Christmas Cactus Bloom Care Guide

Christmas cacti (Schlumbergera bridgessii) are known for their colorful blooms, which typically appear in late fall or early winter. This makes them a popular choice for holiday gifts and decorations. While they are less demanding festive plants, most people don’t know what to do when a Christmas cactus blooms.

Under proper care, Christmas cactus blooms should last between four to six weeks and this is enough to brighten up the dull winter holiday. Cases of Christmas cactus flower buds falling off or blooms wilting are common. This can be prevented by providing the right care to the plant during blooming.

Christmas cactus bloom time

Since most people purchase Christmas cactus plants around the season, it’s important to choose a healthy plant that has plenty of flower buds. However, if you have already grown the plant in your home be sure to place it in the dark six to eight weeks before when you expect the blooms.

In the fall, reduce watering and start giving your Christmas cactus 12 to 14 hours of darkness each night. This will help to trigger the formation of flower buds. Simply transfer the plant at night into a totally dark room or in a closet that you don’t use. I sometimes use a cardboard box but with few holes for ventilation.

Whatever method you use, make sure the darkness is complete and consistent. Any light or skipping a night will stop the process and you’ll end up with the Christmas cactus not blooming at all.

Caring for the Christmas cactus blooms

Christmas cactus can tolerate a wide range of conditions but it becomes quite sensitive when it begins to bloom. You’ll need to provide special care so that the flowers can last throughout the Christmas holiday. Here is what’s needed.

1. Bright indirect light

Once the buds start opening, place your Christmas cactus in a spot that gets bright, indirect light. Do this right away if you purchased a plant that already has flower buds that are yet to open. If your room is not bright enough, add artificial grow lights to supplement the lighting.

During winter, days are shorter and light might not be sufficient in the east, west, or north-facing windows. Moving the cactus to a brighter location like the south-facing window can be a good option. Remember this window is not suitable for Christmas cactus during the summer season.

2. Constant moisture

Slightly increase watering to keep the soil evenly moist while your plant is blooming. You may have to water every 2 to 3 days if the air in your home is too dry. Additionally, mist the plant with water in a spray bottle to boost humidity around the blooms so that they don’t dry out.

Be sure that the top inch of the soil is slightly dry before watering to prevent cases of root rot. Getting water directly on the blooms may cause them to fall off. That’s why I prefer watering the plant from the bottom and placing a bowl of water beside it to boost humidity.

3. Stable cool temperature 

If you live in areas that experience cold winter, you may need to bring the plant indoors before the first frost. During winter, the Christmas cactus prefers a cooler temperature range, between 55 –  70 °F (13 – 21°C) to bloom. 

Be sure to keep the blooming cactus away from cold drafts or heat sources such as radiators and fireplaces. Temperature fluctuations may cause the flower buds or blooms to wilt or fall off. You can maintain the temperature to around 65-75 degrees Fahrenheit.

4. Remove any dead or dying flowers

Each Christmas cactus flower is supposed to last six to nine days. Remove any dead or dying flowers to help the plant focus on producing new blooms. Dried-out flowers can also make the cactus look ugly. Be sure to use clean sharp pruners and carefully remove the parts without damaging the plant.

5. Minimize plant movements

It is recommended you stop completely moving a blooming Christmas cactus from one place to another every now and then. This can shock the plant and cause the blooms to fall off. Once you have located a bright spot for your plant, let it stay there until the blooms fade.

How to care for a blooming Christmas cactus

Tips for more Christmas cactus blooms in future

Once the Christmas cactus has stopped blooming, it doesn’t mean you throw it away. You can decide to grow a bigger Christmas cactus and enjoy more blooms in the future. 

Here are some tips for growing a Christmas cactus.

  • Keep the plant in a location that gets bright, indirect light. Avoid putting it in direct sunlight, as this can scorch the leaves.
  • Repot your Christmas cactus every two to three years, or when it outgrows its pot. Use a pot that is one size larger than the current pot and make sure it has drainage holes.
  • Prune your Christmas cactus during spring or summer to encourage new growth. Cut back the stems by about one-third.
  • Check for pests and diseases regularly. Christmas cacti are susceptible to mealybugs, scale, and spider mites.
  • Water the cactus only when the soil feels dry to the tough. Overwatering can cause root rot.
  • You can take your cactus outside during summer to enjoy warmth and humidity but keep it in the shade.
  • Fertilize the Christmas cactus during the growth season with a well-balanced houseplant fertilizer preferably once per month.

Final Thought

Christmas cacti are typically easy to care for but they need plenty of bright, indirect light, well-drained soil some nutrients to thrive. If you don’t provide good care, the cactus may not bloom at all, or the blooms may be small and weak. Blooms also need good care to last longer.

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