How to Make a Christmas Cactus Bloom

Christmas cacti are beautiful succulents that produce vibrant flowers during the holiday season. With proper care and our tips below, you can encourage your Christmas cactus to bloom year after year.

Christmas Cactus
Christmas Cactus

First, though, let’s discuss the key differences between the three holiday cacti.

Thanksgiving, Christmas, or Easter Cactus?

Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter cacti are all popular houseplants that produce beautiful flowers during the holiday season. However, there are some key differences between the three plants.

How to Identify Different Types of Holiday Cactus - Thanksgiving Cactus, Christmas Cactus, Easter Cactus
Leaf Shape
  • Thanksgiving cactus: Pointy, claw-shaped projections on the edges of the leaves.
  • Christmas cactus: Scalloped or teardrop-shaped projections on the edges of the leaves.
  • Easter cactus: Rounded, tear-drop shaped scallops on the edges of the leaves.
Bloom Time
  • Thanksgiving cactus: Late October or early November.
  • Christmas cactus: Late November or early December.
  • Easter cactus: Early spring.
Bloom Color
  • Thanksgiving cactus: White, pink, salmon, orange, and yellow.
  • Christmas cactus: Shades of red, white, or pink.
  • Easter cactus: Pink, orange, red, or white.
Other Differences
  • Easter cacti have slightly smaller leaves than Thanksgiving and Christmas cacti.
  • Easter cacti may have small hairs on their leaves, while Thanksgiving and Christmas cacti do not.
  • Thanksgiving and Christmas cacti are members of the genus Schlumbergera, while the Easter cactus is in the genus Rhipsalidopsis.
Christmas Cactus
Christmas Cactus

Here is a table summarizing the key differences between Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter cacti:

FeatureThanksgiving cactusChristmas cactusEaster cactus
Leaf shapePointy, claw-shaped projectionsScalloped or teardrop-shaped projectionsRounded, tear-drop shaped scallops
Bloom timeLate October or early NovemberLate November or early DecemberEarly spring
Bloom colorWhite, pink, salmon, orange, and yellowShades of red, white, or pinkPink, orange, red, or white
Other differencesSlightly smaller leavesMay have small hairs on leavesIn a different genus
CareRequires cooler nighttime temperatures for bud formationCan tolerate warmer nighttime temperaturesCan tolerate warmer nighttime temperatures

All three cacti require similar care, including bright, indirect light, regular watering, and fertilization during the growing season. However, Thanksgiving and Christmas cacti require cooler nighttime temperatures to initiate bud formation, while the Easter cactus can tolerate warmer nighttime temperatures.

Holiday Cactus Care

The below are the proper requirements needed to help your holiday cactus bloom.

Provide bright, indirect light

Christmas cacti prefer bright, indirect light. Avoid placing your plant in direct sunlight, as this can scorch the leaves. A good spot for a Christmas cactus is near a south- or east-facing window, where it will receive plenty of light without being exposed to direct sun.

Thanksgiving Cactus
Thanksgiving Cactus
Water regularly, but allow the soil to dry out between waterings

Christmas cacti are drought-tolerant plants, but they still need regular watering. Allow the soil to dry out completely between waterings, then water deeply until water runs out of the drainage holes. Be careful not to overwater, as this can lead to root rot.

Fertilize during the growing season

Fertilize your Christmas cactus during the growing season (spring and summer) with a balanced fertilizer. Dilute the fertilizer to half strength and apply it every two weeks. Stop fertilizing in the fall, when the plant is preparing to bloom.

Easter Cactus
Easter Cactus
Provide cool nighttime temperatures

Christmas cacti are short-day plants, which means they need a period of long nights and short days to initiate bud formation. To encourage your Christmas cactus to bloom, place it in a cool, dark room for 12-14 hours each night for 6-8 weeks. The ideal temperature for bud formation is between 55 and 65 degrees Fahrenheit.

Once buds have formed, move the plant to a brighter location

Once you see buds forming on your Christmas cactus, move it to a brighter location. The plant will still need some darkness, but it needs more light during the day to produce flowers. The ideal temperature for flowering is between 60 and 68 degrees Fahrenheit.

Continue to water and fertilize regularly

Once your Christmas cactus is blooming, continue to water and fertilize it regularly. Be careful not to overwater, as this can cause the buds to drop.

Christmas Cactus
Christmas Cactus

With proper care, your Christmas cactus should bloom for several weeks. After the flowers have faded, you can cut them off to encourage new growth.

Additional Tips to Encourage Blooms

Here are some additional tips for encouraging your Christmas cactus to bloom:

  • Avoid moving your plant once the buds have formed. This can cause the buds to drop.
  • Keep your plant away from drafts and cold air.
  • Don’t overwater or underwater your plant.
  • Be patient! It may take several years for a young Christmas cactus to bloom.
Thanksgiving Cactus

With a little care and attention, you can enjoy the beautiful blooms of your Christmas cactus for many years to come.

How to Force a Christmas Cactus to Bloom

If you want your Christmas cactus to bloom for a specific time, such as for the holidays, you can force it to bloom. To do this, place the plant in a cool, dark room for 12-14 hours each night for 6-8 weeks, starting 8-10 weeks before the desired bloom time. Once buds have formed, move the plant to a brighter location and continue to water and fertilize regularly.

If you are providing your Christmas cactus with all of the proper care, but it is still not blooming, it may be too young. Christmas cacti typically take several years to bloom for the first time.

With proper care, your forced Christmas cactus should bloom for several weeks.

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