Introduction: How to Get Your Christmas Cactus to Flower Again

Picture of How to Get Your Christmas Cactus to Flower Again

It can take a little effort, but when your Christmas Cactus is covered in blooms, it’s so worth it.

I’ve been growing Christmas Cactus since I was a little girl. We had quite a few of them in our greenhouse in Connecticut which bloomed at the holidays with no effort at all. Now I grow them in my garden in Santa Barbara where they enjoy our year round temperate climate. Even if mine didn’t bloom, I’d love them anyway because of their unusual, appealing foliage and somewhat wacky growth habit.

This epiphytic tropical cactus goes by Schlumbergia x buckleya or bridsii in botanic circles and has a somewhat confusing history regarding their genus. There is also a Thanksgiving Cactus, Schlumbergia truncata, so if yours blooms earlier then it could be this 1 and not the Christmas Cactus. Sometimes the 2 are just called Holiday Cactus but regardless of which 1 you actually have, you get them to bloom in the same way.

Step 1: Here I Am With 1 of My Christmas Cactus in My Side Garden Giving You Some Blooming Tips

Step 2:

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There are a few things I want to tell you about the Christmas Cactus flowers & related tidbits before I get to the blooming part. This is just in case you’re brand new to this popular holiday houseplant!

1- They bloom at the end of the leaves (which are technically stems) & are quite prolific bloomers especially as they age.

2- Each individual bloom lasts 5-7 days, depending on the temps. They tend to bloom in stages so the flowering should last for 3-6 weeks.

3- They originally had red flowers but now hybrids are sold in white, pink, magenta, lavender & peach.

4- You can remove the flowers as they die, just simply pinch them off.

5- They bloom best when tight in their pots so don’t rush to repot them every year.

6- If yours doesn’t flower the 1st year, 1 of the reasons could be that it’s simply be acclimating to the dry air in your home.

7-Remember, this is a tropical cactus not a desert cactus.

Step 3:

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I did a video on Christmas Cactus care last year which you can find in the video at the end of this post. I do virtually nothing to mine growing in the garden except water them more often than my other succulents. I never let them go completely dry, and if you do, the leaves tend to shrivel and turn reddish. Mine that you see in the video is reddish because it was getting more sun this summer but now is getting much less as we head into winter. The change in color is due to environmental stress.

Your Christmas Cactus (or Holiday Cactus in general) may flower on it’s own, depending on the conditions. It needs to go into a dormant cycle to get it to bloom again.

Here’s what you do:

1- 12 – 14 hours of darkness per day. It needs to get this reduction in light approximately 8 weeks before you want it to bloom.

2- To be kept drier. Wait until the top 1/4 to 1/2 of the soil dries out before watering again. This could be anywhere from every 3-6 weeks depending on the temps, the mix it’s in & the size & type of pot it’s planted in.

3- A temperature kept between 50 & 65 degrees F. As I said, it can take a bit of effort to move it into a closet or basement every night but perhaps you have a spare room which naturally has these conditions.

It’s now October 12th so you may want to start this process soon. After the buds start to appear, then you can move it back to a bright spot, resume the care you were previously giving it and enjoy the beautiful flowers.

By the way, there’s another extremely popular flowering holiday plant which requires conditions similar to this to bloom again and that is the poinsettia. You’ll see 1 in the video growing just down the street from me which is just starting to change color. Poinsettias are trickier to grow as a houseplant much less getting it to bloom again so it’s best to stick with the Christmas Cactus.

Mine grow outside and naturally set buds later in fall because these changes naturally occur as we get darker and cooler. I think they’re especially attractive in hanging baskets and a welcome sight in stores, nurseries and flower shops come holiday time. An old favorite that gets extra attention come December! Happy gardening,

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steven4872 (author)2015-10-19

In my experience long nights are all that is needed to get it to bloom. The soil should be allowed to dry before watering otherwise the stems may rot. make sure it gets adequate light during the day otherwise the buds may drop off the stems and it won't bloom. If a stem breaks off plant it and you will get a new plant. It is an easy plnt to grow.

JoyUsGarden (author)steven48722015-12-28

Yes, tThey are certainly easy to propagate & I've given away many cuttings. Nell

Franmatthews (author)steven48722015-10-21

Thank you steven4872 for the quick precise info. I had a hard time sitting thru the video and straining out the info needed.

Jobar007 (author)2015-10-21

I inherited my cactus from my grandmother when she passed away. It hasn't bloomed since she passed 4 years ago. Now I understand why. I'm not watering it enough. We get the light and the temperature right (That's Oregon this time of year) but I've been watering it like it is a desert cactus (keeping it too dry). Time to start watering it a little more.

steven4872 (author)Jobar0072015-10-27

Yes it is a tropical plant not a desert plant. But that said the roots need to dry before you water it. Otherwise the roots may rot. Second the lights we use in our rooms at night will prevent it from blooming. Move the plant to a room where the lights are seldom used but still gets decent light during the day. Once you do this it will flower.

Jobar007 (author)steven48722015-10-30

I've been watering it once every couple of weeks with a small amount of water. It hasn't had any new growth and I realize that it is due to the fact that I'm not watering it enough. I need to water it once a week (like I do my other plants) and then drop off watering in the winter.

It currently lives in an unlit hall next to an external window (that doesn't see much light). I don't think that it has built up enough energy reserves to bloom during the summer because I'm watering it just enough to survive.

Jobar007 made it! (author)Jobar0072015-12-09

I would just like to thank you. This is the first time I've been able to get my inherited cactus to bloom since my grandmother passed. It has brought something special to this holiday season for me. I can't thank you enough.

Sorry for the poor quality but I wanted to snap the picture when the blossom opened and I the hall has poor lighting (I had to use a flashlight to illuminate the wall so it didn't wash out the pink in the blossom).

JoyUsGarden (author)Jobar0072015-12-28

Oh yes, I can see the bloom! Christmas Cactus seem to have longevity that's for sure. If they dry out for too long, the leaves will shrivel or if kept too wet, they'll rot. Mine are blooming now too. Nell

JoyUsGarden (author)steven48722015-12-28

They're epiphytic so you water them similar to a Phalaenopsis Orchid. I pot mine in succulent & cactus mix so the water drains through. Nell

JoyUsGarden (author)Jobar0072015-12-28

Yes, this is a tropical cactus so it needs more water than a desert cactus. Plus, they are epiphytic so you water them more like you would water a Phalaenopsis Orchid. They do however like to be kept dry when setting buds. Nell

picturesofsilver made it! (author)2015-11-19

thank you, I have a hard time growing anything; bought a Christmas cactus last year, full of magenta blooms. Got it home, all the buds dropped off one by one. Well I had it in my office in a sunny corner, I'd water it with fertilizer every week. Left it in it's plastic pot and wrapper, but I didn't overwater. It started growing, and then about Oct 1, I noticed white things on the ends of the leaves, I laughed and thought, oh well, it has a disease, I will throw it out next week. Next week came, and the little white things turned magenta pink on the end. I was so thrilled!!! I took it to a seminar to put in my booth, and everyone came straight to me to find out how I made it bloom haha! I was afraid I would lose the blooms if I transported it, but thought oh well, God meant for me to take it; so sure enough, got it home, and it is throwing the rest of the blooms :( But it was so neat to have a beautiful pot on my table! The photo shows it a week before the seminar, so it was about double this in blooms. Thanks for the info! Now I know what I did right lol!

So beautiful! I love Christmas Cactus & they make such easy houseplants. Here's a post & video I did on Christmas Cactus care which you might find helpful: Blessings to you & have a wonderful Christmas! Nell

thank you Nell, this crazy plant is covered with new buds. Some of the leaves have 2 headed buds on them! I am so excited. I just knew it would be next Nov before it would bloom again!

Enjoy the blooms - &, Happy New Year! Nell

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