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Can a Christmas Cactus Live Outside? Facts & FAQ

christmas cactus with flower

With green leaves that look like holly and gorgeous, dark pink blooms, it’s no surprise the epiphytic cactus Schlumbergera x buckleyi was given the name Christmas Cactus (at least in the northern hemisphere). They look like they stepped right out of a Christmas catalog! However, one question many have about this delightful cactus species is whether a Christmas Cactus can live outside.

Yes, the Christmas Cactus can live outside in certain conditions. We have all the information you need below to enjoy the beautiful plants all year!

garden flower divider

Can Your Christmas Cactus Live Outside After the Holidays?

christmas cactus in a dark room
Image By: Schwoaze, Pixabay

Your Christmas Cactus can live outside, but the conditions have to be favorable so that it doesn’t get damaged or die. Christmas Cacti aren’t like most cacti. You won’t find them in the desert like many cactus species where the climate is hot and dry.

Christmas Cacti live in warm, humid tropical rainforests, mainly in the South American country of Brazil. There, the lovely plant thrives in indirect sunlight because, as an epiphytic plant species, it soaks up the water and nutrients from the humid air around them.

When you put your Christmas Cactus outside, the temperature should be at least 70°F (21°C) during the day, and in the evening, it shouldn’t go any lower than 60 to 65°F (15 to 18°C). Also, you should put your Christmas Cactus where it gets indirect sunlight. This is critical since direct sunlight can burn their sensitive leaves even for a short time.

A shaded spot in your garden is an excellent location outside for your Christmas Cactus. Another is on your porch or sunroom, where your Christmas Cactus will get indirect light and stay cozy and warm.

When Should You Bring Your Christmas Cactus Outside?

christmas cactus flower
Image Credit: lueleng, Pixabay

You need to be rather careful when bringing your Christmas Cactus outside as the temperature can be a problem depending on where you live. In North America, the time it’s safe to bring your plant outside varies greatly. For example, in Florida, it’s possible you can put your Christmas cactus outside almost immediately after the holidays have ended. The temperature in most parts of the Sunshine State is perfect.

On the other hand, if you live in Maine, Illinois, Wisconsin, and other northern states, you might be unable to put your Christmas plant outside until April, May, or even June. You can say the same for Canada and most of Europe. A Christmas cactus in Central and South America can probably go outside the day after Christmas. After all, the lovely cacti come from Brazil!

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Frequently Asked Questions

How Often Should You Water a Christmas Cactus?

close up christmas cactus leaves
Image Credit: Hans, Pixabay

The best time to water a Christmas Cactus plant is when the top inch (2 centimeters) of soil in its pot becomes dry to the touch. Unlike most cacti, Christmas Cactus plants aren’t nearly as drought tolerant. In other words, they need to be watered more frequently than other cactus plants and thus should be placed in an area (indoors or out) that’s relatively high in humidity.

Christmas Cacti do very well in well-lit bathrooms because of the humid air from hot showers. They will also thrive in a sunny kitchen because they enjoy the humidity from cooking, dishwashers, etc. Humid location or not, plant experts recommend watering your Christmas Cactus once every 1 to 2 weeks, depending on the humidity level, temperature, and amount of sun their receive.

What Type of Soil Should You Use for Christmas Cactus Plants?

man holding soil
Image Credit: jokevanderleij8, Pixabay

As an epiphytic plant that doesn’t need “regular” soil, the soil you use in your Christmas Cactus’s pot should also be well-aerated and drain very well. In the wild, you won’t find Christmas cacti growing in the soil but in the detritus of leaves and debris on trees. If you use typical, heavy potting soil, you can suffocate the roots of your Christmas Cactus. If that happens, they will begin to rot and die.

The best soil for a Christmas Cactus in your home would be an equal mix of sterile garden loam, milled peat, and perlite (sand would work well in place of the perlite). Sterile loam isn’t a necessity but can be very helpful in preventing pests and diseases that can negatively affect your Christmas Cactus.

The peat and perlite (or sand) help the soil mixture to stay loose and drain well while also helping to keep nutrients and moisture around your plant’s roots. You can also mix regular potting soil with sand for your Christmas Cactus. It should be a mix of ⅔ potting soil and ⅓ sand. Remember to use a container with plenty of drainage holes in the bottom so the soil mix won’t stay too wet and cause your plant’s roots to rot.

How To Ensure Your Christmas Cactus Blooms for Christmas

christmas cactus
Image Credit: shinichi4849, Pixabay

If you have a Christmas Cactus in your home, the holidays are approaching, and you want it to bloom (and who doesn’t?), you need to balance the sun and darkness your plant gets almost perfectly. To do that, about 6 to 8 weeks before December 25, every night, you need to put your Christmas Cactus in a very dark place where the temperature stays close to 60-65°F (15-18°C).

A closet or the garage will work as long as there’s no chance the temperature gets too cold. It should stay in the dark for 12 hours, which makes a closet a better choice in many cases. An easier method is to leave your Christmas Cactus where it sits and cover it with a box for 12 hours. During the other 12 hours, your Christmas cactus should get its usual filtered sunlight. If you do it correctly, your Christmas Cactus should be in full, fabulous bloom by the time Santa Claus arrives!

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What Is Special About the Christmas Cactus?

Christmas Cactus
Image Credit: nightowl, Pixabay

As we mentioned earlier, the Christmas cactus is an epiphytic plant species, which means that, unlike a typical plant, it doesn’t rely on roots for water and nutrients. Instead, epiphytic plants absorb water and nutrients through their leaves.

Christmas Cacti thrive in humid environments: they take advantage of the humidity to get their water and food. They do this using jointed stems made up of cladodes which most people mistakenly refer to as leaves. In Europe and some other countries, the Christmas Cactus is known as the Crab Cactus because its limbs look like, you guessed it, claws.

How Can You Propagate a Christmas Cactus?

propagating Christmas cactus plant
Image Credit: Bilalstock, Shutterstock

Many people like to give Christmas Cacti as gifts for the holidays. If that’s you and you’d like to propagate your plant, you’ll be glad to know it’s as easy as tearing the wrapping off a gift! All you need to do is cut a section of three cladodes (i.e., leaves or segments) from your plant.

Then, take soil from your existing plant’s pot and gently bury one of the three segments in it. Once that’s done, all you need to do is care for the cutting as you would a mature Christmas Cacti. In about 4 to 6 weeks, it should take root and start to grow on its flower divider

Final Thoughts

A Christmas Cactus can easily live outside as long as it’s planted in an area with filtered sunshine, temperatures above 60 to 65°F (15 to 18°C) at night, and loose soil. It can be planted in the ground if you like, but most people prefer to leave their Christmas Cacti in the pot because they’re easier to transport when the temperature gets colder. We hope you enjoyed our article about planting Christmas Cacti outside, and we wish you good luck in all your gardening endeavors.

Featured Image Credit: chakoteh, Pixabay


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