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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.
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.
If you add 2 Tbsp. of castor oil around the roots of a Christmas cactus in October, it will bloom in December.
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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.
I've heard that if you put it in a closet or someplace dark for a couple of weeks, the plant would have the "cycle of the seasons" and this is suppose to "force the plant to bloom! I've never had a Christmas Cactus, but read it on a plant/gardening website!
Deniaka is right. You should put it in the dark and barely water it. I would say it might take longer than 2 weeks though. Then when you bring it out to the light, water it good and put it in some really good light. You should have blooms, maybe not at Christmas, but blooms.
My Christmas cactus blooms every year. I just put Jobe fertilizer sticks in around the 1st of Nov. I keep the soil moist. Feed it every couple of week with another 1 or 2 sticks. place it in bright defused sunlight area. There's blooms already starting by Thanksgiving. By Christmas it just blooming like crazy and will continue to bloom through January. :)
This cactus also likes to be slightly root-bound before it will bloom, so don't pot it up into a bigger pot until the roots are literally waving at you from the bottom of the pot.
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.
I leave my cactus outside in the shade all spring and summer. When it starts getting cold at night around 40-45 degrees it will shock the plant and start the blooms after a couple weeks I bring the plants inside and in about a week all the blooms are open. I have done this for the past 15 years and did the same to other people's cactus plants and it worked well for them also. Good luck. They are beautiful plants and I am sure this will work for you.
i did try the closet and still no blooms! Help would be appreciated.
I inherited a rather larger Christmas cactus, recently. I've kept it outside in an alcove, which is where it was originally kept. Light is indirect and north facing. Since its so large I'd like to keep it outside. So I was wondering if they can survive well in temperatures that dip down to 48 degrees F?
Personally, I would recommend not doing this unless absolutely necessary. Holiday cactus really like bring pot bound with their roots fairly crowded because they're epipytic (meaning they grow in trees). They really only NEED repotting every 2-3 years, but some repot every Spring in order to replenish nutrients to the soil.
I know this is a very old thread, but you can't just leave them in a closet for 6 weeks. They need anywhere from 13-15 hours of darkness. That leaves anywhere from 9-11 hours of LIGHT, whether it be ambient light in your house, sunlight, etc. These plants are great at storing photosynthesis but they do need some light, even when blooming. You can't just store a plant in a closet and expect it to do well.
A MUCH easier, natural course of action for these plants would be exposing them to cool temperatures around 50-55°F for at least 4 weeks, not even every day, and they will naturally produce buds/blooms and won't even need a closet to be stuffed into. ;)
They certainly can. As long as temperatures are not below freezing and/or they're exposed to frost, they can handle cool temperatures quite well. In fact, when exposed to cool temperatures of around 50-55°F they will eventually set buds/bloom as a natural response.
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.
I can only suggest to make sure the plant is getting an even amount of sunlight all over by turning it, & fertilize occasionally. Try not to move the plant when it is setting buds though. This commonly causes the buds to drop and/or fall off.
They need to have dark, cool treatment for 6-8 weeks before. Maybe you started giving this treatment late.
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.
I was given this cactus three years ago around Mother's Day; it had beautiful flowers. I have repotted it. It grows very well, but has not had a flower on it. What can I do besides throw it out?
Cool temperatures for a few weeks [50-55 degrees; outside is fine]. Or you can give them 'long nights' for about 14 hrs a day in order to make them bloom. Don't just stuff them in a closet as others have suggested. Mine also thrive outdoors in the summer! Prune in the Spring and they grow and grow. :) A fertilizer a few times a year is a great idea too.
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.
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?