Have you treated yourself to a Christmas Cactus? Or maybe a loved one has gifted it to you, and you’re not quite sure how to re-flower those colourful blooms? In this post, I’ll help you understand more about this fun and festive cactus, also known as Schlumbergera, and how to re-flower it.
Flowering from late November to late January, the Christmas Cactus makes a brilliant present at this time of year. When it’s not in flower, it makes a pleasant splash of greenery in any home. However, it’s really those blooms that gives it interest, especially in the winter when your other plants may be dormant.
Where to position a Christmas Cactus
In order to create the perfect conditions for re-flowering, the Christmas Cactus needs to be positioned in a position with lots of indirect light, where it can receive plenty of humidity. Christmas Cacti originate from the mountains of south-east Brazil, growing best on trees or rocks where the habitat is moist and quite shady. Very different to desert cacti!
This plant might work well in your bathroom, perhaps on a shelf near a window, but out of direct light. However, if you don’t have any room in your bathroom, your can position this plant on a sideboard or dining table and recreate the humid atmosphere with a spritz of water each day.
Humidity can also be recreated by placing the plant on top of a saucer filled with pebbles and water. You don’t want the roots to be sitting in water, however, so make sure there are enough pebbles to elevate the plant.
When to re-pot a Christmas Cactus
You should re-pot your Christmas Cactus once per year, or at least once every two years, to maintain healthy growth. This should be done at the end of March, which is the beginning of the growing season for Christmas Cacti.
Use a standard cactus compost such as John Innes No. 2. Some extra grit will also be needed to help with drainage.
In terms of your pot choice, use a larger container than the previous pot, but not too large, as cacti and succulents tend to prefer to be snug in their containers.
Christmas Cactus resting periods
Christmas Cacti need two resting periods throughout the year: once in winter after flowering, and once in autumn.
During these times, you should reduce watering. Only water occasionally when the compost has fully dried.
You should also move the plant to a cooler room, where the plant will be positioned in a cooler temperate of around 15 degrees Celsius.
Once the growing season begins – April to September – water the plant regularly and use a liquid houseplant feed to help with growth. During this time, you should maintain a temperature of around 20 degrees Celsius.
You can actually place your Christmas Cactus outside in the summer months, when the chance of frost has passed completely. This will not only add a spot of greenery to your patio, balcony or bistro set, but it will also ripen new growth and encourage flowering.
Keep the plants in a shaded part of your outdoor area, and ward off any slugs and snails, as they’ll be attracted to its succulent foliage.
Come mid-September, you’ll hopefully see some flowering buds begin to form. Once you see these, you can increase the temperature and the amount of water your plant receives, as this will increase the amount of flowers.
A happy Christmas Cactus will flower for two or more months. Each bloom has a short lifespan, but the plant itself will keep producing them throughout the festive period.
Want to see my video on Christmas Cacti maintenance? Watch below!
Michael has been involved with gardening and plants since he was just five years old. He is a self-professed Plant Geek, and was listed in the Sunday Times top 20 most influential people in the gardening world, thanks to his plant hunter role at Thompson & Morgan.
Michael was responsible for new plant introductions such as the Egg and Chips plant and the FuchsiaBerry and keeps busy travelling the world in search of new plants as well as lecturing worldwide, including stints in Japan. He is very active on social media – so why not give him a follow at @mr_plantgeek or Facebook. You can also listen to The Plant Based Podcast with Michael and co-host Ellen-Mary on iTunes, Spotify and Google.