Caring for Christmas Cactus wallacegardencenter

Caring for Christmas Cactus

Take good care of your Christmas Cactus and you’ll have vibrant blooms on the darkest days!

Just like the elves in their workshop at the North Pole, the Christmas Cactus is hard at work while all the other houseplants are resting for winter. These cacti are actually gorgeous succulents with tubular flowers in hues of yellow, salmon, lilac, pink, fuchsia, or white. Caring for a Christmas Cactus isn’t too complicated, and you will be rewarded with beautiful blooms while your other plants slumber.

Christmas cactus by window with mister

Christmas Cactus Light and Water Requirements

One helpful thing to keep in mind while caring for your Christmas Cactus is that it’s not from the desert, but the tropics. Treat it more like a tropical plant than a cactus! It doesn’t cope well with dehydration or too much light. Choose a north or east-facing window for the ideal light exposure. If you see the leaves tinged with red, then you’ll know it’s getting a sunburn! Make sure your cacti is in well-draining soil.

Water when the top 1-2 inches are dry. It loves humidity, so try to mist it frequently or opt to fill a saucer with pebbles along with some water. Make sure the pot isn’t sitting in the water, though! As the water evaporates from the rocks, it will make the air around the plant more humid. If you notice limp leaves, it’s likely not getting enough water or too much sunlight. If you see discoloration on the leaves, try relocating it to a slightly dimmer area. If you think you’ve underwatered it, don’t soak it immediately. Start by giving it a small drink. Give it a little bit of water at a time over the next few days until the soil is moist. Overwatering can also harm the plant by creating root rot, so make sure not to drown it, especially if it’s been underwatered.

Caring for a Christmas Cactus isn’t too complicated, and you will be rewarded with beautiful blooms while your other plants slumber.


Christmas Cacti like to stay in a cozy range of 70-80 degrees Fahrenheit. They do need a slightly chillier night time temperature of between 50-55 degrees in order to form those beautiful buds that will become luscious blooms. They will also need long hours of darkness leading up to their glorious unfolding. Avoid cold drafts and hot air vents or fireplaces.

Christmas cactus budding

Christmas Cactus Maintenance

It’s a great idea to prune your cactus right after it blooms to promote healthy growth. Think of it as when your hairdresser tells you to get regular haircuts, so your hair grows back faster and healthier! It’s actually really easy to prune it: just twist between the segments, and the end will snap off cleanly. You can also just use scissors if you don’t want to use brute force. Repotting your Christmas Cactus regularly can help keep it healthy, especially if you are noticing it’s getting a bit limp. However, if you use the right soil mix and don’t overwater, this won’t likely be necessary.

Between spring and early fall, fertilize every two weeks with a balanced houseplant fertilizer. Swap to monthly fertilizing in the fall and winter months. You can take your cactus outside during the summer for a little extra humidity. But keep them in a protected, shady area where they won’t be sitting in water.

white baby cutting of Christmas cactus

Propagate and Enjoy

A healthy Christmas Cactus can last between 20-30 years! There’s plenty of opportunities to propagate and share with family and friends. They are non-toxic and make a wonderful gift for anyone. To propagate a Christmas cactus easily, start by cutting on the second “joint” from each tip of the plant. Cut as many as you’d like and store them in a cool, dry place for two to four days. Plant the cutting a quarter of its length deep in slightly sandy soil. Keep it moist and place it in a well-lit area, but not in direct sunlight. After a few weeks, you should see some growth. You can then transfer it to another pot if you want. Remember that anytime you propagate, it should be from a healthy, thriving plant. Christmas Cacti can add some joy and vibrancy to your home during the longest and darkest days.

If you need tips for caring for Christmas Cactus in Iowa, come visit us at our Bettendorf location. We’d love to assist you!

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