Christmas Cactus Bloom Tips

Christmas Cactus bloom with beautiful, exotic blossoms and bring a welcome and festive show of flowers during the holidays. But what if your Christmas Cactus never seems to bloom at the right time?

This is a common question at Studley’s and this is a perfect time of year to offer our expert tips on how to actually get your Christmas Cactus bloom to occur at Christmas time!

First a little education and plant triage…

There are actually three different Holiday Cacti: the Christmas Cactus, Thanksgiving Cactus and Easter Cactus.

These are different species and their name is associated with the timing of their blooms. So, if you wonder every year while yours blooms early or late, the actual variety you have might be a factor.

To identify which holiday cactus you have, let’s examine the characteristics and growth habits of each…

The Easter Cactus is a member of the Rhipsaldipopsis family. Thanksgiving and Christmas cacti are members of the Schlumbergera family and are very similar in appearance, which can make identifying your variety a little tricky.

A closer look at the segments (branches) of your holiday cactus should answer any questions:

Credit: Iowa State University, University Extension

Common Name: Easter Cactus
Botanical Name: Rhipsaldipopsis gaerterni
Segments: Scalloped edge and the big clue to this variety is the two bristle like hairs on the tips.
Blooms: March – May
Flowers: white, pink, orange, red, symmetrical, (flatter and “star like” appearance) with shallow yellow anthem.

Common Name: Thanksgiving Cactus
Botanical Name: Schlumbergera truncata
Blooms: November
Segments: 2-4 pointy teeth along the edges
Flowers: white, red, lavender or salmon and asymmetrical with a bend at the ovary that is different from the Christmas variety, yellow anthem is longer than the Easter variety.

Common Name: Christmas Cactus
Botanical Name: Schlumbergera x buckleyi
Blooms: December – March
Segments: Also have teeth, but are more rounded the pointy teeth of the Thanksgiving variety.
Flowers: red, pink, white, yellow and also asymmetrical, but longer with no bend at the ovary as with the Thanksgiving variety.

How To Make Your Christmas Cactus Bloom For The Holidays

Now that the days are getting longer and the temps are cooling, the conditions are excellent for forcing Christmas Cactus bloom for the holidays. October is usually when Christmas Cacti will naturally begin forming buds, and to ensure the timing of your blooms, follow these simple steps:

Since all of the Holiday Cacti originate from the tropics, their requirements are a little different from the desert cactus. Christmas Cacti require even moisture, and if they become too dry, the buds will fall off.

1. A good rule of thumb is to water well when the top inch of the soil dries out.

Christmas Cacti also require a simulated “dormant period” in order to bloom.

2. Beginning in mid-October, make sure your Christmas Cactus gets about 12 hours of darkness per day for the following 6-8 weeks, or until buds form. Placing it in a room that you do not have a light on at night is the easiest way to do this, as the requirement for darkness corresponds to the naturally shortening days and lengthening nights of the changing seasons.

Christmas cacti do not tolerate extreme temperatures, so during the summer avoid prolonged direct sun, and during this time of year, avoid overly cold or drafty locations.

3. After the 6-8 weeks of daily, 12 hour darkness cycles described in Step 2 and once buds form, keep your Christmas Cactus in a light location allowing natural darkness cycles to occur at room temperatures between 55-75°F.

4. Pat yourself on the back and watch for a beautiful show of tropical color during the holidays!

My Pro Tip:

After your you enjoy your Christmas Cactus bloom, prune a few sections of each segment with your thumb to encourage it to branch out. If you lay the pinched segments in a empty pot of dirt, and keep it moderately moist, they will eventually take root and you can add to your collection or share with a friend!

If you find your Christmas Cactus frequently dries out or wilts, it may be time to move it to a larger container. Ideally, re-pot using a succulent mix, or make your own with a 2:1 mix of potting soil and sand or vermiculite.

If you like the Christmas Cactus, you may also like the Christmas Holly Goldfish Plant – both are available in our Greenhouse.

Order now and try the tips found in this blog for holiday Christmas Cactus bloom!

See you at Studley’s!

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