Christmas Cactus Culture

Source(s): Michele Browne, Former Horticulture Program Assistant – Cobb County Extension.

Christmas cacti, popular as houseplants, are readily available at florists, garden centers, and hardware and mass marketing stores to brighten Georgia homes during the dark winter. Many are sold already in bloom. With a little care, these plants will flower again during the following year.


Types of Christmas Cacti

The three common flowering “Christmas type” cacti are:

  • Christmas cactus (Schlumbergera bridgesii)
    • Pointed lobed leaves
    • Flowers from Thanksgiving to Christmas
  • Thanksgiving cactus (Schlumbergera truncatus)
  • Easter cactus (Physaledopsis gaetner)
    • Wider rounded leaves
    • Flowers from Christmas to Easter

Home Care of Christmas Cacti

All types of Christmas cacti require similar home care, including:

  • Well-drained soil composed of
    • 3 parts compost, bark chips, or bark compost
    • 2 parts sand
    • 1 part peat moss
  • Complete fertilizer (such as 10-10-10) in an occasional light application
  • Normal house temperatures during flowering

Setting Buds and Stimulating Flowers

Buds begin to form in early autumn as days shorten and temperatures drop. Flower buds seldom form at night temperatures above 70°F.

To set flower buds, provide one of these conditions:

  • Reduce night temperatures to 50-55°F


  • Reduce night temperatures to 60-75°F and protect from sun and electric lights from September to November, supply 12-14 uninterrupted hours of darkness (such as in a storage area or an infrequently used room).

Before Flowering

Before flowering, provide bright light or full sun. Fertilize with 20-10-20. Stop fertilizer 6 to 8 weeks

New Growth After Flowering

After flowering, the new growth creates the buds for next year’s flowers. Continue with sun and resume fertilizer.

Outdoor Cultivation

For cacti growing outdoors, in mid-August reduce water and fertilizer to harden off new growth. This slows the plant’s metabolism, storing carbohydrates in the plant and discouraging further growth. Water sparingly from this time until next flowering.


Flowering cacti easily propagate from leaf cuttings at any time of year. Allow three joints per cutting. Place two or three cuttings in each 3 1/2″ pot. Keep at 70°F.


Insects and diseases are rare.

Causes of flower drop include:

  • Too much water
  • Too little water
  • Radical change in environment, such as greenhouse to home.

Center Publication Number: 6

Michele Browne
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