The Christmas cactus, also known as Schlumbergera x buckleyi, is a popular indoor houseplant. You can recognize this plant by its tubular, pink, or purple flowers.
This lively plant will immediately perk up any dull or dreary space. It is called the Christmas cactus because it is a winter-flowering plant that blooms near Christmas in the Northern Hemisphere.
If you have recently purchased a Christmas cactus, here is everything you need to know.
But before that, it is important to know that what you get is actually this spectacular flowering plant.
People often confuse the Christmas cactus with the Thanksgiving or Easter cacti.
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How to Distinguish the Christmas Cactus From the Thanksgiving and Easter Cacti?
As soon as the holiday season approaches, people crave holiday plants. There are three main kinds of holiday plants in the cactus family:
- Christmas cactus
- Thanksgiving cactus
- Easter cactus
Out of these, the Christmas cactus is arguably the most popular one. The Christmas cactus is very similar to the Thanksgiving and Easter Cacti, so it’s easy to get confused.
The easiest way to differentiate between the three is by looking at the leaves.
- The Christmas cactus has teardrop-shaped leaves.
- Thanksgiving cactus has more pointed projections that appear claw-shaped.
- The Easter cactus is slightly more different, with more rounded leaves.
Other than that, here are some physical characteristics of the Christmas cactus:
- Small, dull-green stems
- Stems with rounded edges
- Pink or white flowers
- Doubled flowers
The Christmas Cactus: Not Like Your Average Cacti
The Christmas cactus is a Schlumbergera hybrid that belongs to the Cactaceae family.
This flowering plant is native to Brazil, so don’t think or treat it like other cacti and succulents.
This is mainly because the Christmas cactus and its relatives do not grow in dry and arid conditions like other cacti. They are epiphytic succulents that grow on trees in Southern Brazil rainforests.
The Christmas cactus prefers:
- Higher than average Humidity
- More water than other cacti
- Indirect sunlight
- Warmer temperatures.
How to Care for the Christmas Cactus?
The Christmas cactus is a holiday cactus, so it requires a lot of water to survive and grow.
If you have recently purchased the Christmas cactus, here are some requirements that will ensure it fills the house with color and vibrancy.
- Water every 2-3 weeks during winter
- Water every week during summer
Due to its place of origin, the holiday cactus requires more water than other succulents.
You should water the Christmas cactus every couple of weeks, but only when the top 1/3rd part of the soil feels dry to touch.
Otherwise, you incur the risk of overwatering the plant. However, the watering frequency may vary depending on the weather and position of the plant.
You should thoroughly water the plant, allowing any excess water to pass through drainage holes. However, make sure you let the soil dry between watering sessions.
- Dappled sunlight
- Place in a bathroom or east-facing windowsill
The Christmas cactus needs dappled sunlight to thrive, but it can adjust to other light settings. Ideally, you should place it somewhere it receives bright but indirect sunlight.
If it is exposed to direct sunlight for too long, the leaves of this sensitive plant can lose color. Even if you decide to expose the plant to direct sunlight, make sure it’s only during winter.
Refrain from exposing this plant to direct sunlight during the spring and summer.
- 3 parts regular potting mix
- 2 parts perlite
As an epiphyte, the Christmas cactus can adapt to most soil conditions. For best results, you should use soil rich in nutrients.
It will grow in loamy and perlite soil. For optimal growth, the Christmas cactus requires a soil of PH between 5.5 and 6.2.
You can add peat moss to the potting soil to create the ideal environment for this plant’s growth.
- 70 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit during the growing season
- 55 and 65 degrees Fahrenheit after buds set
- Do not exceed 90 degrees Fahrenheit
- Do not let it drop below 50 degrees Fahrenheit
The Christmas cactus can be selective when it comes to temperature requirements. The plant needs balmy temperatures Fahrenheit during its peak growing season from April through September.
After setting buds, it prefers lower temperatures during the night. Overall, it needs a consistent temperature of 65 degrees Fahrenheit.
- 50% to 60% humidity levels
Unlike other cacti, the Christmas cactus needs more humidity. If you plan to keep this plant inside during the winter, the plant can easily become deprived of humidity.
To remedy this, place a bowl of water next to this plant or mist it regularly. As a general rule, you should maintain above-average humidity levels.
You should add diluted fertilizer to the plant during the early spring and summer season. Once buds have formed, you should add a high potassium fertilizer to the plant every two weeks.
How to Bloom the Christmas Cactus?
To see stunning flowers on the Christmas cactus, you should create an environment that encourages blooming.
The blooming of this holiday plant depends on the temperature and light. The Christmas cactus will produce flowers when it is kept in a cool spot.
- 70 degrees Fahrenheit during the day
- 60 to 65 degrees Fahrenheit during nighttime
To encourage flower growth, make sure the plant alternates between 16 hours of darkness and 14 hours of light for about 4 to 6 weeks.
When you see buds appear, you can revert to warmer temperatures.
How to Propagate the Christmas Cactus?
To propagate the Christmas cactus, you need to choose the right time of the year.
The ideal time for propagation is right at the start of the growing season during late spring when the plant is prepared for fresh growth.
Gather Stem Cuttings
- Collect several stem cuttings by using a pair of scissors or twisting and pinching the stem cuttings using your hand.
- Make sure every stem cutting from the parent Christmas cactus has about 2-5 leaf sections. The more stem cuttings you gather, the higher the chances of successful propagation.
Leave Stem Cuttings to Heal
- After this, place the stem cuttings in a cool and dry place for 2 days, allowing the edges to heal. This helps mitigate the chances of stem rot.
Root these Stem Cuttings
- Use water with pebbles, ensuring the bottom tip of the stem cuttings is immersed in water.
- Alternatively, you may use sand with perlite in a pot with drainage holes.
- Pack the rooting medium around the stem cuttings and water lightly.
Place Stem Cuttings in Indirect Sunlight for 6-8 Weeks
- Place these cuttings where they receive indirect sunlight for about 6 to 8 weeks.
- Make sure you maintain the original water level. Do not overwater, as it may cause root rot.
- Wait until the roots are about half an inch long before you proceed to repotting.
Transport Stem Cuttings into Potting Soil
- Add a succulent potting mix to a small container with drainage holes.
- Place these cuttings around one inch deep into the soil, and water it till the soil is slightly moist but not wet.
Common Problems with Christmas Cactus
The Christmas cactus isn’t a particularly fussy plant, especially when it’s given the right care. However, there are some common diseases that could plague this precious plant. This guide will tell you what these are, along with quick fixes.
- Insufficient watering
- In case of overwatering, repot the plant
- In case of lack of water, slowly increase moisture over the course of a few days
- Chop off diseased area
- Repot the plant
Red or Pink Leaves
- Overexposure to direct sunlight
- Place the plant in indirect sunlight
- Put it in a bathroom or in front of an east-facing window
- Insufficient moisture
- Incorrect lighting
- Nutrient deficiency
- Faulty drainage
- Water and drain the plant
- Place in indirect sunlight
- Add a potassium-rich fertilizer every 2 weeks
- Add more drainage holes, or use a better draining soil
Perks of Buying a Christmas Cactus
If you are in search of a no-hassle houseplant, the Christmas cactus is the ideal choice.
If its interesting name and fascinating appearance aren’t enough to convince you, here are a few more benefits of this holiday plant.
- Removes toxins from the indoor air
- It is a low-maintenance plant
- Adds color to your home
- Induces a better night’s sleep
Interesting Facts about the Christmas Cactus
- The Christmas cactus needs its beauty sleep, so make sure you don’t turn on the light at night
- This houseplant is pet-friendly and is not toxic to cats and dogs
- If you care for it properly, the Christmas cactus can live up to 20 to 30 years
- Unlike other cacti, it needs cool temperatures to blossom
- As an epiphyte, the Christmas cactus grows on another plant’s base
- There are many superstitions surrounding the Christmas cactus
The Christmas cactus is a stunning plant that can outlive you if you give it the right care! This plant has existed for a long time but has rapidly gained popularity in recent years.
It hails in the rainforests of Southern Brazil, and unlike other cacti, it likes cooler temperatures. If you want to brighten your space, this holiday plant will produce fresh, pink, and white flowers.
Follow the simple requirements above and watch this plant thrive in your house!