How to Grow and Care for Christmas Cactus

Schlumbergera spp.

Ah, the Christmas cactus. Perhaps you received one of these as a holiday gift, wrapped with a red ribbon or nestled in a festive planter. Maybe you forgot about it, sitting on your mantle, after the holiday frenzy.

And yet, to your surprise, your neglect failed to do it in. So you began a watering routine, and it became one of your cherished houseplants.

Christmas cacti are fairly hardy as far as houseplants go. But they do require special conditions to coax out their blooms every year.

A vertical image showing a vivid red and white flower of the Christmas cactus plant on a soft focus green background. To the center and bottom of the frame is green and white text.

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Sometimes called zygocactus or holiday cactus, this houseplant typically blooms just in time for the end of year holidays.

I’ll cover everything you need to know about growing and caring for this winter-blooming succulent plant.

Cultivation and History

You might be wondering if this pretty succulent is actually a cactus, and the short answer is – yes!

However, this houseplant originates from a tropical environment rather than a dry desert, so its care is a bit different than what you may be familiar with for other types of cacti. We’ll get to that a little later.

A close up of a Christmas cactus plant on a piece of rustic wood, its stems hanging down with pink and white flowers contrasting with the green of stems. The background has further plants fading to soft focus.

In addition to being members of the cactus family, Christmas cacti are also epiphytes, meaning they don’t naturally grow in soil, but rather in shallow organic debris found on rocks or in the crevices of tree trunks.

The plants in the Schlumbergera genus are all native to the coastal mountains of southeast Brazil, and grow in tropical rain forests where they are pollinated by hummingbirds.

A close up of a hummingbird feeding on a red Christmas cactus flower on a dark soft focus background.

Like other types of cacti, Christmas cacti don’t grow leaves; instead, they have jointed stems made up of flattened segments called cladodes.

Flowers grow from the last segment on the end of these stems. Unlike some of their prickly cousins, these cacti do not have sharp spines, which makes handling them less of a thorny issue.

A close up of a Christmas cactus plant in a blue pot on a windowsill in bright sunlight. To the right of the frame is a blue curtain. The background fades to soft focus.

Previously – and mistakenly – known as S. bridgesii, the true Christmas cactus (S. x buckleyi) is a hybrid of two species of Schlumbergera, S. truncata and S. russelliana. This particular cross was created in England at the Rollison Nurseries by William Buckley in the 1840s.

These days, many houseplants sold as “Christmas cactus” in garden centers and grocery stores are actually cultivars of S. truncata, more commonly known as crab cactus, false Christmas cactus, or Thanksgiving cactus.

As its name suggests, it typically blooms about four weeks earlier than Christmas cactus.

There are a couple of surviving cultivars from the original S. x buckleyi, but most plants you’ll find today will be hybrids of the Thanksgiving cactus, S. truncata, and the true Christmas cactus, S. x buckleyi.

A close up of yellow Christmas cactus flowers covered in droplets of water amongst the green stems on a soft focus dark background.

Apart from their differences in bloom time, there are a few other ways to distinguish Christmas cacti from Thanksgiving cacti:

  • Thanksgiving cacti have toothed segment margins; Christmas cacti have scalloped segment margins.
  • Thanksgiving cacti have yellow anthers and pollen; Christmas cacti have pink to purple anthers and pollen.
  • Thanksgiving cacti hold their flowers out horizontally; Christmas cacti have flowers that hang down.

To make things a little bit more confusing, commercial growers sometimes group these different species under the heading “holiday cactus.” This broad term can also include Easter cactus, Hatiora gaertneri, which may look similar, but only flowers once a year around Easter.

A close up of a purple and white Christmas cactus flower with the stems in the background fading to soft focus.

If you buy a plant called “Christmas cactus” it could well be a Thanksgiving cactus, or a hybrid of some type.

Luckily for us, no matter which species or hybrid you have, the required plant care will be the same.

Correctly identifying your specific plant’s species and scientific name is not necessary to enjoy this lovely houseplant. Only the bloom time may be different.

Propagation

While Christmas cacti can be propagated from seed, the easiest and fastest way to propagate them is from cuttings.

Propagation from cuttings should be done in the warm growing months, April through September. Wait until at least a month after flowering to take cuttings.

A wooden table pictured with a pair of red scissors to the left of the frame and a Christmas cactus to the right. Next to the scissors is a stem cutting taken from the plant.
Photo by Kristina Hicks-Hamblin

Cut stems back at the joints between the fleshy segments, shaping your plant so you don’t leave it lopsided as you take the cuttings.

Each cutting should be two to five segments long. Make sure you always cut at the joints and not through the center of a segment, with a clean pair of scissors or a sharp knife.

A hand from the left of the frame holding a pair of red scissors cuts a section of stem off a Christmas cactus plant on a wooden surface.
Photo by Kristina Hicks-Hamblin

If you’d like, you can dust the ends of your cuttings with rooting hormone powder, but this is not required.

Place the cut stem segments in a spot with bright, indirect light and good air circulation to let the cuts heal over and dry out for two to four days before planting.

A close up of a white plate containing six freshly cut stem segments from a Christmas cactus plant, in preparation for transplanting.
Photo by Kristina Hicks-Hamblin

When you’re ready to plant, place the root ends of the cuttings into a container with potting substrate that is moist but not wet.

Plant the cuttings about half an inch to an inch deep, or just deep enough so that the cuttings will remain upright.

Place the container with the propagated cuttings in a spot that receives bright, indirect light – not direct sun.

A close up of a stem section of a Christmas cactus plant with a tiny new growth on the end of it, with soft focus stems and a white background.

After you see some new growth starting to develop, give them some water. It will take three to 12 weeks for the cuttings to become established.

You’ll need a bit of patience, as this new plant can take up to two to three years to mature and produce flowers.

How to Grow

Christmas cactus is actually not all that demanding as a houseplant, so don’t let these care requirements scare you.

The most important thing to remember is not to overwater this plant. Providing it with a little extra care, as noted below, will ensure that your plant really thrives.

Water Requirements

Since this plant is native to tropical rain forests, it thrives in an environment with high humidity, but does not appreciate having wet feet.

Let the top inch of soil dry out between waterings. Depending on the conditions in your home, this will mean watering every two to three weeks in midwinter.

Everyone’s home is a little different, so you’ll need to adjust how often you water based on how warm and dry your home is.

When it’s time to water, soak the plant in a sink or tub until water runs out of the pot’s drainage holes. Do not let the pot sit in a saucer full of water – toss any that accumulates underneath after watering.

If your home is quite dry, you can provide extra humidity by placing the pot on top of a small container filled with pebbles, then add water to the pebbles.

Just make sure the pot is sitting above the water line rather than in the water. As the water evaporates, it will moisten the air around the plant.

A hand from the left of the frame holding an orange and blue spray bottle, misting a Christmas cactus plant pictured in bright sunlight. The background is a window fading to soft focus.

Alternatively, you can mist the foliage of your cactus on a regular basis to provide a more humid environment.

Water your houseplant regularly when it is budding or in bloom, and less frequently during dormant periods when it is not blooming or putting on new growth.

If in doubt, keep in mind that it will fare better being a bit under-watered rather than being over-watered.

Light Requirements

Replicating the natural growing conditions of this houseplant will help to ensure that it thrives in your home.

Remember that this plant grows naturally in rain forests, and you should try to provide it with similar light conditions. Bright, indirect sunlight is best.

Whether you keep your houseplant indoors all year or give it an outdoor hiatus during the warm months, make sure it is exposed to bright but indirect sunlight.

A close up of a plastic pot with a large Christmas cactus plant in it. In the background are further pots, vegetation and ivy, on a concrete surface next to a low wall.

Don’t let your cactus be scorched by the sun – too much direct sunlight will cause the stems to turn red or purple.

Temperature Requirements

During its growing season – April through September in the Northern Hemisphere – these plants thrive in temperatures between 70 and 80°F.

In fall, however, they prefer nighttime temperatures ranging from 55-65°F. These cooler temperatures signal the plant to produce flowers.

A close up of the stem tips of a Christmas cactus plant, with tiny red flower buds on the end of each, in soft light on a dark background.

Once your plants begin to put out flower buds, avoid sudden temperature changes, which can cause the buds to fall off.

Feeding Requirements

If you’d like to feed your cactus, wait until the active growing season begins. You can give it a liquid houseplant fertilizer, but I like to go the more natural way and give mine a little worm compost.

Worm compost provides macro and micronutrients that the plant needs, as well as balancing the soil pH.

If you do add compost, just make sure that you don’t raise the acidity of the soil too high, as doing so could cause the stems to rot. And do not feed this plant while it is in bloom.

Tips for Getting Christmas Cactus to Flower

According to the Royal Horticultural Society, getting your Christmas cacti to bloom requires providing these houseplants with two resting periods throughout the year.

These resting periods are defined by lower temperatures, longer nights, and less frequent watering.

The first resting period should happen six to eight weeks before you expect your plant to flower.

It’s worth noting that you can’t force a Christmas cactus to flower at a different time of the year – you can simply take these steps to encourage it to bloom.

A white ceramic pot on a windowsill containing a Christmas cactus plane with green stems and a wooden stake in the soil.

During this period, keep your Christmas cactus in a room with bright, indirect light during the daytime, with nighttime temperatures at a chilly 55-60°F, and 13-15 hours of uninterrupted darkness.

Also reduce watering, but do not let the soil dry out completely between waterings.

Some Christmas cactus owners solve the need for darkness by placing a brown paper bag over their plants, since even exposure to artificial light can prevent flowering.

Others move their plants in and out of a closet every day, but this is not recommended – Christmas cacti do not like to be moved frequently, and the stress that this can cause may prevent them from blooming.

A close up of a brightly lit stem tip of a Christmas cactus plant showing a tiny pink flower bud, fading to soft focus in the background.

For its pre-bloom resting period, I like to place my Christmas cactus in a room on the north side of my house where there is bright, diffused light, and where the temperature remains cooler than in the rest of the house.

This is also a room we don’t use in the evening, so my plant also gets enough nighttime hours of darkness.

Once your plant begins to produce buds, the first resting period is complete, and you can return it to its normal temperature, light, and watering conditions.

Learn more about how to encourage your Christmas cactus to bloom in our guide.

A close up of a vivid pink Christmas cactus plant with a few green stem segments visible. In the background is a snowy garden scene, with houses and trees.

The second resting period is after flowering. Reduce water again and return your plant to a room with cooler temperatures until the growing season begins in April.

Repotting

Considering the conditions they have adapted to in the wild, it makes sense that these houseplants prefer to be slightly pot bound.

A good rule of thumb is to plan to repot about every three years in springtime, at the beginning of the plant’s growth season.

To the left of the frame is a white pot with a Christmas cactus plant in it, in the center is a green spray bottle and behind it is a white plastic sheet with a small amount of soil and two garden trowels. To the right of the frame is a pot with a small plant and an empty pot. All on a wooden surface.

Replant in potting soil with good drainage and aeration – 60% potting soil and 40% sand or perlite is recommended. Heavy, waterlogged soils can lead to disease. Read more about selecting the best potting mix for Christmas cactus here.

When repotting, handle with care – this plant does not like having its roots disturbed.

And remember, this plant does not naturally grow in soil, so make sure to move your plant up to a pot size that is only slightly larger than the existing one when you repot.

Managing Pests and Diseases

Christmas cacti can be attacked by pests and diseases, but healthy plants are unlikely to be a target.

Your main strategy in preventing both pests and disease is to make sure you don’t overwater your plant, which can lead to rot and make it more susceptible to disease and insect infestations.

Pests

A strategy I use to keep some of my houseplants pest free is to give them a shower when I water them, and I include my Christmas cactus in this routine.

I use the spray nozzle in my sink or shower to wash off the stems, which helps to prevent insect problems.

A close up of a vivid pink and white Christmas cactus flower, with the rest of the plant in the background in soft focus.

However, even the most vigilant houseplant owner sometimes experiences a pest outbreak. Pests you will want to be on the lookout for are fungus gnats, flower thrips, and root mealybugs.

Inspect your Christmas cacti regularly so that if you do have pests, you can address the problem before they are badly damaged.

For more information in determining which creepy crawly is attacking your plant, be sure to check out our supplemental guide: How to Identify and Control 7 Common Christmas Cactus Pests.

And also review our article on integrated pest management for thorough guidance to prevent and manage pest problems.

Diseases

According to an article by Judy Stevens at the Iowa State University Extension, Christmas cacti only tend to suffer from diseases when they are over-watered.

In overly moist soil, these plants can be targets of certain bacteria and fungi. It may be hard to identify what type of disease is affecting your cactus since many produce the same unhappy results.

Bacterial Soft Rot

Encouraged by high humidity and temperatures over 86°F, Pectobacterium carotovorum is a bacterium that can cause bacterial soft rot in produce and certain houseplants.

While types of fungi that may plague this plant can be treated with fungicides, these will prove ineffective against P. carotovorum.

You can read more about bacterial soft rot in our full guide.

Damping Off

A water mold that is known for causing damping off in young seedlings, Pythium aphanidermatum may be another possible culprit if your plant has root rot.

Phytophthora nicotianae, also a water mold, can cause root rot in many garden plants and some houseplants. As its common name “black shank” suggests, it turns diseased stems black.

See our full guide to damping off and how to prevent it.

Fusarium Wilt

Fusarium oxysporum, a soil-borne fungus that causes fusarium wilt, can cause dieback, stem rot, and root rot in these plants.

Another fungal plant pathogen, Bipolaris cactivora causes stem rot in cacti.

If you follow best practices for soil content and watering, however, it is unlikely you will have issues with these diseases.

Cultivars to Select: Your Christmas Cactus Palette

These houseplants come in a wide array of blossom colors. While local garden centers and grocery stores stock these cacti during the holidays, if you’re looking for a specific color, online sources can offer a greater selection of hues.

Red

Red is the most commonly encountered – and expected – bloom color for this houseplant. These festive red blossoms will fit right in with your holiday decor.

Red Christmas Cactus in 6-inch Pot

Live plants in six-inch pots are available from Hirt’s Gardens via Amazon. And they are also available from Costa Farms via Home Depot.

Pink

The vibrant color of the pink blossoms on these plants offers an alternative to the traditional holiday color scheme – and this hot pink hue will be sure to knock your socks off.

Pink Christmas Cactus in 6-inch Pot

You can buy live plants in six-inch pots from JM Bamboo via Amazon. Or if you’d like more than one color, you can find packages of two six-inch pots available from Costa Farms via Home Depot.

White

White flowers on Christmas cacti provide more neutral beauty – they can blend in with your holiday decorations, or they can blend in with your usual decor, offering a peaceful vibe.

White Christmas Cactus in 4-inch Pot

Four-inch pots are available from Hirt’s Gardens via Amazon. They are also available from Costa Farms via Home Depot.

Yellow

Yellow may be one of the most unexpected colors to see on holiday cacti blooms. I have a soft spot for yellow blossoms, especially the pale yellow that this houseplant comes in, so this is one of my favorites.

Yellow Christmas Cactus in 4-inch Pot

You can find the unusual yellow Christmas cactus in four-inch pots from Hirt’s Gardens via Amazon.

Quick Reference Growing Guide

Plant Type: Epiphyte Flower / Foliage Color: red, pink, purple, white, yellow, orange, salmon
Native To: Brazil Water Needs: Low to moderate
Hardiness (USDA Zone): 10-12 Maintenance: Low
Bloom Time / Season: Late fall to early winter Tolerance: Drought
Exposure: Indirect, bright light; long nights during dormancy Soil Type: Average
Time To Maturity: 2-3 years Soil pH: 5.7-6.5
Spacing: 2-4 cuttings per pot Soil Drainage: Well-draining
Planting Depth: 1/2-1 inch Uses: Ornamental houseplant in hanging baskets or pots
Height: 1 foot Family: Cactaceae
Spread: 2 feet Subfamily: Cactoideae
Attracts: Hummingbirds Genus: Schlumbergera
Pests & Diseases: fungus gnats, flower thrips, root mealybugs; bacterial soft rot, damping off, fusarium wilt Species: S. x buckleyi, S. truncata

Let that Succa Grow

Whatever color your cactus blooms, it will be a faithful companion to you for decades, provided you offer this vibrant succulent the somewhat neglectful care that it thrives on.

Christmas cacti can live for over 50 years as houseplants, with one spectacular specimen in North Dakota living to be over 111 years old.

Do you have an age-old Christmas cactus in your houseplant collection? If so, let us know in the comments – and be sure to post a photo.

And be sure to check out all of our Christmas cactus guides including:

Photos by Kristina Hicks-Hamblin © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Product photos via Costa Farms, Hirt’s Gardens, and JM Bamboo. Uncredited photos: Shutterstock. With additional writing and editing by Clare Groom and Allison Sidhu.

About Kristina Hicks-Hamblin

Kristina Hicks-Hamblin lives on a dryland permaculture homestead in the high desert of Utah. Originally from the temperate suburbs of North Carolina, she enjoys discovering ways to meet a climate challenge. She is a Certified Permaculture Designer and a Building Biology Environmental Consultant, and holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in liberal studies from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Kristina loves the challenges of dryland gardening and teaching others to use climate compatible gardening techniques, and she strives towards creating gardens where there are as many birds and bees as there are edibles. Kristina considers it a point of pride that she spends more money on seeds each year than she does on clothes.

32 thoughts on “How to Grow and Care for Christmas Cactus”

  1. Kristine Hello,
    I read your response I just changed my X-mas cactus from a west window 4 feet away to a north east window everything you wrote is my usual.I will see how it works out. When it bloomed it looked like your pink picture. I transplanted it to a 12″ pot about 10yrs. ago.
    It’s my favorite between my 27 other Succulents and Cactus.I hope it make a successful move. thank -U rich k in NJ

    Reply
    • Hi Rich, If you want your Christmas cactus to bloom for Christmas time, you may want to wait until October to move it to a darker location. Just remember, it still needs light for the rest of the year, and even during it’s pre-bloom time. It just needs some very long nights during that pre-bloom period. Let us know how it goes!

      Reply
  2. Hi! I am propagating my Christmas tree cactus. To replant how many “segments” are typically planted? Does each segment grow into its own plant or do I plant multiple segments close together? When I look at the original it looks like 3 different segments at the base.

    Thank you!

    Reply
    • Hi Amy! Sounds like a fun project!

      Yes, the way your original Christmas cactus was most likely grown was by the grower taking three rooted cuttings and placing them in one pot to grow together with the appearance of a single plant. This gives a fuller appearance than having just one cutting growing alone in a pot.

      You can do the same – put three cuttings in a new pot.

      And just to clarify terminology – when talking about Christmas cacti, generally the term “segment” refers to one stem segment, that is, the somewhat rectangular shaped part of the stem. Each stem has several segments, depending on how big it is.

      When you take a cutting, you cut at the joint between segments. Hope that makes sense! It’s a little tricky talking about these plants since they don’t fit the typical bill for plants with easily recognizable stems and leaves.

      Let us know how your propagation goes!

      Reply
  3. I love my christmas/thanksgiving cactus! There are 3 plants in the pot. I’ve had it for 6 years and it flowers 1-2 times per year. however the majority if the new growth is on one side of the plants. Over the years, I have turned it in case it was a light issue, but it really hasn’t made a difference. I just repotted it. Hoping that helps. Maybe I should take cuttings and propagate new plants to help even it out?

    Reply
    • Hi Jamie!

      I think your strategy for turning the plant was a good one – that would have been my first try too.

      Have you tried giving it the required amount of cool/dark time prior to blooming as described in my article?

      I wonder if the cuttings that were used to make your plant came from different individual plants – and perhaps the stems that aren’t blooming were from individual plants that were more sensitive to light. It would certainly be an interesting experiment to propagate new plants from this one and see how they behave.

      In the meantime, if you haven’t tried giving the plant the average 14 hours of cool and total darkness prior to blooming, I would try that. Perhaps the non-blooming stem(s) will respond.

      Let us know how it goes!

      Reply
  4. Hi,
    I have just repotted To individual pots, using soil for cactus, what were three plants in one pot.
    This plant was my husband’s Mother’s which would make it 80 years old or so. The plant hadn’t been repotted in years. My husband is now deceased which leaves me in charge of trying to keep these plants alive and hopefully return them to healthy plants so I can give two to his children.
    The stems on the plants are very long. I wonder if it would be wise to trim them back to give the plant a chance to recover from years of lack of attention. If you suggest trimming how long should I leave them?
    The plant looks so decrepit and unhealthy. The stems look dry. They have been living in a West window for years. I will back them away from the window and see if that helps.
    Any suggestions you have I would truly appreciate.
    Thank you for your attention
    Irene

    Reply
    • Hi Irene,
       
      My condolences to you on the loss of your husband. It’s wonderful that you are caring for these heirloom plants and hoping to pass them down! The fact that they have been around for 80 years or more shows that they have had a lot of loving care in their lives.
       
      First of all, it’s normal for decades-old Christmas Cactuses to develop woody stems. So I think that what you might be interpreting as “dry” may just be these older, stronger woody stems. We’re not used to seeing Christmas Cactuses with woody stems because usually the plants we see are much younger and all green!
       
      So, here’s an idea for you. If you don’t find the woody stems attractive, you could consider replanting these into hanging baskets. That way the brown stems won’t be so visible. I realize you just repotted them, but I thought I’d throw the idea out there for you. (And good for you for using cactus soil!)
       
      I think backing them away a bit from the window (which probably gets hot in the last part of the day during summer) is probably a good idea.
       
      These plants do have very long growth. You can trim them to any point you want – wherever you think they’ll look good – and you can replant the cuttings and grow them into new plants. I would leave at least 5 or 6 green segments on each stem if it were me.
       
      I think growing some cuttings into new plants would actually be another great way to keep these plants alive.
       
      Here’s another idea. You could take some cuttings and plant them WITH the older plants – that way the green stems will grow and cover the brown stems somewhat.
       
      If you’re feeling nervous at all about taking care of these plants now, my biggest piece of advice would be to be careful not to overwater them. They will thrive much more with a little neglect than with too much attention!
       
      I hope this helps! Feel free to check back in with us if you have any other questions – or to show off your photos.
       
      And thanks for writing to us with your question – I’m sure many of our readers will also enjoy seeing your wonderful 80-year-old Christmas cactuses!
       
      Kristina
       

      Reply
  5. Kristina, I so enjoyed your post. I wish I had seen it a week ago when I tossed a 30 yr. cactus, thinking it was a goner. Little did I know that I had been over-zealous in watering and it may have survived. I will follow your lead here on out and thank you.
    From Gastonia, N.C. – Donna

    Reply
    • Hi there former neighbor! (I grew up in Charlotte). I’m glad you enjoyed the article. This may not make you feel any better but it seems like the number one cause for houseplant death / sickness is overwatering. We just love them to death – until we know better. I’m sorry to hear about the loss of your decades-old Christmas cactus, but I hope there’s another one in your near future. Feel free to pop back on here and share a photo if you get a new one.
      Thanks so much for taking the time to leave a comment!

      Reply
  6. I received a clipping from my aunt because her Christmas Cactus belonged to my great great grandma. I’ve had it for one year and it just started growing a small tiny piece. I’m shocked too because it’s January. Anyways, should I have asked for more than one clipping? It seems like at this rate the cactus will never be very big lol. I’m super proud to have it but would like to have something to show off one day.

    Reply
    • Hi Erienne,
      What a nice way to perpetuate a family heirloom!
      Usually to create a full looking plant, three cuttings are placed in one pot. It’s not an obligation, but it does create a fuller look. You could ask for a couple of additional cuttings, or you could wait until this one gets bigger (it will!) and then take a couple of cuttings from it and root them in the same pot. You should see more growth in the spring and summer when it’s warmer and the days are longer.
      Hope this helps!

      Reply
  7. Hi! I just bought an X-mas by mail. When it came in the mail it seemed to be in very good condition. But when I planted it, it got droopier and the buds all fell off. Is this maybe shock? Not sure, I’m just leaving it alone for now. Glad I went looking for help. I also got four separate segments and planted them all in separate pots, they’re about 3 months old. Do you think I could put them in the same pot now or would it be too soon?

    Reply
    • Hi Cindy,

      Can you give us just a little information? When you say that you “planted” it, did it come as a bare root plant or was it already in a pot?

      If it was already in a pot, you probably didn’t need to repot it yet, if you did repot it, this might be part of the problem. The soil may not be the right kind, or if it has too much room in its pot the roots may be staying too wet.

      As for your cuttings, you could go ahead and put them in a pot together, just make sure to use the right type of potting soil and keep them in a fairly small pot so that their roots don’t stay soggy.

      You can read about the best type of potting soil for Christmas cactuses here.

      Good luck! Let us know if you have any more questions.

      Reply
  8. Wow – I’m so glad I found this article! My Christmas Cactus is (I think) probably about 60 years old (but this might even be an under estimate). It was planted by my grandfather and there was actually a time (about 15 years ago) when my grandmother intentionally tried to kill it via water deprivation, but she failed and I then rescued it. During the time it has been in my care, I have done nothing for it except infrequent watering. It would bloom flowers annually for many years, but there have been no flowers at all for 2-3 years now. There is sentimental value to the pot and so I’d like to keep it in the same pot if at all possible. My current thinking after reading these pages is to take it out of this pot, get rid of whatever I can of what soil it is in at present, and then put it back into this same pot using the mixture you recommend of Tank’s-Pro Cactus and Succulent Mix, Orchid Potting Mix, and Horticultural Grade Pumice. However, I have a few questions and concerns and I’m hoping you might be able to help!

    – First, take note of the stakes in the photo used to brace some of the sections of plants. These have been in place for 30 years. The plant seems very weak and will not support itself without these. Many of the brown sections are weak and brittle and I’m afraid I will break them when I try to take this out of the pot. My thinking is that I’ll just be very careful but I’m wondering if you have any expertise or words of wisdom?
    – Second, one of the products listed above seems to be out of stock at all online retailers that I can find (the Tank’s Pro Cactus of Succulent Mix). I can’t find it anywhere. Can you recommend an alternative to mix with the other two suggested products? Ideally available via amazon or somewhere else online.

    Thank you so much for all of the great writing about this plant – I very much enjoyed it and also loved seeing the photo from the reader with another very old one!

    Reply
    • Hi Scott!
      I’m glad you found this article too – and I’m glad you enjoyed it! Wow, what a majestic Christmas cactus you have. How wonderful that you rescued it. Thanks for posting a photo!

      Before you repot it – have you read our article on getting your Christmas cactus to bloom? I highly recommend you read this first. It’s doubtful that repotting is your key to getting blooms.

      If you do end up deciding to repot, you will probably also want to read our article on the best potting mix for Christmas cactus, which goes into more detail on this than I did in my article.

      Before you repot – and even if you decide not to repot – you might want to consider taking some cuttings from your plant and rooting them to grow new plants. These new plants will actually be clones of your “mama” plant. This is a good way to preserve a cherished heirloom plant for posterity. You could give the new plants to friends or family members to keep the lineage going.

      When you take a cutting, the old stem will branch at the place you made the cut, giving the plant a bushier appearance. This might help to take off some of the weight from those longer stems.

      I’m guessing this is probably the way your grandfather started this plant in the first place – from a cutting. So making new plants from cuttings would allow you to follow in his footsteps.

      If you need some potting soil for your cuttings, here’s an alternative to Tank’s that I like: Fatplants succulent soil, via Amazon. You could add some sand to this mix to help with drainage and to help weigh down the soil – which will help to keep the plant(s) anchored.

      I would root the new plants and let them get well established before you attempt to repot the mama plant. Your plant doesn’t seem to be showing any signs of stress, which means its probably feeling fine and dandy in its pot even if it hasn’t been repotted for a long time. If you don’t really want to risk repotting it – don’t.

      I hope this helps! Feel free to pop back on here if you have any other questions. We’d all love to get updates on your heirloom plant!

      Reply
  9. Hello Kristina

    I have a Thanksgiving one and i have never had it bloom at all and i have had it for 5 years,I was wondering if you can give me any idea’s i have it cactus soil and in a window that does not get that much sun during the winter months.
    Can you please help me
    Thank you in advance

    Reply
    • Hi Judy,
      Sorry for the delayed reply. Your Christmas cactus looks pretty healthy and happy to me even if it hasn’t bloomed.

      Have you tried making sure it gets long dark nights as I described in the article?

      It’s important to make sure there aren’t any lamps on, or any streetlights that could interrupt that long period of dark as well. Another thing that can help is making sure it gets cooler temperatures at night too – 61 degrees F is a good temperature to shoot for.
      I hope this helps!

      Reply
  10. This was my grandma’s Christmas cactus. I repotted this last spring for the first time in many years! I was sure I was going to kill it! Although it isn’t as full as it once was it still bloomed this year! Since repotting it some of the wood areas have become a little soft I thought I would back off on the water a little ( I water once a week) I replanted some cuts from this plant and some of those had a few blooms!

    Reply
    • Hi Tina,
      Wow, that is a gorgeous Christmas cactus! I think that was a good idea to back off on watering. They don’t need as much water during winter. If that doesn’t help, you might want to doublecheck your potting medium and make sure it was the right kind – if not, it might be a good idea to repot with a better soil. We have an article on the best soil mix for these plants if you need guidance – it’s right here.
      Thanks for sharing your photo! Your plant is very inspiring.

      Reply
  11. We have a Christmas cactus that is now 50 years old. Someone gifted it my husband when he was 17years old as he was not working and had no present for his own mom. We brought it back to live with us when his mother sadly passed away in 2007. We have had amazing pink flowers this winter with the last few just dying off now. Such a beautiful plant

    Reply
    • Julie,
      Thanks for sharing your Christmas cactus story with us. I’m so sorry about the loss of your mother in law – your plant’s background certainly infuses it with a lot of emotional significance. These really are heirloom plants that can be passed down among the generations when given the right care. And they are even more special when they have family memories attached to them, such as yours has.
      Thanks for adding your story here.

      Reply
  12. I am so excited about finding your information about the 3 types of Christmas and Thanksgiving cactus.
    I have 1 pod each and because if your article I now know the difference!!! Thank you so much!!!

    My Thanksgiving cactus grows exactly as you describe. ????
    However, I have a “Christmas” cactus that is about 70 years old and starts to bloom for Thanksgiving and continues to bloom thru Memorial Day and beyond!!!!! It stops between sometimes for 2 weeks, but usually has 1-5 blooms at different ends!!
    it is about 3ft across andI haven trimmed the length this year, so it is about 1 &1/2 ft long…. but this year it dropped over 1/2 the buds over the last 2 months! That was a first!!
    Picture included.

    Could you explain the reason it continues to multi-blooming and is dormant for only 3 months a year?
    thank you,
    Nancy

    Reply
    • Hi Nancy,
      Thanks for posting your comment and photos – it’s so heartwarming to see “heirloom” plants that have been loved for decades.

      I believe your Christmas cactus may be going through a second dormancy period which would induce a second round of blooming. You can read about it in our article on getting Christmas cacti to bloom.

      Also, I’m guessing you probably have more than one actual plant in your pot – if you inspect the soil and see more than one stem going into the soil, then my guess is correct. (Usually, these are potted up with three or more cuttings in the pot to give a fuller effect.) This might help explain why the blooming seems almost constant – possibly, the blooming of the different individual plants in the pot is staggered, creating an overall, very long blooming period!

      Thanks again for sharing your photos. Enjoy your beautiful plant!

      Reply
    • Hi Dilara,
      While new leaves is a sign that your Christmas cactus is doing well, this doesn’t necessarily mean that it will bloom. These plants need a period of dormancy to bloom. We have an article explaining what you need to know on this subject – you can read it here.
      Hope this helps!

      Reply
  13. I have a question! I have 3 cactus that have sprouted new leaves, but one that hasn’t in over a year. What should I do?

    Reply
    • Hi Sam,
      Thanks for your question.
      If it were me, I would not worry about the one with no new growth. My own Christmas cactus is actually four different cuttings in one pot, so essentially there are four plants in that pot. Three of the four have new growth on them right now, but one doesn’t. Yet they are all getting the same water, fertilizer, and light exposure. Plants are individuals, and they can react to the same conditions differently.
      However, if you still want to encourage your Christmas cactus to put on new growth, you could check its light – is it getting less than the others? If so, try moving it just a bit so that it’s getting slightly more light. If that doesn’t seem to be an issue, you might try fertilizing it as mentioned in this article.
      Hope this helps!

      Reply

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