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How Often Should You Water a Christmas Cactus? Facts & FAQ

Christmas Cactus

Christmas cactus is one of the most popular flower-bearing plants that enhance your indoors and outdoors. If you have adorned your home with a Christmas cactus, you should know a few caring tips to keep it in optimal health.

Several factors decide how often your Christmas cactus need to be watered. These include the type of potting soil, the size of the container, the temperature, and the amount of sunlight the plant gets. The best way to maintain the cactus’ health is to place it in the right location with a temperature ranging from 70–80℉.

The Christmas cactus is easy to care for and gives gorgeous, colorful flowers in the blooming season. So, let’s explore caring and watering tips for Christmas cactus to succeed with your new plant.

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Christmas Cactus Origin

Christmas Cactus
Image Credit: klickblick, Pixabay

The Christmas cactus, or Schlumbergera x buckleyi, is an epiphytic succulent grown in the South Brazilian tropical rainforests. Unlike traditional cacti, you won’t find the Christmas cactus in hot and arid deserts. Instead, they thrive on the forest tree branches and absorb the humidity and sunlight to maintain their health.

You may find two other types of Christmas cactus based on the season: Thanksgiving cactus (Schlumbergera truncata) and Easter cactus (Rhipsalidopsis gaertneri). Both of these cacti are often collectively called “Christmas cactus.”

A Christmas cactus can be your life companion. These plants can live up to 100 years, adding lilac and pink colors to your home for decades.

When Is the Right Time to Water Your Christmas Cactus?

The best time to water your Christmas cactus is when its top soil is dry. You can feel the humidity of the soil with your fingers. If it feels dried out, it’s the right time to restore the cactus’ water content.

Take intervals when watering the plant to allow the soil to dry a little, but never entirely. It’s not a good idea to wait for the Christmas cactus to get dehydrated to water it again.

The answer to “How often should you water a Christmas cactus” depends on two factors:

1. The Plant Location

Christmas cactus in the planter in full bloom
Image Credit: Burkhard Trautsch, Shutterstock

Christmas cactus surely fits nicely in an outdoor setting, but it may expose them to direct sunlight. If you have kept your plant outdoors or close to a window where it gets dry air, you should water it every two to three days.

In contrast, indoor areas are usually humid with cool air and no direct sunlight. So, if your plant is indoors, you don’t need to water it much. Once a week would be enough.

2. Time of the Year

With a Christmas cactus, you need to change your watering schedule depending on the time of the year. For example, when the temperature lowers in winter and fall, you must water the plant more to promote blooming. In October, cease the watering entirely and then resume it gradually when November comes around the corner.

Once your cactus starts growing gorgeous lilac or pink flowers, it’s better to cease watering again for about six weeks. This will allow the plant to rest.

After some time, new flower growth will appear. This is when you need to start watering the plant once or twice a week.

Unlike other succulents, the Christmas cactus may again bloom in the spring season under short-day conditions. Make sure to keep the plant cool at around 50°F when its blooming period begins.

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How to Water Your Christmas Cactus

Unlike most houseplants, Christmas cactus can go long without water if it gets cool air. Its drought-tolerant ability allows the plant to live for 2 weeks with no signs of wilting or dehydration. But you should provide enough water to your plant anyway.

Here is how you should water your Christmas cactus:
  • First, touch the top inch of the plant’s soil. If it feels dry, you must water it as soon as possible.
  • Now keep watering the plant until the water starts coming out of the pot’s drainage holes. This means you should thoroughly soak the soil in water.
  • Next, remove the excess water from the tray.
  • Don’t forget to mist the cactus’ leaves when watering the soil.
  • Remember to never overhead water your plant, or else it may lead to fungus problems.
  • To determine whether your plant needs watering again, check the top inch of soil. Only water if it feels completely dry to avoid rotting of the plant’s root.

Can You Overwater or Underwater a Christmas Cactus?

christmas cactus with flower
Image Credit: chakoteh, Pixabay

The Christmas cactus usually requires more watering than other cacti. Unfortunately, this leads to two problems many plant owners face: overwatering and underwatering. Both can cause damage to your plant.

If you overwater your Christmas cactus, it can cause the development of fungal infection and rot in the plant. When you identify the dropping of the leaves, it’s a sign of white rot. You can even see white spots on your cactus’ leaves.

On the other hand, if you underwater your plant, it will wilt. Not only that, but the cactus’ flower buds will also seem to drop.

Thus, overwatering your Christmas cactus can cause dropping leaves and white, and underwatering may lead to wilting.

Should You Water Your Christmas Cactus From the Bottom or the Top?

Experienced gardeners suggest watering a Christmas cactus from the bottom instead of the top. That’s primarily because when watering the plant from the bottom, you’ll be more sure that the water has reached the plant’s roots.

Contrastingly, top watering may not entirely saturate your plant’s soil as the surface only lets small amounts reach the roots. Also, it gives a false impression that you have watered your plants when they’re actually underwatered.

Simply put, bottom-watering is more effective than top-watering because it ensures that water reaches the plant’s roots to stimulate optimal growth.

garden flower divider Conclusion

Christmas cactus is a flowering houseplant that looks good indoors and outdoors. However, these cacti require more watering than other succulents.

Avoid overwatering or underwatering a Christmas cactus. Instead, only water it when the top inch of its soil feels dry. Also, never put your plant where there is too much bright sunlight, or it may burn the foliage.

Similarly, don’t put it in insufficient sunlight as it can delay its growth and dry out the plant. So, whether you place your Christmas cactus indoor or outdoor, ensure that it gets cool air and partial sunlight to stay happy.

Featured Image Credit: chakoteh, Pixabay


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