Complete Guide to Christmas Cactus Care

The Christmas Cactus, scientifically known as Schlumbergera, is a popular houseplant that blooms during the holiday season. Its vibrant flowers and unique appearance make it a favorite among plant enthusiasts. This guide will provide you with all the necessary information to care for your Christmas Cactus, ensuring it thrives and blooms beautifully.

NOTE: While the holiday cacti (Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas) are different species, caring for them is basically the same so for that reason, I’ll be referring to them as Christmas Cactus for simplicity.


Understanding the Christmas Cactus

Origin and Characteristics

The Christmas Cactus is native to the coastal mountains of southeastern Brazil. Unlike typical cacti, it thrives in a humid environment and has flattened, segmented stems. These segments are often mistaken for leaves. The plant produces stunning flowers in shades of pink, red, white, and yellow, usually around winter time.


There are several types of holiday cacti, often confused with each other:

  • Thanksgiving Cactus (Schlumbergera truncata): Blooms in late November.
  • Christmas Cactus (Schlumbergera bridgesii): Blooms in December.
  • Easter Cactus (Rhipsalidopsis gaertneri): Blooms in spring.

Each type has distinct flowering periods. Learn more about the differences here.

Christmas cactus to buy

Ideal Growing Conditions

Light Requirements

Christmas Cactus prefers bright, indirect light. Direct sunlight can scorch their leaves, while too little light can hinder blooming. Place your plant near a north or east-facing window for optimal light exposure.

Temperature and Humidity

These cacti thrive in temperatures between 60-70°F (15-21°C) during the day and slightly cooler at night. High humidity levels are essential, mimicking their natural habitat. Use a humidity tray or a room humidifier to maintain adequate moisture levels.

Soil and Potting

A well-draining soil mix is crucial. Use a cactus or succulent mix, or create your own by combining:

  • 2 parts potting soil
  • 1 part perlite
  • 1 part orchid bark

Ensure the pot has drainage holes to prevent waterlogging, which can lead to root rot.

Christmas cactus

Watering and Feeding

Watering Schedule

Christmas Cacti require consistent moisture but should never be waterlogged. Water thoroughly when the top inch of soil feels dry. Reduce watering after the blooming period to allow the plant to rest.

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Feed your Christmas Cactus with a balanced, water-soluble fertilizer every 2-4 weeks during the growing season (spring and summer). Reduce feeding in the fall to encourage blooming.


Encouraging Blooms

Light and Temperature Adjustments

To encourage blooming, provide your holiday cactus with 12-14 hours of darkness and cooler temperatures (50-55°F or 10-13°C) for about six weeks in the fall. This mimics the natural conditions that trigger flowering.

Pruning and Repotting

Prune your cactus after blooming to maintain its shape and encourage new growth. Repot every 2-3 years in fresh soil to provide adequate nutrients.

Common Problems and Solutions

Pests and Diseases

  • Mealybugs and spider mites: Treat with insecticidal soap or neem oil.
  • Root rot: Ensure proper drainage and avoid overwatering.
  • Fungal infections: Use a fungicide and improve air circulation around the plant.

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Yellowing Leaves

Yellow leaves can indicate overwatering, poor drainage, or insufficient light. Adjust your care routine accordingly to resolve the issue.


Stem Cuttings

Propagate your Christmas Cactus by taking stem cuttings:

  1. Select a healthy segment with 2-3 joints.
  2. Allow the cutting to dry for a day to form a callus.
  3. Plant the cutting in a well-draining soil mix.
  4. Keep the soil slightly moist and place the cutting in bright, indirect light.

Roots should develop in a few weeks, and new growth will follow.


1. How often should I water my Christmas Cactus?

Water when the top inch of soil feels dry. Ensure the pot has drainage holes to prevent waterlogging.

2. Why is my Christmas Cactus not blooming?

Lack of blooms can be due to insufficient light, improper temperature, or inadequate dark periods. Adjust these conditions to encourage flowering.

3. Can I grow a Christmas Cactus outdoors?

They can be grown outdoors in USDA zones 10-12. Ensure they are protected from direct sunlight and extreme temperatures.

4. How do I treat pests on my Christmas Cactus?

Treat pests like mealybugs and spider mites with insecticidal soap or neem oil. Regularly inspect your plant to catch infestations early.