Christmas cacti or Schlumbergera are lovely houseplants, but they are even more lovely when they bloom. The dark green trailing, segmented stems are unique and give this plant some visual appeal, but the flowers are why most people bring this beauty home. Here are some tips to get a Christmas Cactus to bloom.
Only mature plants bloom, so if your plant was recently acquired or grown from a cutting not too long ago, give it time. These tropical plants hail from rainforests in South America, and they do not need the full rainforest experience, but they need sunlight and temperatures similar to what they would experience in their natural habitat to flower. These plants are seasonal bloomers, and the right conditions trigger Christmas Cactus to flower.
Christmas Cactus Flower
Holiday Cactus set stunning, tubular flowers that can have three rows of pointed petals or frilly petals, creating a star-like appearance. The flower buds first emerge as tiny bumps at the end of a stem and slowly, over a couple of weeks, grow into a bud that reaches 2 inches long. When the buds open, the petals bend backward, exposing white accents, and the long stamens extend past the petals. The entire flower measures about 3 inches long when in bloom. Depending on the plant, the flowers can be shades of red, purple, lavender, orange, or white.
Christmas Cactus Bloom Cycle
Christmas Cactus flowers bloom for about a week, give or take a couple of days. The plant will continue to set buds for three to six weeks for a continuous floral display. Expect the plant to bloom between November and January. These plants can easily get on their own schedule and bloom whenever they feel like it, so don’t be disappointed if your plant does not bloom around the holidays. Well-maintained plants can bloom for a second time in the spring.
How to Care for Christmas Cactus
Christmas Cactus only bloom when they receive proper care, so get back to basics if you want your plant to set buds. These plants actively grow from April to September, at which time they need plenty of medium indirect sunlight, routine watering, and warm temperatures. Plants grown under the proper conditions during the spring and summer are more likely to set buds in the fall and bloom in the winter.
When to Fertilize Christmas Cactus
Feed the plants while they are growing using a balanced, water-soluble fertilizer. Apply fertilizer once per month. Stop fertilizing your Christmas Cactus in the fall. Resume fertilizing Christmas Cactus in the spring, at the start of the growing season.
Tips to Get Your Christmas Cactus to Bloom
Getting a Christmas Cactus to bloom is an ongoing process, as this plant requires specific care for each season. Many plants go dormant in the fall and winter, but that is when it’s time to get serious about encouraging a Christmas Cactus to bloom. Follow these tips for the fall to help your plant bloom.
- Winter is Coming
- Chill Out
- Get Comfy
Recreate Winter Sunlight
Christmas Cactus set buds in the winter when days are short. You can encourage your plant to bloom by recreating long nights or extended periods of darkness. About six to eight weeks before you want the plant to bloom, move it to a closet or dark area for 16 hours each night. Move the plant to a sunny place for 8 hours during the day so it still gets sunlight. Once buds emerge, the plant can stay in a bright spot.
Choose a dark area out of the way so you don’t disturb the plant during its blackout period. Also, set a reminder so you remember to move the plant into darkness each evening and back into sunlight during the day. Another option is to place the plant in a dark area like a closet and set a grow light on a timer so you don’t have to remember to move it.
Regulate the Temperature
Like controlling sunlight, you can also control the temperature to get a Christmas Cactus to bloom. The temperature method can be more challenging and potentially impossible, depending on where you live. Although you don’t need to move the plant nearly as often, this may be easier to pull off.
Wait until late September or early October to move the plant to a spot with medium indirect sunlight and an overnight temperature of 45° to 55° F. The goal is for the plant to experience temperatures under 60° F overnight. Cut back on water and wait until the soil is dry throughout the container before watering. Buds should form after a few weeks.
Once the plant has buds, water when the top few inches of soil are dry; at this point, the plant can experience overnight temperatures of 55° F. Don’t move the plant to an area with a comfortable room temperature, or the buds may fall off. After the flowers open, there are no restrictions, and the plant can be moved to any place within the home.
Let Christmas Cactus Become Rootbound
Christmas Cactus are more likely to bloom when they fit snuggly in their pot. Plants grow into the space they have, so if you put the plant in a large pot, it will focus on growing its roots to fill that space. When the plant is rootbound and has no more room to expand, it will focus on flower production.
Letting the plant become rootbound will increase the odds of it blooming for one or two years. Extremely rootbound plants will not bloom and will stop growing altogether. At a certain point, the plant will simply need more space, and fresh soil and a container that is one to two inches larger will be necessary. Repot Christmas Cactus at the start of the growing season so it has the entire spring and summer to fill its pot before gearing up for winter flowers.
One More Time
Christmas Cactus can bloom twice given the right conditions. If you got your plant to bloom once, getting another flower flush should be easy. Wait until the last flowers fade, and start the process from the fall all over. Move the plant to a dark area overnight, or find a location with chilly (but not freezing) night-time temperatures. If everything goes well and the plant is up for it, you’ll have another round of flowers.
The winter bloom is typically prolific, and the plant will set tons of flowers. The late winter / early spring bloom is commonly more sporadic. The plant will not have as many flowers, and the blooms tend to come in waves.
Enjoy Christmas Cactus Blooms
Getting a Christmas Cactus to bloom is a process, but it is easy and worth the effort because the flowers are lovely. Providing the right conditions in the spring, summer, and fall will ensure your plant is blooming by winter.