. A simple solution to a complex problem. Now I've expanded on this. I use 1/4 teaspoon of a commercial water soluble plant food in 2 quarts of water. I use this each time I water the plants starting in the spring. I have had great results. I am now looking forward to using the timed release pellets. They worked well enough in the veggie garden with the usual 2" - 3" of composted cow manure. This saved me plenty of time. I needed to use water alone last summer and did not need to worry at all about fertilizing the garden. If this problem persists, you may want to examine how much sun your window is getting. Southern exposures are the best. My neighbor had a western exposure.

By Glabrain

Only Water When Dry

I received a Christmas cactus as a gift from a friend just before Christmas '04. It was beautiful. I live in an apartment/condo with windows facing north. I believed that it wouldn't bloom again on my north windowsill. At the moment, it has 8 beautiful blooms and many buds. Cactus of any kind are succulent plants (they retain water) therefore don't water until soil is very dry, then give a good soaking. It works great for me. Good luck!

By mairmie

Avoid Artificial Light

The secret to making a Christmas Cactus bloom again is: along about mid October, make sure that it doesn't have any prolonged period of artificial light. We keep ours in the laundry room (which usually isn't lit at night) until it sets blooms in late November and it is just covered! Once, my mother accidentally had one right behind her insulated curtains on the windowsill and even forgot to water it for months and it set blooms. You should water every couple of weeks, but not too much. I never fertilize, and tend to have a brown thumb on most stuff, so this really is the secret.

By Margie

Leave Outside Until Cool Weather Starts

I had the same problem with my Christmas cactus. It was small when I purchased it, but had blooms. For the next 2 years, no matter what I did, it would not bloom. Last spring, I set it outside in the flowerpot, and left it all summer. I brought it back in the house when the nights began to get cool enough to worry about frost, and had lots of blooms from just before Thanksgiving until after Christmas. Expect to do the same this year.

By Harlean from Arkansas

Talk To Them

I rescued 6 Christmas cacti from the reduced table 2 or 3 weeks before Dec 25th and all were still flowering. Well now in March, I have 4 of them reflowering. I have named them all and I think they like that. They are also in a south patio window. I fertilize every 2 or weeks and talk to them daily. But I think I have a contest going for them to see which on can have the most flowers. Madge is doing the best but Euenes is catching up with her. So talk to them, they love it.

By Lynn

Don't Water For 6-8 Weeks

To make Christmas cactus bloom, don't water them for 6 to 8 weeks. Trust me, they are cactus and they will be fine, then water them very thoroughly. They will bloom. Using this method you can get them to bloom throughout the year.

By Carol

No Water And In The Dark

Put it in a dark area for 6-8 weeks without water. When you take it out, it will start blooming like crazy!

By jtg90

Put A Box Over It

I would suggest putting your cactus in a room that would receive the same light as outside. This meaning, let your cactus have the same amount of light during the day as if it was outside. Putting a box or something over the cactus at night also works. The cactus blooms as a result of less light during the fall/winter. Another option would be putting it in a closet or another room for the entire month of October with little or no water. I have tried both of these techniques and had very good luck. As far as having the cactus outside during the summer, I do. I keep it in a shaded spot where it does not take the direct sun and it does fine. Hope this helps.

By Clayton

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Questions

Here are questions related to Getting a Christmas Cactus to Bloom.

Question: Christmas Cactus Not Blooming

Christmas cactus in small plastic pot.I started my plant from just a small clipping of a Christmas cactus about 1 1/2 year ago and it never bloomed. Now it's getting big and I am wondering if I should put it in a bigger pot and what can I do for it to bloom? The clipping I took it from was a big Christmas cactus from a friend of mine and it bloomed I think twice a year if I'm not mistaken.

By Madeleine from Gatineau, Qc.


Most Recent Answer

By Karen H. [10]03/26/2012

These are all very helpful articles/answers to the problems of growing Christmas cactus. I bought 2 small ones at Christmas from Home Depot. A white one & a fuschia one. They had buds; but a few days later they all fell off!

Well, I was very disappointed & I had just given them Cactus plant food, (the liquid kind) with some water! They haven't done anything but sit there plain looking. Unfortunately, I've been over watering them (I just read to let them get dry & just give a little water)!

I just put them in the closet in a paper bag & covered it with a small piece of cardboard-loosely (they'll get air). I marked 8 weeks from today on the calendar to take them out (on May14th) & water with plant food.

I had previously put a plant stick in about a week ago, so I didn't do that before resting them. Hopefully I'll have blooms around Mothers Day or so & remember to only moisten them & (not drown them) again.

Wish me luck. I think these particular ones are supposed to bloom two times a year. I hope so. But whether they bloom or not; do I have to put them away to rest again 6-8 weeks before Nov. 1st for blooms again? Thanks for helping in advance.

Question: Why is My Christmas Cactus Doing This?

After many years my Christmas cactus has decided to bloom. This is great, but it is only blooming one flower at a time. One blooms and then it dies. Then another blooms, then it dies, and so on. What's the trick to get them to bloom all at the same time?

By Adrienne

Question: Christmas Cactus Blooming Late

My Christmas cactus bloomed a little at Christmas, a couple branches is all. Here it is the beginning of March and many of the branches are coming out with buds. Why? I have had a steady stream of blooms since Christmas, but only 4-5 blooms at a time.

By Yvonne

Question: Christmas Cactus Buds Dropping Off

I have two cacti and they are medium sized. They were blooming when I got them and had lots of buds. After the initial blooms faded I expected all the other buds to open, but they never did. They just dried up and fell off. The plant has continued to make more buds, but the same thing happens; they dry up and fall off. My plants get southern exposure and I water every two weeks. What can I do?

By Tara P


Most Recent Answer

By Frugal Sunnie [11]01/20/2012

First thing, check the moisture content in the soil-too wet or too dry can cause bud drop in Christmas cactus. Usually this plant wants to have the soil dry out before watering again. When you do water it, move it to the sink or bathtub, water it throughly to moisten all of the soil, and let it drain for about an hour before taking back to its regular spot.

Now, about that regular spot-plenty of warm sunlight? Christmas cactus love the sunlight through a window all day.

And for some reason the plant seems to do best if pot-bound. At least mine always do.

Have a look at this link to see if you're providing the right environment for your plant:

http://www.hort.purdue.edu/ext/cactusFAQs.html