A Christmas cactus (Schlumbergera Buckleyi) in your home can certainly stand out if it is in front of a snowy window. With its bright-colored blossoms (reds, purples, and pinks) against the snowy backdrop, this might be one of the pretty flowers to have during the holidays. While there is no guarantee that this plant will bloom on December 25 every year, you can still keep this plant healthy and strong for a long time! Here are some plant care tips to consider for a Christmas cactus.
So, what soil works best for this plant? How much sun does it need to get? How often should you water this plant? Finally, what are the common pests and infestations that this plant gets?
Here is the complete breakdown on how to take care of a Christmas Cactus plant.
What Soil Works Best for a Christmas Cactus?
A mix of sand and an all-purpose potting mix works best for a Christmas cactus. Also, you can use coffee grounds as soil for this plant if you want. If you want to learn more about the relationship between coffee grounds and plants, you can visit that link.
How Much Sun Does a Christmas Cactus Need?
Placing a Christmas cactus in front of an east-facing window or west-facing window works best for this plant. However, be careful leaving this plant in front of a south-facing window. Since a south-facing window receives the sun’s strongest rays, you run the risk of burning out this succulent. Placing this plant in a place with indirect light works best in general.
What Temperature Works Best?
Christmas cactus plants do well with room temperatures between 55-80 degrees Fahrenheit. During the fall and the winter months, you can keep this succulent in a cooler environment. You can have a cooler home environment during the fall and winter since this plant has a slowdown of growth during this time.
However, be careful not to leave this plant in front of a fireplace or heating vent since that can dry the plant out quickly during the winter.
Does this Plant Like Humidity?
Being native to Brazil’s tropical rainforests, this cactus naturally enjoys humid environments. However, this is not a desert cacti since it comes from a tropical climate. With that being the case, this cactus prefers having slightly moist soil over being completely dry.
To help this plant feel like it is in a tropical environment, consider placing it in a bathroom with a shower. You can use a pebble tray with this plant if you cannot do that since that creates additional humidity when the water evaporates.
How Often Do You Need to Water a Christmas Cactus?
It is best to water the soil of this holiday cactus when the top inch or two becomes a bit dry. To help with humidity and water, you can place a few pebbles in the soil. As you topwater (or mist) the plant, the gravel will create additional humidity, which this plant enjoys.
During the spring and summer, you want to increase your waterings for this plant. However, you want to scale back how much and how often you water the cactus during the winter. The plant starts to slow down with growth during the winter, so it doesn’t need as much water.
What Size Does it Grow To Typically?
A Christmas cactus tends to be small, being about 1 foot tall.
Most Common Bugs
The best way to prevent bugs or diseases is to give this plant adequate sunlight and water the top two inches when dry, but sometimes bugs and diseases can impact this plant. Common bugs that attack a Christmas cactus include Aphids, fungus gnats, mealybugs, and red spider mites. If you notice these bugs on the plant, you will need to remove them from the plant. Check out this helpful guide about ways to remove these bugs from the cactus properly.
Most Common Diseases
The most common disease for this holiday plant is excess water build-up from overwatering. Signs of overwatering include the following
- changing from green to yellow
- generating black and brown spots
- smelling bad
- root rot
How to Fix an Overwatering Issue with this Plant
Drain out any sitting water in the plant. Check to make sure that the drainage holes are open and not clogged by any soil or roots. If you don’t have this plant in a pot with drainage holes, you will want to fix that going forward to promote new growth.
- Hold off on watering again until the soil is dry.
- Remove the plant from a humid environment (like a bathroom with a shower) to bring down the humidity levels.
- Place the plant near a window but stay away from direct sunlight. Too much direct sunlight might burn the leaves, so opt for a room with bright light instead of direct sunlight.
How to Fix an Underwatering Issue with a this plant
Flower buds might drop more rapidly, which is usually one of the first signs that the plant is not receiving adequate water or too much sunlight. Either way, you want to increase the moisture that this plant gets. Here are some tips below to consider to give it more water.
- Put the plant in a room with a shower
- Have it sit near a humidifier for a bit
- Place the plant on a tray of pebbles to increase the humidity levels
- Increase the water amount and frequency gradually. Remember, you don’t want to make a sudden dramatic change to the watering, so be a bit conservative because this plant doesn’t need a lot of water.
When Should You Repot a Christmas Cactus?
You should repot a Christmas cactus in new soil once every two to three years. However, if you notice that the plant is growing too large from the current container, you can move the plant to a slightly larger pot. Check out the how to correctly repot a plant to learn more about the rules for this practice.
How Do you Prune and Propagate a Christmas Cactus?
You should prune your Christmas cactus if you notice that the structure of the plant can’t support itself. For example, a Christmas cactus growing too much might start having the branches fall off due to the weight. If you notice that drooping on the plant, you should prune it.
For propagation, you want to use a healthy stem that has at least three nodes on it. Next, you should leave it on a counter or table to recover from the cut and let it dry out. Once that is done, you can place the new cuts into fresh soil to grow.
When Does this Plant Bloom?
The bloom time for this houseplant is typically in November and December, which is why it is a perfect holiday gift.
Conclusion – How to Take Care of a Christmas Cactus
In summary, Christmas cactus care is relatively straightforward. Even if you receive this as a new plant gift from someone who doesn’t have much plant experience, those tips above should help. Just remember to give the plant the proper light conditions, adequate water, and a bit more humidity than other plants, and you are on your way!