How to Take Care of Christmas Cactus

The Christmas cactus looks inconspicuous all year round – until it shows its magnificent flowers in winter. The Schlumbergera is very easy to care for. Only one care mistake must be avoided in any case. We show five tips on how to take care of Christmas cactus.

Every year around Christmas time the Christmas cactus (Schlumbergera) is in full bloom – hence its name. The strong flower colors range from pink or red to orange, yellow and white. There is a specific reason why winter is exactly its season: the plants need more than eight hours of darkness a day to form flowers.

how to take care of christmas cactus
Christmas cactus: For Schlumbergera to bloom beautifully, you should pay attention to a few things.

Origin: Almost Extinct at Home

The Christmas cactus originally comes from the rainforests and the mountainous region in the eastern part of Brazil. Until recently, there were up to six different species of the plant there. In the meantime, however, the Brazilian beauty has almost died out.

How to Take Care of Christmas Cactus

The Christmas cactus likes plenty of light, but prefers bright, indirect light. Care should be taken on the windowsill in winter. Do not place the plant directly above the heater. The root balls are heated too much here. In order to continue to conserve and protect the sensitive roots, it is best to place the pot on a stone window sill with a cork coaster.

You should add succulent fertilizer to the irrigation water once a month. Especially before flowering, so that the plant receives sufficient energy. After flowering, you should reduce the amount of nutrients added accordingly.

Can Christmas cactus go outside?

During the summer, the Christmas cactus can also be placed outside on the terrace or in the garden. Like all leaf cacti, the Schlumbergera must not be exposed to the strong summer sun. When you bring it back into the house, you should also make sure that the temperature difference between outside and inside is no more than ten degrees.

How do you water the Christmas cactus?

The Christmas cactus likes a slightly moist soil without waterlogging. Therefore, you should remove the excess water from the saucer or planter after watering, this prevents waterlogging and the associated root rot. During flowering, the plant is very thirsty, which is why it should be heavily watered during this period. It is ideal twice a week if the air is not very dry. 

After flowering, the Schlumbergera is not watered for four weeks. The cactus is then in a resting phase. You can then give it some water every week as usual – until the next bloom.

Due to its originally Brazilian origin, the Christmas cactus is also happy to be regularly sprayed with water. Since the Schlumbergera is a lime-hostile plant, rainwater or softened tap water is used for watering and spraying, if possible.

How do you get the Christmas cactus to bloom?

An annual rest period is also important for the plant: If you want the Christmas cactus to bloom in time for Christmas, you should reduce watering from September. Keep the cactus almost dry in a cool ambient temperature of around 17 to 20 degrees for about six weeks. As soon as the first buds appear, you can gradually give the plant more water again, keep it at normal room temperature and fertilize a little.

Read also:
Why, When, and How to Prune a Christmas Cactus

How do you propagate the Christmas cactus?

Schlumbergera can easily be propagated by cuttings in spring and summer. A shoot with two or three links is cut off, the interface is allowed to dry for a few hours and the lowest link is carefully inserted into the earth so that the cutting stays upright and does not fall over. For a denser growth pattern, several cuttings can be placed on the edge of a larger planter. The cuttings are grown directly like large plants. After about four weeks, new shoots should form.

Christmas cactus cuttings can also be propagated in water.

What helps against pests in the Christmas cactus?

To prevent pests and diseases in your Christmas cactus, you should care for it adequately. It is best to place the plant outdoors in the summer months and think about a sufficient and regular supply of nutrients. It is also important that the soil is completely dry before watering again. Because pests such as fungus gnats feel very comfortable on moist soil.

In winter you should make sure that the cacti are protected from drafts and stand in a cool place. Heated air is very dry. This damages the sometimes sensitive plants, weakens them and makes them susceptible to pests and diseases.

In addition to the well-known diseases such as root rot or stem rot and pests such as fungus gnats, Christmas cacti can also be attacked by aphids and scale insects. If this is the case, you should shower the plant under running water to wash away the pests. In addition, it is advisable to use special pesticides that are added to the irrigation water. 

It is important to take immediate action against diseases and pests. Otherwise, your cactus can be permanently damaged and may no longer be saved. You also prevent the parasites, pathogens and pests from spreading and infecting other plants.

Fun Facts

The Christmas cactus has no spines, but fine bristles.

Although its shoots do not protrude upwards as in other cacti, but grow downwards, the cactus plant can be up to 40 centimeters high. 

Christmas Cactus Color Varieties

The temperature plays a major role in the flower color. New plants sometimes have yellow or orange flowers. If the temperature rises to over 15 degrees, yellow flowers can also turn pink.