The Christmas cactus is one of the rare plants that bloom near Christmas, so it takes a bit of care to ensure that blooms do occur. In this post, we discuss how much light does a Christmas cactus need in order to thrive and bloom during the holiday season. After all, we can all agree that the Christmas cactus looks superbly beautiful when it’s in full bloom.
But first, let’s understand some facts about the Christmas cactus. Unlike other cacti, the Christmas cactus is not a desert plant. Instead, it is a tropical plant that was bred from 2 parent plants that grow in the Brazilian rainforests. In other words, Christmas cactus does not exist naturally in the wild.
The Christmas cactus is identified by its segmented stems and bright flowers that appear at the ends of the stems. The flowers come in colors of purple, pink, yellow, red, or white, and blooms at various times throughout the year. They appear most commonly around Christmas, which is how the plant derives its name.
How Much Light Does a Christmas Cactus Need?
Since the Christmas cactus is not a typical cactus, it needs to be tended to differently. In fact, the Christmas cactus has needs similar to a succulent. It requires proper maintenance and care to ensure that blooms do appear.
The Christmas cactus likes plenty of light, but prefers bright, indirect light. As direct sunlight can cause burns on the leaves of the plant and stunt growth, placing the plant near East or North-facing windows are the best solutions. But if it’s in a South or West-facing window, diffuse the light with semi-transparent curtains or some other light-diffusing device.
It should also be placed away from drafts, heat vents, fireplaces or other sources of hot air. If placed outdoors in summer, be sure to keep the plants in shady areas.
If you’re keeping the Christmas cactus indoors with not enough sunlight, it is recommended to use a grow light. Although the Christmas cactus is able to adjust to low light conditions, it thrives and blooms more readily in bright and indirect light. If you do not have a good grow light already, check out our discussion on the best grow lights in the market to help you narrow down your search.
Christmas Cactus Light Requirements
- Bright, indirect light
- Preferably in East or North-facing windows
- If in South or West-facing window, diffuse the light with semi-transparent curtains or some other light-diffusing device
- Use a grow light if placed indoors with low light
What If There’s Not Enough Light?
When the Christmas cactus light requirements are not met, the most common issue is dropping buds and leaves. If you notice that your Christmas cactus is losing its buds, insufficient light could be one of the causes, besides temperature, humidity, and water.
If your Christmas cactus doesn’t bloom, it is most likely due to the amount of light it’s receiving or the temperature. To encourage your plant to bloom, it needs to receive about 8 to 10 hours of light and 14 hours of darkness. Plants should bloom in about 6 weeks. You can even consider LED grow light strips if you prefer convenience.
Outdoors, you can control the amount of light your plant receives by placing it at ideal parts of your garden. Indoors, there are grow lights with built-in automatic timer available in the market. Otherwise, you can obtain a separate automatic timer to go with your grow light.
Once the Christmas cactus has ceased blooming (usually by fall), or about 6 to 8 weeks before you want the plant to bloom again, allow the plant to begin its dormancy cycle by reducing light, water, and temperature. Simply make sure the plant receives 12-14 hours of darkness and average temperatures around 50-55°F (10-12°C).
As soon as flower buds start to form, you should increase light and humidity. The dormancy cycle is over when your plant begins to bud. At this point, you should provide your plant with more humidity, light, water, and higher temperature. In other words, resume your previous routine a few months ago.