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Getting a Christmas Cactus to Bloom

Category Cactus
You have a beautiful green Christmas cactus, but sadly, no blooms. This is a guide about getting a Christmas cactus to bloom.
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By 5 found this helpful
December 4, 2005

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.

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.

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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.

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.

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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.

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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.

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December 6, 20073 found this helpful

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.
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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 Marian Hillyer

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.
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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

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 Justin

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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By 4 found this helpful
August 28, 2011

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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Questions

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.

October 2, 2018

How do I care for my Christmas cactus to have it bloom for Christmas?

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October 2, 20180 found this helpful

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/.../how-to-make-a-christmas-cactus-bloom...

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October 3, 20180 found this helpful

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!

Enjoy!!!

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October 8, 20180 found this helpful

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.

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December 13, 20140 found this helpful

Someone said feed it coffee to make it bloom. What kind of coffee?

By Marsha from Denton, TX

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August 24, 20170 found this helpful

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.

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December 25, 20170 found this helpful

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?

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January 13, 20120 found this helpful

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

Answers

January 20, 20120 found this helpful

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  /cactusFAQs.html

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November 29, 20160 found this helpful

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.

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January 23, 20140 found this helpful

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

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