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How to Get a Christmas Cactus to Bloom: 7 Tips & Tricks

Christmas Cactus

If you walk into any store during the Christmas holiday, you will likely encounter endless rows of Christmas cacti. These plants are in peak demand during the Christmas period because they bring joy and add color to the cold winter season. Most cacti species live for decades and can easily become one of your staple houseplants.

Christmas cacti are attractive all year round, but their true beauty is beheld when they bloom. They are prolific bloomers with spectacular floral displays when the conditions are right.1 They produce bright flowers in blooms of orange, yellow, pink, and purple or red, all of which add a pop of cheerful colors to your indoor plant collection.

However, making a Christmas cactus bloom can be quite tricky if the plant is not nurtured carefully, following proper watering guidelines, providing adequate temperature conditions, and ensuring optimum light conditions. Read on to find the best tips on how to make your Christmas cactus bloom.

garden flower divider

The 7 Tips & Tricks to Encourage a Cactus to Bloom

1. Frequent Watering

It’s worth noting that a Christmas cactus is different from other cacti species. Many cacti are native to desert climates where they don’t get lots of moisture. As a result, these cacti can go for a long time without watering.

However, a Christmas Cacti is different because its original home is the tropical rainforests of Brazil. There, the plant receives ample rainfall throughout the year. Therefore, it’s prudent to keep its soil moist to encourage it to bloom.

While moisture is crucial to get the Christmas cactus to bloom, you shouldn’t overdo it. It’s best to water it just once per week. The key is leaving the soil moist but not wet. Any more than that is simply overwatering.

christmas cactus with flower
Image Credit: chakoteh, Pixabay

2. High Humidity

The tropical forests where the Christmas cactus originates have high humidity. This is different from the dry and low humidity conditions in the desert where most other cacti grow. Similar to that, many homes tend to have low humidity as well.

So, to get your Christmas cactus to bloom, you must find different ways to raise the humidity levels to match those found in its original habitat. A good way to do so is using a humidifier. The more humidity it releases, the better the conditions for your indoor plant.

In addition, you can also cut on cost and set up a DIY humidifier at home. Put some pebbles or small rocks on a small tray. Place the tray near the Christmas cactus and add water to the level of the pebbles.

Also, you can get a misting bottle and mist the plant from time to time to replicate conditions in the rainforest.

3. Ample Darkness

Another way to help your Christmas cactus bloom is by leaving it in the dark for some time. In the rainforest, this plant grows under the dark canopy. While such conditions deter many plants from growing, the Christmas cactus is no ordinary plant.

In fact, this houseplant will require not less than 12 hours of uninterrupted darkness every day to form buds. This means keeping the plant in a dark space for the entire duration. Since most rooms require you to turn on the lights, you might want to find a special place to hide the plant.

The purpose of the darkness is to trigger a seasonal change in the plant. In the forest, when it gets quite dark, this plant starts to form buds in response to the change. Replicating the same at home gives you similar results and soon your plant will bloom.

Christmas Cactus
Image Credit: klickblick, Pixabay

4. Plant in a Smaller Pot

Perhaps you’ve heard that the best way to encourage a plant to bloom is ensuring it isn’t root bound. Well, that works for many houseplants, except the Christmas cactus. This species matches to the beat of its own drum.

So, another way to ensure it blooms is planting it in a small pot. As the root system forms, it starts getting root bound. As it keeps growing, being root bound causes the cactus stress that leads to flowering.

The priorities of the root bound plant triggers the change from growth and development to flowering. Otherwise, in a spacious pot, it feels no need to flower and keeps growing. Flowering while root bound is a survival tactic for plants experiencing hostile growing conditions.

5. Slightly Cooler Temperatures

Christmas cactus differs from other Cacti in its cold tolerance. While desert climates are hot, the rain forests where you find this plant tend to be cooler. Therefore, if your home is too hot, it can alter the blooming.

On the other hand, the tropical forests aren’t frigidly cold. The climate tends to be cooler and not freezing. Therefore, ensure your home is also not too cold. Keeping a perfect temperature balance is another trick to get your Christmas cactus to bloom.

Therefore, an ideal temperature for the Christmas cactus to bloom is 20°C or 68°F. However, the cactus can also bloom at 15°C or 60°F, but the flowers might not last as long.

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

6. Bright Indirect Light

Ensure your Christmas cactus gets ample bright indirect light. Avoid spots where the sunlight is harsh and direct as this can lead to burns.

In the wild, under the canopy, the Christmas cactus gets indirect bright light that penetrates through. Too much direct sun exposure causes the leaves to turn purple and stress for the entire plant. This isn’t an ideal condition for flowering to take place.

7. Proper Fertilizer Application

Christmas cacti aren’t heavy feeders. In fact, since they grow in healthy mixes, you only need to add a little fertilizer during the growing season. After that, stop applying it to encourage flowering in fall.

Spring and summer are the main growing seasons for this houseplant. At that time, you can feed them some fertilizer while watering. But, as soon as the seasons change and fall approaches, let it be.

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Frequently Asked Questions

When Does a Christmas Cactus Bloom?

Christmas cacti are fond of blooming from early winter to mid-winter. But it’s also possible for the same plant to bloom in fall. It all depends on the conditions in your home and whether they meet the plant’s demands.

christmas cactus flower
Image Credit: lueleng, Pixabay

How Long Do Christmas Cactus Flowers Last?

When the cactus starts to flower, this can continue for up to 6 weeks. During this time, each flower lasts 7 to 9 days. Once a bloom is spent, it’s important to de-head it by pinching. As a result, you’ll notice the plant keeps blooming.

Can a Christmas Cactus Flower Several Times Per Year?

Oh Yes! A Christmas Cactus is one of those amazing plants that can bloom several times in a year. This is because it’s easy to achieve the right blooming conditions indoors, which triggers rebloom all year.

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A Christmas cactus shares the name with different cacti, but it’s quite a different type of plant. Blooming requires opposite conditions from other cacti. This means you need to keep its soil moist and conditions humid.

In addition, this plant requires 12 hours or more of total darkness, moderate temperature. and bright indirect light. Under these conditions, the plant will bloom and can continue reblooming throughout the year.

Featured Image Credit: nightowl, Pixabay


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