Welcome to Christmas Cactus Care

Welcome to Christmas Cactus Care, your ultimate guide to nurturing holiday cacti! Whether you have a Christmas Cactus, Easter Cactus, or Thanksgiving Cactus, you’ll find all the information you need to keep these beautiful seasonal plants thriving. Our expert tips and advice will help you ensure your holiday cacti are healthy and vibrant all year round.

The Christmas Cactus (Schlumbergera) is a beloved houseplant known for its vibrant, festive blooms during the holiday season. Whether you’re a seasoned plant enthusiast or a beginner gardener, this guide will help you master the care of your Christmas Cactus. Let’s dive into everything you need to know!

Here are 10 Essential Tips for Thriving Christmas Cactus Care

  1. Proper Watering Schedule
  • Tip: Keep the soil consistently moist but not waterlogged. Water when the top inch of soil feels dry to the touch.
  • Overwatering can lead to root rot, so it’s crucial to find the balance.
  1. Ideal Temperature Conditions
  • Tip: Maintain a temperature range of 60-70°F (15-21°C) during the day and slightly cooler at night.
  • Avoid placing your cactus near drafts, heaters, or air conditioners to prevent temperature stress.
  1. Correct Light Exposure
  • Tip: Place your Christmas Cactus in bright, indirect light. Direct sunlight can scorch the leaves.
  • During the flowering phase, 12-14 hours of darkness each night can encourage blooming.
  1. Proper Humidity Levels
  • Tip: Christmas Cacti prefer higher humidity levels. Aim for 50-60% humidity.
  • Use a humidity tray or mist the plant occasionally to maintain optimal humidity.
  1. Well-Draining Soil
  • Tip: Use a well-draining potting mix designed for succulents or cacti.
  • Ensure the pot has drainage holes to prevent water from sitting at the bottom.
  1. Fertilization Schedule
  • Tip: Feed your cactus with a balanced, water-soluble fertilizer every 4-6 weeks during the growing season (spring and summer).
  • Avoid fertilizing during the fall and winter months when the plant is in its dormant period.
  1. Repotting
  • Tip: Repot your Christmas Cactus every 2-3 years to refresh the soil and provide more space for growth.
  • Choose a pot that is slightly larger than the current one to avoid over-potting.
  1. Pest Management
  • Tip: Regularly check for common pests like spider mites, mealybugs, and scale insects.
  • Use insecticidal soap or neem oil to treat infestations early and prevent them from spreading.
  1. Pruning and Shaping
  • Tip: Prune after the blooming period to maintain the shape and encourage fuller growth.
  • Pinch off sections of the stem between segments to promote branching.
  1. Managing Mites

Tip: Keep an eye out for signs of mite infestation, such as webbing or discolored spots on the leaves. Increase humidity and use miticides if necessary to control mite populations effectively.

By following these top 10 care tips, you’ll ensure that your Christmas Cactus, as well as your Easter and Thanksgiving Cacti, remain healthy and beautiful, adding festive cheer to your home throughout the year.

Common NameChristmas cactus, holiday cactus, crab cactus
Botanical Name Schlumbergera buckleyi
Plant Type Succulent, cactus, perennial
Mature Size 6–12 in. tall, 12–24 in. wide
Sun Exposure Partial
Soil Type Moist, well-drained, loamy
Soil pH Neutral, acidic
Bloom Time Fall, winter
Flower Color Pink, red, white, purple, orange
Hardiness Zones 10–12 (USDA)
Native Area South America
Native to the lush tropical rainforests of Brazil, the Christmas Cactus Care has gained popularity as a holiday plant because of its vibrant, colorful blooms that appear in December. Among its well-loved varieties are Schlumbergera truncata and Schlumbergera bridgesii, each distinguished by its own unique features and blooming habits.

Originating from the lush Brazilian rainforest, Christmas Cacti flourish in their native habitat by anchoring themselves to tree trunks as epiphytes or settling into rock crevices filled with decaying organic matter as lithophytes. These resilient plants are typically found in cool, humid, and shaded areas.

However, Christmas Cacti can also flourish in pots when placed outdoors in the shade or indoors near a window with bright, indirect light. They can be started indoors as houseplants at any time of the year, and then moved or replanted outside during the summer. With proper care, your cactus should grow rapidly, reaching a spread of two feet in just a few years and producing flowers at the beginning of each winter

The ideal conditions for cultivating a Christmas Cactus involve using standard garden soil, providing diffused light, allowing the soil to completely dry between waterings, and maintaining temperatures between 70°F and 80°F during the growing season until about September. As buds begin to form, the cactus requires temperatures of 55°F to 65°F and needs 13 hours of darkness each day for the flowers to bloom.

Common NameChristmas cactus, holiday cactus, crab cactus
Botanical Name Schlumbergera buckleyi
Plant Type Succulent, cactus, perennial
Mature Size 6–12 in. tall, 12–24 in. wide
Sun Exposure Partial
Soil Type Moist, well-drained, loamy
Soil pH Neutral, acidic
Bloom Time Fall, winter
Flower Color Pink, red, white, purple, orange
Hardiness Zones 10–12 (USDA)
Native Area South America
Caring for a Christmas cactus requires a bit more attention than most other desert-loving, drought-tolerant cacti.

Plant it in regular soil and ensure it receives 4 to 6 hours of indirect light daily. Maintain temperatures between 70°F and 80°F during the growing season. In the spring and again in early summer, feed it with a diluted, water-soluble balanced fertilizer.

In September or October, move your Christmas cactus indoors to a spot with indirect light. Avoid fertilizing during this time and allow the soil to dry out completely between waterings. To encourage blooming, provide at least 12 hours of darkness each day.

For promoting more stems, grow your Christmas cactus as a hanging plant or place it where it can drape. Unlike other cacti, you won’t need to worry about sharp spikes.


Provide Christmas cacti with 4 to 6 hours of diffused light during their winter blooming period. These plants thrive in both sun and shade, but it’s crucial to avoid giving them too much of either. They prefer partial shade or filtered light but can adapt to various lighting situations. If exposed to full sunlight, make sure it’s during the winter months; excessive sunlight in spring and summer can cause the plant to become pale and yellow.


Plant your Christmas cactus in a mixture that includes loam, sand, perlite, cactus mix, or general-purpose potting soil. While the plant is adaptable to most soil conditions and naturally grows as an epiphyte in its native habitat, it performs best in soil with a pH between 5.5 and 6.2. Adding peat moss can help create a more acidic environment to promote optimal growth.


Water your Christmas cactus thoroughly once the soil has completely dried out since the last watering. You can tell if the soil is too dry when the leaves start to wrinkle and wilt. Allow any excess water to drain through the pot’s drainage holes.

During warm, sunny summer days, you might need to water the plant several times a week. In contrast, if the plant is in a sunny window during winter, it may only need water about once a week. Check the soil moisture by inserting your finger 2 inches deep; if it feels dry, water the plant thoroughly. If the cactus is in a cooler, less sunny location during the winter, it may only need watering every couple of weeks.

Temperature and Humidity

During its peak growing months (April to September), Christmas cacti prefer temperatures between 70°F and 80°F. Once buds have formed, they need lower nighttime temperatures (between 55°F and 65°F) and at least 13 hours of darkness to bloom effectively. Keep the plant away from heating vents, frequently opened doors, and drafty windows, as it is sensitive to sudden temperature changes and drafts, which can cause it to drop its buds or flowers.

If your Christmas cactus is placed in a sunny window during the winter, it may need water once a week. To check the soil moisture, insert your finger 2 inches into the soil; if it feels dry, water the plant thoroughly. Conversely, if the plant is kept in a cooler, less sunny spot during the winter, it may only need watering every two to three weeks.

By following these care guidelines, you can ensure that your Christmas cactus remains healthy and vibrant, adding a festive touch to your home.

During a warm, bright summer, water the plant a few times each week.

Fertilizer Types

Feed your Christmas cactus monthly with a half-strength, diluted water-soluble balanced fertilizer during the early spring and summer months. Once you notice the formation of flower buds—typically in late summer or early fall—stop feeding. After the plant has finished blooming, you can resume monthly feedings.


Prune your Christmas cactus right after it blooms, as this is when it enters a new growth phase, extending its segments. Pruning encourages the plant to branch out and develop more of its characteristic stems. You can safely prune the plant from post-bloom until early summer without causing any harm.

To prune a Christmas cactus, twist the stems between one of the segments, or use a sharp, sterilized knife or scissors to remove segments. You can remove up to one-third of the plant each year, or more conservatively, trim one or two segments from the end of each stem.

Humidity Needs

Christmas cacti require adequate humidity, especially when grown in the dry conditions of heated homes during the winter. To increase humidity, either mist the plant regularly or place a pebble tray filled with water underneath the pot.

By following these care tips, you can ensure your Christmas cactus, as well as other holiday favorites like the Thanksgiving cactus and Easter cactus, thrive and bloom beautifully year after year.

Propagating Christmas Cactus

The optimal time to propagate a Christmas Cactus is one to two months after its blooming period. Avoid propagating while the plant is setting buds or actively flowering. Taking cuttings from your Christmas cactus, whether large or small, will help the original plant grow fuller and bushier, leading to more blossoms in the future. Christmas cacti are most successfully propagated from stem cuttings.

Here’s how to get started: Prepare a 4- or 6-inch pot and fill it with a growing medium such as a cactus mix, general-purpose potting soil, or a sandy/peat blend. Alternatively, you can place your cutting in a clear container of filtered water before planting.

Using clean hands or a sterile knife or scissors, cut sections of stems with three to five segments each.

Let the cutting sit in a cool, dry place for two to four days until the cut end calluses (dries out) to prevent rot.

Insert the cuttings about an inch deep into the lightly moistened soil. Three stems fit well in a 4-inch pot; five stems in a 6-inch pot. It should take a few weeks for roots to form.

Water the plant thoroughly. To create a humid environment and encourage rooting, cover the plants and container with a clear plastic bag secured with a rubber band. Remove the plastic bag once rooting has begun.

Different Types of Christmas Cactus

Schlumbergera x buckleyi is a hybrid plant often referred to by various names such as Thanksgiving, Christmas, or Easter cactus. While they look quite similar, they bloom at different times and have subtle differences in their leaf shapes. So, how can you tell if it’s a Thanksgiving, Christmas, or Easter Cactus?

Due to their slight differences, these plants are often mislabeled in garden centers.

Thanksgiving Cactus (Schlumbergera truncata)

This plant typically blooms around late November and features vibrant flower colors like red, pink, peach, purple, orange, or white. Its leaves have very pointed and claw-shaped projections along the edges.

Christmas Cactus (Schlumbergera russelliana)

Often crossbred with S. truncata to create Schlumbergera x buckleyi, this species blooms around late December with maroon and white flowers. It has flattened leaf segments that are rounded with a few notches along the edges.

Easter Cactus (Rhipsalidopsis gaetneri)

This variety starts to reveal star-shaped flower buds in February and blooms from March through May. Its leaf segments are rounded with small bristles along the edges.

Understanding these differences can help ensure proper care and maintenance, making these festive plants a beautiful addition to your indoor garden throughout the holiday seasons.

Key Tips for Successful Christmas Cactus Propagation

  • Timing is crucial: Propagate one to two months post-blooming period.
  • Use a suitable growing medium: Cactus mix, general-purpose soil, or sandy/peat blend.
  • Ensure clean cuts: Use sterile tools for cutting stem sections.
  • Allow callusing: Let cuttings dry for two to four days to prevent rotting.
  • Create a humid environment: Cover with a plastic bag to encourage rooting.

Whether you’re a gardening enthusiast, an indoor plant owner, or a holiday plant lover, following these steps will help you successfully propagate your Christmas cactus, ensuring a lush and vibrant addition to your plant collection.

Growing Christmas Cactus from Seed

If you’re a gardening enthusiast or an indoor plant owner looking to expand your plant collection, growing a Christmas cactus from seed can be a rewarding experience. Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you through the process:

Collecting Seeds

  • Harvest the Fruit: Wait until the fruit of the Christmas cactus turns red, which usually happens in the fall.
  • Extract Seeds: Separate the tiny, dark seeds from the pulp.
  • Clean Seeds: Rinse them clean to prepare for sowing.

Sowing the Seeds

  • Prepare the Soil: Use a moist mix of sphagnum peat moss and vermiculite, loamy compost, or a cactus-specific soil blend.
  • Plant the Seeds: Press the seeds gently into the soil without burying them, or lightly cover them with a thin layer of vermiculite.
  • Increase Humidity: Cover the pot with clear plastic wrap or enclose it in a transparent plastic bag to maintain humidity around the seedlings.

Growing Conditions

  • Light Requirements: Place the pot on a bright windowsill with indirect sunlight.
  • Maintain Moisture: Keep the growing medium moist. Mist the soil surface with water regularly or water the plant from the bottom by placing the pot in a tray of water.

Seedling Care

  • Watch for Growth: Within a few weeks, you should start to see seedlings emerging.
  • Remove Covering: Once you notice seedling growth, remove the plastic covering.


  • Individual Pots: Transplant the seedlings into individual pots once they are large enough to handle.

Tips for Long-Term Care

  • Rootbound Preference: Christmas Cactus plants like to be rootbound and do not need frequent repotting—every three to four years is adequate.
  • Signs for Repotting: Repot only when the plant looks battered or you see roots outgrowing the drainage holes.
  • Timing for Repotting: Unlike other plants best repotted in spring, wait until blooming ends and the flowers have withered, usually in late winter or early spring.
  • Avoid Repotting During Blooming: Never repot the plant while it is actively blooming, as this can stress the plant and cause it to stop flowering for a while.

Additional Tips

  • Fertilization: Feed your Christmas cactus with a balanced, water-soluble fertilizer every month during the growing season (spring and summer).
  • Temperature: Maintain a temperature range of 65-75°F (18-24°C) during the day and slightly cooler at night.
  • Humidity: Christmas cacti prefer higher humidity levels. Consider placing a humidifier nearby or misting the plant regularly.
  • Pruning: After the blooming period, you can prune the plant to encourage bushier growth. Simply trim back some of the segments at the joint.

Whether you’re an indoor plant owner, a holiday plant lover, or a gardening enthusiast, these comprehensive tips will help you successfully care for and grow your Christmas cactus. Enjoy the journey of nurturing this beautiful plant from seed to full bloom!

Winter Season Care for Christmas Cactus

Christmas cacti are tropical plants that cannot withstand freezing temperatures or frost. In USDA hardiness zones 10 to 12, such as parts of California, Florida, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico, they can be kept outdoors. While these plants can tolerate nighttime temperatures dropping into the 60s, anything close to freezing can be fatal. It is essential to bring your Christmas cactus indoors before the first frost and maintain drier soil conditions. Exposure to cooler temperatures will encourage bud formation, which typically begins in October.

Common Pests and Plant Diseases

The most common pests that affect holiday cacti are fungus gnats, flower thrips, aphids, spider mites, and mealybugs. To prevent these pests, avoid overwatering your plant, as overly moist soil often attracts them. Insecticidal soap and horticultural oil are effective for managing infestations. Tiny bugs can also be removed by dabbing them with a cotton ball soaked in alcohol.

Fungal diseases are typically caused by overwatering. To prevent fungal infections, be careful not to overwater your plants. Fusarium and Phytophthora are common parasites in Christmas cacti that can lead to stem rot.

Dealing with Common Stem Decay

Fusarium stem rot causes noticeable brown spots to appear on the stem where it meets the soil. While a Christmas cactus may recover if the issue is caught early, saving the plant can be quite challenging. If your plant’s soil is too wet, allow it to dry out and apply a fungicide according to the package instructions.

Phytophthora stem rot, on the other hand, makes the stem appear wet or water-soaked at the soil line and is usually fatal.

For those caring for Christmas cacti, Thanksgiving cacti, or Easter cacti, understanding these common issues can help maintain the health and longevity of your holiday plants.

How to get your Christmas Cactus to bloom during the holiday season

For your Christmas Cactus to bloom during the holiday season, you’ll need to induce dormancy and then awaken it. Here’s how:

Starting in mid-October, reduce watering to once every week or two. Only water when the soil feels dry about an inch below the surface. Stop fertilizing at this stage.

Keep your Christmas Cactus in a cool environment, between 50°F and 55°F, and limit its exposure to light for six to eight weeks.

During the day, the plant can receive indirect light, but it needs 12 to 14 hours of complete darkness at night. If the room temperature is above 55°F, give your plant an extra couple of hours of darkness each day. If any light reaches the plant during its 12-hour “night” period, cover it with a dark cloth.

Once flower buds form, move the plant to a bright, draft-free window. The blooms should start to open within a few weeks.

If you need more help with holiday cactus care tips specific to Christmas, Thanksgiving, or Easter cactus varieties, let us know in the comments!