How to Care for Christmas Cactus: More Blooms, Propagate and Identify Holiday Cacti.

Christmas Cacti Care

Christmas Cactus
Christmas Cactus

Christmas cacti are among the most popular holiday plants to decorate your home with. They’re easy to care for, and can be propagated by cutting off a fragment of the plant and planting it in moist potting soil.

Get all the info you need about identifying, caring for, and getting more blooms from your Christmas cactus right here!

What is a Christmas cactus and how do you care for it

Christmas cacti (also called Thanksgiving cacti) belong to the genus Schlumbergera and come in a wide variety of shapes and colors. They’re native to Brazil but now grow as houseplants across North America. Most varieties have leaves that look like petals, some with wavy edges, some not, and a few have spines. Christmas cacti are among the most popular of all holiday plants for several reasons:

They’re easy to care for Christmas cacti or X-mas Cactus.

While Thanksgiving and Easter cacti belong to the genus Rhipsalis, these two genera come from different areas on opposite sides of South America.

They produce few if any of the same types of flowers, and Rhipsalis are epiphytes (plants that live on other plants) while Christmas cacti are terrestrial. And unlike Thanksgiving cacti, Christmas cactus blooms continue for weeks instead of days.

Christmas cacti produce lovely small flower clusters called trichomes. The flowers are usually white, but pink or red varieties also exist. And thanks to selective breeding, newer hybrids can produce blooms in unusual colors like yellow and green.

Identifying your X-mas cactus or Christmas cactus or Thanksgiving cactus

To identify your Christmas cactus, take a look at the leaves. If the leaves are rounded with wavy edges, it’s likely to be a Thanksgiving cactus (Rhipsalis baccifera). If they’re pointed and stiffened to appear like petals, it’s likely to be a Christmas cactus (Schlumbergera x buckleyi).

There are a couple of other things to look for that will help with identification. The number of flowers indicates the variety, and the most common ones have six or more blooms on them at a time.

You’ll also find hybrids, which have characteristics from both parent plants, including some with ten or more blooms on each stem!

How to propagate your Christmas cactus

If your Christmas cactus has already flowered, it is time to propagate.

There are essentially 2 ways to propagate your Christmas cactus, by cuttings or seeds. Both methods work equally well, but I generally prefer to take stem cuttings in the summer when the plant is full of new growth.

The steps for each method are given below:

Cutting propagation

Remove the offsets (pups) once the roots are well established. This is best done in summer when the plant is growing actively.

Christmas cactus cuttings root readily throughout the year, but the rooting rate will be higher if cuttings are taken during active growth. The best time to take cutting varies depending on where you live. For example, in my experience cuttings taken January through March root quickest, while cuttings taken midsummer root quite slowly or not at all.

The key to cutting propagation is to take the cuttings quickly before the leaves can dry out. Immediately after taking each cutting, place it in a small pot filled with moist fast-draining potting mix (I use 50/50 peat moss and perlite). Avoid using fertilizer at this time.

Plant the cutting in a small pot filled with moist fast-draining potting mix (peat moss -perlite)

Before planting, remove all but the top few leaves from each cutting. For best results, the cuttings should be planted in small pots that are at least 4-5cm (1.5 inches) deep.

A peat moss -perlite potting mix is preferred because it drains quickly and keeps the cutting dry without causing any rotting problems.

Place the pot of cuttings outdoors on a bright, sunny windowsill. The cuttings can be set outside for a few hours during the day but should be brought in at night to protect them from late frost.

If you are able to keep your plants outdoors year-round, take care not to let the pots dry out too much between waterings. Generally, misting the plants daily is sufficient.

In a few days to a couple of weeks, the cuttings should develop healthy roots along the buried portion of the stem. When this occurs, carefully re-pot each cutting in its own small pot filled with moist potting mix (peat moss -perlite).

These steps are summarized below:

Carefully lift up each cutting and re-pot it in its own pot.

Roots have developed along the buried section of the stem. Re-pot each cutting into its own pot.

Once you’ve finished propagating your cuttings, place them back on a bright windowsill to finish their recovery period before putting them outside during the summer growing season.

Seed propagation

Seeds are another easy way to propagate Christmas cactus. Seeds should be collected in late summer or early fall (before the first frost) and then stored over winter. The seeds will sprout best if they are given a 3-4 month cold stratification period (simply keep them in a cool dark place). 

When the plants begin to sprout, place them under bright light. Ensure that they are not exposed to prolonged periods of direct sunlight during the sprouting process, as the young cactus seedlings do not tolerate intense light very well.

After two months or so indoors, move your little seedlings outside in a lightly shaded location for another couple of months. This will help them harden off before you put them in the ground or into larger pots for their final growing period.

If your seedlings are extremely leggy (the stem is long and the leaves are few), cut back on watering to force the plant to grow more roots at the stem’s base. Then, once they have developed more roots, transplant them into larger pots.

This is the process for propagating Christmas cactus via cutting or seed. The examples and diagrams were taken from my book ‘Cacti and Other Succulents for Cold Climates.

Getting more blooms from your plant

Christmas Cactus

There are several reasons why your plant might not be blooming at all times. This is primarily due to the number of daylight hours in the day.

The ideal time for your plant to bloom is during the spring and summer months because there are more hours of daylight than in the winter. You can also get more blooms by pruning your plants back every 6-8 weeks. 

Finally, if you’re not sure what’s wrong with your plant, check your soil for any signs of salt build-up or over-fertilization.

How many daylight hours should my plant have?

Most carnivorous plants need a certain amount of light to get them ready to flower. In general, you should give your plant 12-14 hours of bright indirect or filtered sunlight every day. For specific types of plants, check the care guides on the right-hand side of this page. Note: Keep your plants out of any direct sunlight as this will scorch the leaves.

How do I know if my plant is getting enough light?

If you’re using artificial lighting, then it’s very easy to see if your carnivorous plant is blooming because it should be blooming all year round.

If you have a plant in the wild, you can tell if it’s getting enough light by checking to see if the plant is stressed. If your plant has leaves that are smaller than usual or pale-colored then it may be time to move the plant into more shade.

Caring for the plant in winter months

It’s time to be thinking about taking care of your plants during the winter months. Using a harsh freeze can kill them either quickly or over time, so it’s time to be thinking about protecting them. If you were to just cover them up with leaves, snow, or straw this would help; however, it is also necessary to make sure that the covering is deep enough for most of the plant (and any roots) to stay dry and warm.

The plant is dormant in the winter, which means that it’s still alive but won’t grow or be sensitive to chemicals in the soil.

If you plan on planting anything new in the spring it is best to keep your plants ‘ sleeping’ for as long as possible so it would be best to cover them up completely from any frost or freezes.

If you plan on leaving them out it is best to make sure that they will survive a harsh cold winter. If your plants are in pots, put the pot inside a larger container and fill it with leaves or straw. 

It is also important to make sure the roots don’t get too wet as this could cause them to rot.

If your plants are in the ground, make a mound of leaves or straw around them that is about 3 feet tall, and then cover it with plastic to prevent water from reaching roots. 

If you don’t have a lot of space for this, try to find a large container and use the same method as mentioned above.

Lastly, remember to take the plastic off when temperatures get above freezing. This is important because if left on for too long, it might cause rot in your plants due to the heat from the sun coming through the plastic.

There are a number of ways to protect your trees during the winter months including wrapping, burying, and mounding. Wrapping is done by wrapping burlap or tree wrap around the tree.

Burying the tree consists of digging a trench around the trunk and covering it with soil, while mounding is simply piling up mulch, leaves, straw, or any other organic material against the side of the trunk.

Creating a festive display with other holiday plants and decorations

Create a festive and inviting display with other holiday plants and decorations. Include decoration like:

-strands of jingle bells or shiny beads

-handmade wreaths

-nesting baskets, baskets filled with tangling vines to hide the edges of this low impact holiday centerpiece

-a single stem rose to fill the center of the arrangement

-sprigs of holly or mistletoe arranged in a wreath or simply tied together by their own stems

Also include materials for an alternate design, such as:

-holiday ribbon to wrap up small evergreen boughs and tie them with other materials for a more formal and traditional look, or use paper rib

Conclusion on Christmas Cacti.

Succulent Christmas Trees

A holiday cactus can be a wonderful gift to bring someone you care about. But, it’s not always easy to know how much water or sunlight they need. 

This blog post should have given you some helpful tips on identifying the plant and giving them proper care so that they grow into thriving plants for years of enjoyment! If your new friend is already living in an environment where their needs are being met, then congratulations! You just found out what their favorite Christmas present will be this year! 

It’s important to note that these guidelines do not apply if the person receiving the plant has allergies. so make sure to consult with them before planting anything nearby.

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