How Often Should I Water a Christmas Cactus? What to Know

A Christmas cactus is a beautiful plant that will brighten any home during winter. It blooms during the Christmas season producing pink or lilac tubular flowers. Watering is one of the few requirements to sustain the plant’s health and blooming.

So, how often should I water a Christmas cactus?

Water your Christmas cactus as soon as the top inch of the soil feels dry. This should be once weekly in humid cool indoors and every 2-3 days when warm and sunny outdoors. Cut back on watering during the dormant period, from late fall to early spring.

It is important to avoid overwatering your Christmas cactus, as this can lead to root rot and fungal problems. Ensure the plant is grown in well-draining soil and a pot with good drainage to allow excess water to escape.

Underwatered Christmas cactus

How often should I water a Christmas cactus?

Unlike most desert cacti that can go long without water, a Christmas cactus is native to tropical rainforests and cannot withstand dry soil conditions.

The holiday cactus should be watered thoroughly but infrequently. Letting the soil dry out slightly between waterings is important to prevent root rot. Water only when the top inch of the soil feels slightly dry.

If you have underwatered your Christmas cactus, you may notice that the leaves are wilted as the soil dries. Leaves falling off or turning yellow is also a sign of dehydration.

How often to water a Christmas cactus depends on the environmental conditions and the time of the year. In cool, humid indoors, water your Christmas cactus once per week and every 2 to 3 days when warm and sunny outdoors.

The Christmas cactus should be watered less frequently from late fall to early to help it go into dormancy. This rest period (dormancy), coupled with 12-14 hours of darkness each day, is what the plant needs to bloom.

How much water does a cactus need?

Overwatering your cactus is as bad as under-watering it. Soggy soil conditions stop air from reaching the roots. This encourages bacterial and fungal growth in the soil, leading to root rot.

To help combat this problem, grow your cactus in a well-draining soil mix. Water only when the top inch of soil is dry; don’t let the plant sit in any standing water. Ensure the pot has drainage holes at the bottom to drain excess water.

How to water a Christmas cactus the right way

  1. Plan to water your cactus as soon as the top inch of soil in the pot feels dry to the touch.
  2. When watering the plant, soak the soil thoroughly until excess water runs through the pot’s drainage holes.
  3. Discard any water that collects on the saucer after three hours of watering so the water isn’t reabsorbed into the soil.
  4. Before watering the plant again, allow the soil to dry slightly.
  5. In dry conditions or when warm and sunny outdoors, mist leaves in addition to watering the soil.

Humidity requirement for a Christmas cactus

Apart from good watering, a Christmas cactus also require 50 to 60% humidity. Buds dropping is commonly a problem of low humidity or dry air.

If you live in an area with dry climate conditions, the easiest way to boost humidity around your Christmas cactus is by placing a container of cool water near your plant. When water evaporates into the air, it gives your plant the required humidity.

Alternatively, place the plant on a pebble tray half-filled with water. Ensure not to let the bottom of the pot touch the water directly.

Misting your Christmas cactus with a spray bottle can also be a good option for providing humidity to plants without a humidifier. However, this method should be done carefully as it can cause brittle roots and mold on the leaves and stem.

Other growth requirements for a Christmas cactus

Christmas cacti prefer bright indirect sunlight and warm temperatures of 70 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit during their active growth. If growing them indoors, place your plants near the east or west-facing window and protect them from direct sun exposure.

Also, keep your plants away from sources of hot air, such as heating vents or fireplaces.

You should fertilize your holiday cactus in the spring when the new tender grows. Apply a liquid houseplant fertilizer every two to three weeks throughout the spring and summer or up to a month before the first blooms are expected to form.

Buds will form when evening temperatures are 50 to 55 degrees Fahrenheit. To initiate blooming, put your Christmas cactus in total darkness for 12 to 14 hours a day, every day, for six to eight weeks.

Wherever you place it, do not turn on the lights at night, even for a short time as this will completely interfere with the process.

Final Thought

While the Christmas cactus is a succulent that can store water in its leaves and stem for some time, this plant is not drought-tolerant. You must water it when the top inch of the soil feels dry. In the right condition of humidity, temperature, and light the cactus rewards with beautiful blooms.


  1. N.C. Cooperative Extension, Wilson County Center, Christmas Cactus Care
  2. Michigan State University Extension, The secret to getting a Christmas cactus to bloom

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