How to Propagate Christmas Cactus from Cuttings

Known for its cheery winter blooms, Christmas cactus is not only easy to care for – it’s also easy to propagate from cuttings.

Whether your goal is growing new specimens to offer as gifts, or expanding a collection with new cultivars, this propagation method is a must for fans of these houseplants!

A close up vertical image of a Schlumbergera (holiday cactus) flower with foliage in soft focus in the background. To the top and bottom of the frame is green and white printed text.

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And since Thanksgiving and Easter cacti are rooted in the same manner, you can propagate those types of houseplants with this method as well.

And it’s a good thing, because many houseplant parents aren’t quite sure which type of holiday cactus they have in their possession.

For the purposes of this article, it doesn’t matter – species of Schlumbergera and Rhipsalidopsis that are commonly cultivated in pots indoors can be propagated in the same way!

Ready to learn how to propagate these houseplants from cuttings in just five steps?

Here’s sneak peek at everything we’ll cover up ahead:

Before we get started with the simple step-by-step process, let’s have a quick, cozy chat.

Why propagate via cuttings, anyway? Well, there are a few different reasons why you may want to add this skill to your indoor gardening toolbox.

You may want to prune your houseplant every once in a while, to shape it up or encourage branching.

A close up horizontal image of a mature Christmas cactus plant growing in a pot set on a sunny countertop with a pair of scissors next to it.
Photo by Kristina Hicks-Hamblin.

Once you complete the pruning job, you may find you’re not certain what to do with the trimmings.

Sure, you could toss them into your compost pile. But why do that when you can turn that pruned material into new plants? Extra specimens can be offered as gifts, or enjoyed as additional houseplants.

Maybe you’ve accidentally broken off a few stems when dusting your houseplant or moving it to a new location.

Succulents reproduce readily from fallen plant material in appropriate conditions in the wild, and stems of certain varieties tend to break off easily. If such an accident occurs, it’s fun to turn the broken portions into new specimens.

A close up horizontal image of a mature Christmas cactus plant set on a countertop in light sunshine with a small pot of rooting cuttings to the left of the frame.
Thanksgiving cactus baby started from broken off stems, with the parent plant. Photo by Kristina Hicks-Hamblin.

Another reason to propagate these jungle dwellers is that there are seemingly endless numbers of holiday cactus cultivars available with different bloom colors.

Any indoor gardener would certainly be forgiven for wanting to indulge in cultivating more than one type of holiday cactus. Don’t you agree?

For those who want to expand their Christmas cactus collection, procuring cuttings can be much cheaper than purchasing a new plant. And sometimes it’s actually easier to find desired cultivars available as cuttings rather than potted plants.

Now that you are primed and know why propagating from cuttings is such a brilliant idea, we’re ready to get started.

Unless, of course, you need a few reminders on how to care for these houseplants – if so, here’s a gentle hint to review our complete article on how to grow Christmas cactus plants.

Let’s begin!

1. Gather Your Supplies

Before getting started you’ll want to make sure you have all the supplies you’ll need for this project.

In order to grow these houseplants from trimmings, you’ll need an appropriate growing medium, nursery pots, and of course, some cuttings!

If you don’t have a parent plant to prune, you can find one available for purchase – just choose a cultivar with flowers that you like.

Pack of 3 Apricot Thanksgiving Cactus Cuttings

For instance, this Thanksgiving cactus with apricot-colored blooms is available in sets of three cuttings from Nature Garden via Amazon.

When choosing a pot for this propagation project, you will have some flexibility in terms of size. But a good place to start is with five cuttings in a six-inch pot, or three stems in a four-inch pot.

A close up of plastic plant pots isolated on a white background.

12-Pack of 4” Terra Cotta Colored Plastic Pots

You can find a 12-pack of four-inch plastic pots available for purchase from Teku via Home Depot. These are terra cotta colored and made with recycled plastic.

If you aren’t sure what size pot to use, err on the side of going a bit small. Some professional growers plant these densely, with two to four stems per two-inch pot.

As for the growing medium, some sources recommend using straight perlite or sand to root stems, but doing so will eventually require an extra step – repotting into a richer medium.

Instead, I prefer to skip the extra work and start with the same growing medium that I use for my mature holiday cacti and epiphyllums, Tank’s Pro Cactus and Succulent Mix from Tank’s Green Stuff.

Tank’s Green Stuff Pro Cactus and Succulent Mix

This potting mix is designed for succulents but it is a bit richer than some succulent growing mediums since it contains compost, in addition to coconut husks and pumice. It’s available from Tank’s Green Stuff Store via Amazon.

Alternatively, you can also buy the materials separately and make your own Christmas cactus potting mix!

You may want to use scissors or garden snips to take your cuttings – just be sure to sterilize them before use.

There is just one more item I recommend for this project, though it’s optional. Using a spray bottle is a good way to water rooting specimens without the risk of making the growing medium super soggy.

16-Ounce Refillable Glass Spray Bottle

If you don’t have one of these on hand, you’ll find a 16-ounce refillable glass spray bottle available for purchase via Amazon.

2. Take Cuttings

You can root stems at any time of the year – who knows when an accidental breakage is going to happen, after all?

However, there is a best time to embark on this project, and that’s in May or June, when plants are starting to put out new growth.

That doesn’t mean you can’t root prunings at other times of the year, just that new plants may take longer to get established at those times.

Cuttings should be two to five segments long. For best results, be sure to choose mature stems rather than new growth.

A close up horizontal image of a hand from the left of the frame holding two Christmas cactus stems to show the difference between new growth and mature growth.
Showing new growth on the left and mature growth on the right. Photo by Kristina Hicks-Hamblin.

New growth has a shiny, bright green appearance, while mature growth has a matte appearance.

When taking cuttings, you can either use a pair of sterilized scissors or garden snips to remove lengths of segments, or you can simply twist them off, making your cut or twist between two segments.

3. Allow to Callus Over or Form Roots

Some sources will instruct you to allow prunings to callus over for a few days before rooting them, and that is a viable approach.

However, I personally prefer to let them callus over and form roots, so that I know the roots have formed before I even plant the stems. Some growers like to do this for propagating other types of succulents as well.

A close up horizontal image of Schlumbergera cuttings with new roots set on a blue countertop.
Root growth at the bottom of cuttings. Photo by Kristina Hicks-Hamblin.

While forming a callus at the cut end can take two or three days, roots should appear within two to three weeks.

Place the stems in a location with bright, indirect light while allowing them to callus over or form roots.

4. Pot Cuttings

Once you have allowed your prunings to callus over or produce roots, they’re ready for potting.

Fill the nursery pot with your growing medium, leaving an inch of space between the surface of the soil and the rim of the pot. This will help to facilitate easy watering without spilling over the edge.

A close up horizontal image of a hand from the left of the frame planting Christmas cactus cuttings into a small green plastic pot.
Photo by Kristina Hicks-Hamblin.

Next, insert the stems into the growing medium with the cut end submerged about one inch deep.

Firm up the growing medium around each cutting so it will remain upright, then water the medium with the spray bottle.

5. Keep Warm and Moist

Place the potted cuttings in a location with bright, indirect light and keep the rooting medium moist.

Increasing humidity around the new specimen can help keep conditions moist, as well as reducing the need for watering. Try covering the pot with a resealable plastic bag.

A horizontal image of Christmas cactus cuttings set in a pot covered in a plastic bag to increase humidity.
Photo by Kristina Hicks-Hamblin.

Also, temperatures of 70 to 80°F will encourage rooting. If your propagation area is cooler than that, you may want to use a heat mat.

If you do a lot of propagating or annual seed starting, a heat mat is a great tool to have available.

I like the Seedling Heat Mat, available in three sizes from Gardener’s Supply.

A close up of a heat mat with a tray of Swiss chard seedlings set on top of it isolated on a white background.

Seedling Heat Mat

It may take up to two months for the stems to root, depending on exposure to warmth and light, the time of year when you carry out this project, and whether your cuttings start with roots or not at planting time.

Once you start to notice new growth on the stems, you can gradually begin to remove the plastic bag, lowering the humidity surrounding the rooting specimen.

A close up horizontal image of potted Christmas cactus cuttings set on a wooden surface.
Photo by Kristina Hicks-Hamblin.

You can also start watering with a houseplant-adapted watering can rather than a spray bottle. Be sure to water the soil, not the foliage.

Christmas cacti prefer to be rootbound, so your specimens should be allowed to continue growing in their nursery pot for about three years.

New Creations from Cuttings

Whatever your aim – growing homemade gifts, increasing your houseplant collection, or just practicing your horticultural skills – you should now be able to confidently create new Christmas cacti plants from pruned stems.

A close up horizontal image of a hand holding a small Christmas cactus cutting that has taken root in soil.

If you have any questions about the process, or just want to show off your handiwork, leave us a message in the comments section below – and don’t forget to post your photos!

And while you’re here, how about a few more articles about holiday cacti to help you expand your knowledge and appreciation of these beautiful houseplants? We think you’ll enjoy these:

Photo of author
Kristina Hicks-Hamblin lives on a dryland permaculture homestead in the high desert of Utah. She is a Certified Permaculture Designer, holds a Certificate in Native Plant Studies from the University of North Carolina Botanical Gardens, a Landscape for Life certificate through the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center and the United States Botanic Garden, and a Bachelor of Arts degree in liberal studies from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Kristina strives towards creating gardens where there are as many birds and bees as there are edibles.

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Bev
Bev (@guest_34280)
5 months ago

I have a Christmas cactus that was given to me by my late father-in-law that the root ball rotted. I am trying to save the plant. I have put a few stems in water and they rotted. I tried a stem in soil and it rotted as well. I still have a couple of pieces left that are currently in water. How should I proceed. I really want to save a piece to start a new plant.