Christmas cactus is a very popular, winter-flowering houseplant that makes a great addition to nearly any indoor setting. As its name implies, the Christmas cactus blooms at Christmas, producing pink or lilac tubular flowers. Their beautiful flowers, long blooming period, and easy-to-care-for nature make them a popular choice of houseplant.
Keeping the Christmas cactus healthy and blooming properly requires an understanding of its needs, like how much water does a Christmas cactus need.
Unlike most cacti, the Christmas cactus (Schlumbergera bridgesii) is a cactus from a tropical climate and not one from a hot, dry climate. Their natural habit is one of an epiphyte living in tree branches in the rain forests of Brazil. In the U.S., it is grown primarily as a houseplant, but it can be grown outdoors in U.S. Department of Agriculture hardiness zone 10 or warmer.
How Much Water Does a Christmas Cactus Need
Since the Christmas cactus is a tropical cactus, it requires frequent and thorough watering. Water the plant well during its active growth in spring and summer, and when the Christmas cactus is flowering.
If a Christmas cactus does not receive enough water, it will wilt and its flower buds will drop. So, ensuring that the soil is kept evenly moist when buds are forming will encourage your plant’s growth.
On the other hand, too much watering will cause spots from white rot to appear on the leaves, and the leaves will likely fall off.
Therefore, the rule of thumb is “less water is better than too much water”.
When To Water Your Christmas Cactus
Water your Christmas cactus when the top of the soil is dry. Feel the soil with your fingers; if it feels dry, it's time to water.
It is important to let the Christmas cactus soil partially dry out between watering intervals, but never completely. As mentioned above, water only when the top soil feels dry to the touch.
How often to water your Christmas cactus mainly depends on a few factors: the climate, whether your Christmas cactus is grown outdoors or indoors, as well as the time of the year.
Factor 1: Outdoors vs Indoors
If you keep your Christmas cactus outdoors where the climate is hot and dry, you may have to water once every two to three days, especially if the plant receives direct sunlight.
On the other hand, if your Christmas cactus is kept indoors where it is cool or humid, it may only require watering once a week.
Factor 2: Time of the Year
Your watering schedule needs to be changed every season.
During fall and winter, you should water the plants more sparingly in order to stimulate blooming.
When October hits, watering should be ceased altogether. Come November, you can then carefully resume with watering your Christmas cactus lightly.
Another time to cease watering is after your Christmas cactus starts blooming. During this period, cease watering for about 6 weeks to allow the plant to rest. New growth will still emerge – and that is when you should resume watering your plant.
How to Water Your Christmas Cactus
- Water as soon as the top inch of soil in the container feels dry to the touch.
- To water your plant, soak the soil thoroughly until water runs through the pot’s drainage holes.
- Discard any water in the tray so the plant doesn’t sit in water.
- Before attempting to water the plant again, check to see that the top inch of soil has dried thoroughly.
- Mist leaves as well as watering the soil.
- To avoid problems with fungus, avoid overhead watering.
How Often Should I Water a Christmas Cactus?
Over-watering your Christmas cactus can lead to fungal diseases such as white rot. White rot disease can be easily identified by the white spots on the leaves.
Over-watering can also cause the plant’s buds and leaves to drop.
Besides not over-watering your plant, make sure to also not let the plant sit in water.
On the other hand, if you under-water a Christmas cactus, the plant may wilt and its flower buds drop. Unlike a desert cactus, a tropical cactus like the Christmas cactus cannot withstand complete dryness in soil.
Therefore it is important to water your Christmas cactus as soon as the top soil feels dry to the touch.
Humidity – Your Christmas Cactus Needs It
The Christmas cactus thrives best in an environment with high level of humidity. Lack of humidity can lead to bud drop.
If you live in an area with a dry climate, or if you have a dry indoor climate inside your home, the easiest way to provide humidity to your Christmas cactus is by placing a container of water near your plant. This way, the water that evaporates into the air can provide your plant with the required humidity.
Another way is by putting gravel in a tray and filling it with water before placing the potted plant in it.
You can also increase humidity for your cactus by misting it with water every once in a while or place your cactus near a humidifier.
Also, it's better to move your Christmas cactus to an area away from a hot radiator or vent where humidity is low.