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If 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
If you add 2 Tbsp. of castor oil around the roots of a Christmas cactus in October, it will bloom in December.
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.
How do I care for my Christmas cactus to have it bloom for Christmas?
In October you start to reduce the amount of water it gets. You also want to give it 12-14 hours of darkness daily. Complete instructions are here. www.gardeningknowhow.com/
I gave one of these lovely plants to a friend one year for Christmas and it blooms when ever it feels like. Some years multiple times and some years not at all! It never bloomed at Christmas time after the first year, which is quite ironic!
You can try to follow the directions to improve the chances, but these things have a mind of their own. Luckily they are pretty no matter what so don't stress about it and just go with the plant's flow!
I completely agree with Pghgirl40. These gorgeous plants do as they please.
Marg from England.
P.S. I have seen Easter and Whitson cacti as well but I think they are so called because they happen to be in bloom when they are sold.
Someone said feed it coffee to make it bloom. What kind of coffee?
By Marsha from Denton, TX
Personally, I wouldn't do this. One thing that IS safe for them is Epsom Salt (tablespoon/1 gallon of water). You will often see plants that are red and this is for one or two reasons: 1) Magnesium deficiency, or 2)Sunburn.
These plants with red phylloclades (the leaves, sometimes just called "clades") are very stressed; sometimes so stressed that they bloom as a natural survival mechanism.
I have Christmas cactus from 1968. I can not get them to bloom. I have many others from recent years that do just fine. These stems are much skinnier then the Christmas cactus now. Any suggestions?
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
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:
Ignore all those contradictory pieces of advice. Christmas / Easter cacti don't care, as long as they have lots of wind during summer and fall. Just like your legs have to move for the calves to help pump the blood, those plants need to flex. Don't worry about storms. They handle them without a problem. Hang them under the eaves or on gallows or trellis in the wind. Bring them in before it freezes and you will have healthy plants with lots of flowers.
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?