Care & Culture of Christmas Cactus

Care & Culture of Christmas Cactus

Hi, my name is Byron Martin, here at Logee’s Greenhouses, and today we’re going to be talking about the Christmas Cactus, or the ‘Schlumbergera.’ This is one of the most famous house plants that is used for color at this time of year. And these are actually tropical epiphytes, meaning that they come out of the tropical jungles, growing up in the trees outside of soil. And they have a ability to flower, particularly at this time of year– now, they can flower at other times of the year, but generally it’s pretty much a given, that if you give the right conditions to it, the plants will come into bloom just around Christmas time. As you can see we’re, right here, at the first of December, and these plants will be flowering on through that. In terms of culture, we like to give them some filtered sun, so in a home-situation, it will be an East or West window. If you give them too much sunlight, like direct sunlight, the leaves will actually bleach out– they actually can get quite yellow, so they do need a little bit of shade. They can grow in fairly deep shade, but in terms of getting a good amount of flowers out of them, it’s better to have them in a window that gets some direct sun. In terms of watering, as I mentioned, you want to make sure that the soil becomes dry. Here’s a pot, right here, that is running on the edge of quite dry, right now, and this is a great time to water this. You can see the soil has actually changed color, from that kind of darker-wet to a light, light brown color. And at that time you want to water them, and water them thoroughly; allow the water to run right through the bottom of the pot. As far as feed goes, they really have their growing cycle in the summertime. So, they’re, right now, going through a flowering stage. Growth is pretty much stopped. It’s winter time, because the days are shorter, and temperatures are generally cooler; those two things help, in terms of flowering. And as we get back into the springtime– late winter and springtime– you’ll see they’ll start to initiate growth. At that time you can start fertilizing them– just small amounts; don’t do it too heavily. Either dilute a liquid feed in the water, or you can top dress with an organic granular on the top. But you just gotta remember that they don’t need a lot of fertilizer, but fertilizer will help them, in terms of their growth in the next year’s blooming. As far as insects go, they’re pretty impervious to most insects. There are a few scale insects that can get on them, and possibly some mealybug, but that is usually an issue of some infestation coming in on another plant and being near them. If you take a healthy plant and put it in at home, it can live for years without having any problems with insects. Diseases are an issue, particularly root diseases. And, we have a plant here that has suffered from that collapse. You can see the foliage on this is all shriveled. This plant has actually been over-watered; that’s the cause of its decline, right here. If we looked at its root system– you can see– well, there’s actually some live roots now. Most of those are gone. And they collapse pretty quickly, because my fingers are just rubbing those roots off– they’re all dead. There’s no life in them, even though they actually, even from this point, they look like they’re healthy. So, this had a sudden collapse on it, and it was generally– not even generally; it was actually an overwatering issue. So, as you can see, these are in plastic pots. If you happen to be heavy on the watering, move them into clay. That probably would have saved this plant; had this been grown in a clay pot, it could have taken that heavier watering that it got. Now, this actually can come out of it, which is the amazing thing. I would certainly pick off these flowers right now, and I would– if I was trying to go to save this– I would stop watering it. That’s one thing you need to do, obviously, and let the soil dry down. You could move this into a clay pot and let it dry down quicker, but you do need to water a little bit. But, really, grow it very much on the dry side, until these leaves rehydrate, and become turgid again. As far as pruning goes, there is a cycle after its blooming, that we need to cut the plants back. And they do– depending upon the cultivar, but some of them actually have these kind of long, gangly growth on them. If you prune them, there’s segments to the leaf, so you simply need to just cut off those segments, like that. And this would be done, generally, as I mentioned, after the flowering, sometime before flush of growth in the springtime. So, as the spring comes on, you don’t want to prune, obviously, because you are trying to increase the amount of foliage, and also there’s bud formation, which is going to happen in the summertime. As we go into summer, and the summer starts– days start to shorten– the plant begins to decide to flower. The threshold for blooming is probably 12 to 14 hours of daylight, and so, we get into our darker days– that’s around the first of September– that’s the triggering mechanism that’s going to force these plants into flower. There’s a little bit of information on how to grow your Christmas Cactus. This is the time of year that they’re in their glory. So thank you for watching. If you’d like to get more information, you can visit us at

Author: Kennedi Daugherty

35 thoughts on “Care & Culture of Christmas Cactus

  1. They are a funny plant mine flowered in May, I could never figure out why they where called Christmas Cactus. But I do love them the flowers are so beautiful. Thanks for the video.

  2. I LOVE the Christmas cacti 🙂 thanks so much for sharing and sending much love and happy growing from Ireland XXXX <3

  3. Can the healthy pieces that you trimmed be used to start a new plant? If so, could you show us how to do that correctly? Thanks for all your videos, most helpful!

  4. My husband's cactus does not look good, it looks like it is going to die.The tips are turning a little purple.And I was not allow to touch them( I am famous for killing them)What is wrong with it,I just want to save the plant,please!

  5. Thanks so much for your video on this, I was told to put my plant in a darker room rather than in the window until about Sept. I hope this is right? Take care and keep posting these great resources (Mar. 6/17.)

  6. Many thanks for this! Very informative. I just inherited a 75-year old Christmas cactus. So, I'm needing all the help I can get!

  7. excellent video! thank you for sharing. i over watered. gonna change the pot also! hope you have a fabulous day!

  8. i took one lonely segment of a thanksgiving cactus that was sorta yellowish and kind shriveled that was just laying on the surface of a pot at the store and took it home used a little rooting compound and stuck it in a a small 2 inch pot. its winter months now @65'ish indoors so i watered once and put a sandwich bag over it to keep the furnace draft off of it … its been like a week its not really doing anything but it is greener than it was and not dead so i'm guessing thats a good thing …

  9. Thanks for the info. I just purchased two beautiful plants at the grocery store. Each were marked down to .99 cents. I had no idea how to take care of them. My friend has a Christmas Cactus that is almost 100 years old! It was her grandmother’s plant & it is beautiful!

  10. Very fine, clear, helpful gardening "column." I've been doing a lot wrong over the years and won't do that anymore. But the plant is forgiving and hardy, so it DID bloom this year after I repotted it for the first time in years. Now with your help I think I know how to urge this guy to bloom again. Thank you.

  11. Hi- I just rec'd a Christmas Cactus plant that needs to be potted. I have the special planting medium but nowhere can I find anything about drainage, such as pebbles in the bottom of the pot. Yes…no…? Thank you 😀

  12. is this more of a Thanksgiving Cactus due to the points on the leaves? I heard the True Christmas Cactus are more scallop shape.. I have both, and was told that.. I wanted to confirm.

  13. Mine keeps flowering since end of November (it's April now). It's in the washroom's window close to the toilet :DDDD… that's its winter place. :DDDD

  14. During the spring and summer what facing window should I have it in? Also in the fall and winter what facing window should I have it in?

  15. I bought one of these two days ago for my mum's Mothers Day gift haha they're gorgeous…

  16. Is it possible to bloom Christmas cactus in a tropical country? I'm putting them in my sometimes air-conditioned room next to the window.

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