Christmas Cactus Care

Zygocactus truncatus also known as Schlumbergera

Simple advice for Christmas cactus care. Temperature range and light requirements for Zygocactus plants. How to make a Schlumbergera bloom.

Christmas cactus hanging ball in bud at Longwood Gardens PA.

Zygocactus truncatus in bud.


Advice for Christmas Cactus Care

Close up of a pink Christmas cactus bloom.

The large, showy flowers of the Zygocactus truncatus typically appear in late November or early December. This is why the plant came to be known as the Christmas cactus. The colorful blooms dangle from either the leaf joints or stem tips.

They are sometimes called leaf cacti as the stems consist of flat leaves joined end on end. Plants have a pendulous growth habit and reach a height of 6-12 inches but can spread 3 feet wide in time, if they are shifted into larger pots every 2 or 3 years.

In their native South American jungle habitat, these plants are epiphytes. Because of this, Christmas cactus care primarily consists of providing good drainage so that the roots can breathe.

I placed this Zygocactus in a tree in our yard to see if it would grow there.

As you can see, it did, but it's weaker than the ones inside the screen room. I think it is getting too much sun.

Pot the plants into pots just large enough to accommodate the root balls comfortably. Overpotting will lead to rot.

They like an acidic soil so use a peat-based mix. A cactus mix will work well, but any high quality potting mix can be used as long as it is coarse enough.

Clay pots will dry more quickly than plastic.

Consider where you are going to be growing your Christmas cactus and your watering habits before deciding what kind of container to use.

I use plastic pots as I keep my plants outside on my screen porch all summer and often forget to water them.

These plants handle drought better than deluge.

Keep them in high shade or part sun. Full sun may work if you live outside of the sun belt. Here in Florida, it's too intense.

Monthly feeding with a balanced liquid fertilizer during the summer will ensure a great flower show in the fall and winter. Zygocacti can tolerate temperatures into the high 20s F.

They require no winter rest period and may need a bit more water once you bring them into a heated house for the winter.

Mist them to provide the humidity they are used to. Store them in a cool room if you can. They will bloom for a longer period if they are kept below 70 degrees F.


Making a Christmas Cactus Bloom


Schlumbergera russelliana

Christmas cacti set buds in response to day length. Expose them only to natural light in September and October. Keep the plants cool and withhold water.

Once buds set, do not turn the plants or move them very much or you risk the buds dropping before they open.

After the plant is finished blooming, keep it drier and withhold food until you see new growth in the spring.

Propagate by rooting cuttings at any time during the growing season.


How to Repot a Christmas Cactus Plant

Repotting Christmas cactus is not the easiest part of growing one. Fortunately, it does not need to be done very often.

How do you know when your Christmas cactus needs to be potted up?

How big a pot do you use?

What kind of soil mix is best?

For the answer to these and other questions about growing Christmas cacti, click the headline above.

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