You can find Christmas cactus for sale in many settings throughout the holiday season. While you may think of these as just holiday plants to be tossed away in the springtime, this would be a mistake.
Christmas cactus can provide many years of enjoyment. With proper water and care, many families have Christmas cactus that has been handed down from one generation to another.
There are three distinct types of cactus sold as holiday cactus. They are:
- Christmas cactus (Schlumbergera x buckleyi)
- Thanksgiving cactus (Schlumbergera truncata)
- Easter cactus (Rhipsalidopsis gaertneri)
You may hear any of these called Christmas cactus. But, the most important thing to know about these three types of cactus is that they all require similar care and that care is quite different from the care you would provide to desert cactus.
Holiday cactus are tropical rainforest plants. They hail from Brazil, and they are epiphytic, like orchids. This means that in the wild, they don’t grow in soil. Instead, they attach themselves to trees and glean their nutrients and moisture from the ambient environment.
Because they are not desert cactus, holiday cactus cannot tolerate drought at all. They do best in a light, airy, soilless, or near-soilless substrate kept slightly moist.
Use the soak and dry watering method to water thoroughly, and then allow the potting mixture becomes close to dry before watering again.
Never let your holiday cactus stand in water, as this will cause root rot and will kill your plant.
Watering Christmas Cactus – How Frequently Should I Water?
There is no way to set a specific schedule for every Christmas cactus. The frequency of watering will depend on a wide variety of factors, including:
- The amount of sunlight in the environment
- The quality of the potting mixture
- Ambient humidity levels
- The size of the container
When you keep your Christmas cactus indoors, you may only need to water once a week or even every ten days or so.
Take care to protect Christmas cactus in a conducive environment and keep close tabs on the potting mixture. When it is nearly dry, water thoroughly.
What Are The Best Growing Conditions for Christmas Cactus Plants?
Christmas cactus-like consistently warm temperatures between 70° – 80° degrees Fahrenheit during the day. Keep evening temperatures between 55° – 65° degrees Fahrenheit.
Put your Christmas cactus plants in an area where they will receive partial shade. Indirect light is best. Again, West or east-facing windows are best.
Guard your Christmas cactus against harsh direct sunlight, especially during the hottest times of the year. Too much sunlight will cause burn marks on the leaves.
Too little sunlight will cause your plant to grow very slowly or not at all. Lack of sunlight also contributes to soggy soil and may cause root rot.
When you water your Christmas cactus, you should set it in a container of water to soak up water from below. Leave it for about 15 minutes, and then set it on a rack to drain.
Keep humidity levels higher around your Christmas cactus. You can do this by placing a pebble tray under your plant or placing a water container near the plant. Of course, the use of a humidifier will also help keep humidity levels high.
It’s also a good idea to mist your Christmas cactus daily to provide the right amount of humidity.
Can You Plant Christmas Cactus Outdoors?
Away from its native tropical setting, Christmas cactus is usually grown as a houseplant. If you happen to live in USDA hardiness zone 10 or higher, you could keep your Christmas cactus outdoors year-round.
Outdoors, when the top inch of your Christmas cactus soil mix is dry, water thoroughly.
If you keep your Christmas cactus outdoors in a very hot, dry setting, you might need to water very frequently. Watering every couple of days or even every day is not unheard of.
Waterless frequently during the autumn and the winter because this will help to stimulate your plant to bloom more.
Just as with house plants, excess water will lead to problems with fungus and root rot.
Too little water will cause your plant to wilt, and it will drop any flower buds it may have.