Christmas Cactus


A Christmas cactus is a type of succulent that’s named for the time of year it blooms—though it’s also called Thanksgiving cactus or Easter cactus for the same reason. It’s a remarkable houseplant that can live up to 100 years under the right conditions!

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They’re a tropical forest species, meaning they like a bit more water and less harsh sun than their desert cousins.

Although some morning or late afternoon sun is perfectly fine and probably appreciated, your Christmas cactus doesn’t need the intense light that desert cacti do. It likes a bright spot on a windowsill, but indirect light is mostly the way to go.

Although they do have the capacity to store some water in their fleshy leaf segments, Christmas cacti aren’t quite as efficient at this as their desert cousins. Don’t let yours go without for too long, or it might turn wrinkly and even start dropping foliage.

Keep your Christmas cactus’ soil lightly moist from the start of the growing season in spring through to when the blooming period ends. After that, you can let the soil dry out a bit more, though make sure it never goes bone dry. You’ll probably be watering about twice a week during summer if your cactus is in a well-lit spot, while in winter it may only need a sip every week and a half or so.

Your Christmas cactus might bloom with no intervention at all on your part, but here are some things you can do to ensure abundant flowering:

  • Reduce temperature. Although Christmas cacti don’t like being too cold, temperatures around 15C starting late October can help kickstart things.
  • Reduce light. The days are naturally shorter during winter, but in the home, we often leave the lights on until late. You can place your Christmas cactus in a space where it stays dark after the sun goes down. Some houseplant enthusiasts even put theirs in a closet at night.
  • Reduce water. In the section on watering, I mentioned these plants like to stay lightly moist until they finish blooming. There’s a little exception: during the bud formation period, it can be helpful to let the top layer of the soil dry out.

Something like a garage or shed can be the ideal spot for your Christmas cactus during these few weeks. Once you’re happy with the amount of buds, you can move your plant back to its normal position in the home.


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