Unlike many other plants, the Christmas cactus isn’t a sun-loving, dry climate plant. Originally from Brazil, it’s an epiphytic plant that usually grows in the tropical rainforest.
In its natural environment, the Christmas cactus (Schlumbergera x buckley bridgesii) develops on tree branches where it receives moisture from rain and absorbs nutrients from leaves and other plant debris.
Despite its exotic origins, the Christmas cactus does not require much care, but it does have a few basic needs.
Place your Christmas cactus in bright, indirect light. In other words, put it near a sunny window, but not on a sill where it may be scorched.
The Christmas cactus needs regular irrigation, but too much moisture may cause root rot or leaf drop.
Water deeply when the top inches of soil feel dry to the touch, stopping only when water trickles through the drainage holes. Remember to pour off any water that remains in the drainage saucer.
The Christmas cactus performs best in temperatures between 18 °C and 21 °C during the day, and between 13 °C and 18 °C at night. Place the plant away from hot or cold drafts.
Feed your Christmas cactus monthly from late spring to early fall. Use a multi-purpose fertilizer diluted to half strength.
Trim your Christmas cactus to create a fuller, bushier plant about a month after blooming, but never prune a Christmas cactus in or after late spring.
To prune the plant, just pinch off one or more of the sections. Replant them in separate pots if you want to create new plants.
Don’t be in a hurry to repot your Christmas cactus. As a general rule of thumb, once every three years is sufficient because it likes to be a little crowded.
Repot in the spring, after blooms have completely wilted and new growth is emerging. Never repot a blooming plant.
Getting rid of pests
The Christmas cactus can be bothered by various small pests. Spray spider mites lightly with insecticidal soap or pick them off with a toothpick or toothbrush. If that doesn’t work, replant your Christmas cactus in a clean pot filled with fresh potting mix.
To have blooms at Christmas
Your Christmas cactus may bloom on its own, but sometimes, getting the plant to flower requires a little finesse. Place the plant in a closet or another dark space for 12 hours a day, beginning six to eight weeks before Christmas.
Expose the plant to indirect sunlight the remaining 12 hours. Water sparingly and withhold fertilizer during this time.
If you’d like to propagate your plant, read our article on the subject.