Christmas cacti are popular winter holiday plants, not just because they have beautiful flowers but they are easy to care for. If you provide your Christmas cactus with the right conditions, it will reward with beautiful blooms for many years to come. So, how long do Christmas cactus live?
On average, a Christmas cactus lives for 20 – 40 years. Under proper care, some plants can live for over 100 years. The secret to getting a Christmas cactus to live longer is to provide it with the right conditions of light, moisture, temperature, and soil.
How long do Christmas cactus live?
Christmas cactus is a long-lived houseplant that can be handed down to many generations. 100-year-old Christmas cactus often looks vibrant and full of life. You can only guess its age from the woody stems or massive size. I couldn’t believe it until I saw one from a family in Harrisburg.
This amazed me and I had to research more on how long can a Christmas cactus live. Averagely, this plant lives for 20 to 40 years but some hardy cultivators can reach 100 years under proper care. As said, this is only possible if the plant is provided with the right growth conditions.
Why Christmas cactus live longer
To get to know why Christmas cacti live longer, you need to start by understanding the native growth conditions of this plant. When you are able to provide similar conditions, then your holiday cactus can live happily for many years without any problems.
Christmas cactus is native to the tropical rainforests of Brazil where they grow on rock and branches of trees. They tap moisture from the humid air in the dense forest. Their growth is supported by decomposed plant materials which are typically nutritious and not soggy.
This tells us that, Christmas cacti love relatively constant moisture around their roots and foliage but not in excess. They are also adapted to low light conditions under the forest canopy. They bloom during winter when days are shorter and temperatures are cool.
What Christmas cactus needs as a houseplant
Christmas cactus is a perennial, and it can reward with beautiful blooms year after year as long as you provide it with the right care. Growing a bigger Christmas cactus is not difficult. Here’s what you need to provide:
Bright, indirect light
Christmas cacti need bright, indirect light to thrive and flower. Too much direct sunlight can scorch their leaves and make them shrivel. An east-facing window is the best spot for a Christmas cactus indoors. This plant can become leggy when not receiving sufficient light.
You can also take your Christmas cactus outside during the spring and summer months to enjoy the warmth and the humid air but shelter it from direct sunlight and heavy downpours. In the fall, bring it indoors and cut back on watering.
You should water your Christmas cactus regularly, but not too much. The soil should be allowed to dry out slightly between waterings. Additionally, mist the plant when the air is dry. This plant is highly susceptible to root rot when overwatered.
The Christmas cactus prefer warm temperatures, between 65-75 degrees Fahrenheit. However, the plant will need cooler temperatures, around 55 degrees Fahrenheit to bloom. Christmas cactus is not cold hardy and you should protect it from frost and other temperature fluctuations.
In the mid of November, you should keep your Christmas cactus in the dark for 12 to 14 hours daily to stimulate blooming. This should go for 6 to 8 weeks non-interrupted. When flower buds have formed, move the plant to a place with bright indirect light and slightly increase watering.
Additional care tips for a Christmas cactus
Here are some additional tips for boosting your Christmas health and average lifespan.
- Repot every 2-3 years. As the Christmas cactus grows, it will outgrow its pot and you’ll need to repot it into a larger pot. Choose a pot that is only one size larger than the current pot and make sure to use a well-draining soil such as succulent potting mix.
- Prune regularly. Christmas cacti can become bushy. To keep them in shape, prune them back in the spring or early summer. Trimming back also helps to stimulate more growth.
- Fertilize during growth. Christmas cactus is not a heavy feeder but it can benefit from a monthly application of a balanced houseplant fertilizer and Epsom salt during spring and summer.
- Propagate. You can propagate your cactus to get more plants that you can gift or add to your collection. Propagating a Christmas cactus through stem cuttings is very easy. You just take a healthy stem cutting and root in potting soil and keep a cold place with bright indirect light.
- Inspect regularly. Christmas cactus can be prone to pests such as mealybugs, scale, and mites. Inspect it regularly and treat it as needed. You can wash the plant to remove insect pests or treat it with neem or insecticidal soap.
The Christmas cactus is a popular houseplant loved for its colorful blooms in the dead of the winter. Under good care, this plant can live for many years to brighten up your Christmas. Be sure to grow it in the right conditions of light, moisture, temperature, and soil.
My name is Diane M Lewik, and I am the founder of this website. I am a degree holder in plant biology from the University of California – Berkeley. Over years, I have cultivated a vast collection of succulents and I have learned a great deal about how to grow and care for these unique plants.