These colorful cacti have blooming periods corresponding to the holidays, hence their common name. They’re pretty stunning, too: The hanging branches, composed of glossy green, flat segments, can reach up to 36 inches long; while the flowers appear from stem tips and measure up to 3 inches long with several tiers of petals. Each bloom lasts for several days, and the entire blooming period spans several weeks.
However, certain factors can help, or hinder, your Christmas cactus’s potential. Here’s how to ensure this festive plant keeps brightening up your home year after year.
6 Key factors for optimal growth
- Soil: Make sure you’re using a quality soil rich in humus and other nutrients.
- Temperature: During the day, the temperature should be 65 to 70 degrees; at night, 55 to 65 degrees. Buds will drop more quickly with sudden changes in temperature or drafts.
- Watering: Keep the soil evenly moist, and mist frequently. Buds will also drop when soil is allowed to dry out.
- Light: Allow for moderate light, partial shade, and some direct sun in winter from eastern exposure.
- Fertilization: Once flower buds form, apply a high-potassium fertilizer (preferably an organic fertilizer) every 2 weeks.
- Transplantation: Repot your cactus each year after flowering.
Keep plants cool (50 degrees) following their blooming period. Keep soil barely moist and withhold fertilizer. When new growth appears use the following strategy to encourage blooming: Keep the plants between 55 to 65 degrees, alternating 10 hours of light and 14 hours of total darkness for 4 to 6 weeks after new growth appears. When buds appear, introduce to warmer temperature and begin regular culture (described above). Plants should bloom in 6 weeks.
Care for Christmas cactus in bloom
Christmas cactus plants should continue receiving dark, cool treatment for at least 6-8 weeks, or until buds begin forming. Once buds have formed, it usually takes up to 12 weeks (or less) for blooms to appear. The plant should also be relocated at this time.
Move the Christmas cactus to a sunny, draft-free area. However, keep it away from direct sunlight, as this may cause the plant to become droopy looking. Also, drafty areas can cause the buds to drop before blooming has occurred. Giving the plant more bright, indirect sunlight will produce more blooming. Christmas cactus also bloom better as pot-bound plants.
While watering may be increased during blooming, the amount will vary according to the plant’s current light conditions, temperatures and humidity levels.
When you force a Christmas cactus to bloom by giving it the proper care, in the right place, receiving the right light and temperature conditions, the Christmas cactus will not only bloom but may also surprise you by continually producing blooms several times throughout the year.