Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Keep Your Christmas Cactus Healthy All Year Long

It is one of the most beautiful, and perhaps unique plants around.  Given it's name for a timely seasonal blossoming the Christmas Cactus has a vibrant, satiny flower that is unlike any foliage I've seen. They also happen to be a very fragile plant. My mom gave me this cactus, well lets just say a few years ago. 

Classified as a tropical cactus, and not a typically identified desert cactus a Christmas Cactus requires year round care to assure that is is perky and ready to celebrate the holidays each year.  You can expect many years of pleasure since these jewels have been reported to live up to 100 years old.

Christmas Cactus enjoy plenty of sunlight, but not direct sunlight.  Set the plant a few feet from the window or any light source.  To much direct sunlight, or heat will cause the tips of the plant to burn. This tropical beauty enjoys a healthy dose of sand.  It will progress best with a blend of 75:25 potting soil to sand.  They bloom during the winter when the days are shorter and the nights are longer.  Move the plant away from direct sunlight to make sure you get the best blooms.  Cover the plant with a light sheet at night and to give the cactus a big boost.

Avoid pouring water directly into the plant.  Make sure you have planter with drainage holes, and fill a bottom saucer with a dash of water. TIP: I like to add a touch of coffee to the water about once a month to boost and promote healthy growth. Over watering a Christmas Cactus is the largest cause of damage.  If your plant is indoors the best rule is approximately 1 1/2 cups of water weekly.  Check the soil before watering.  It should never be moist to the touch.  If the ridges of the cactus begin to break off you may be watering too often.

The Grooves of the cactus plant will snap easily if
you aren't careful
The Christmas Cactus will survive well outdoors also.  Be sure it is placed in a well shaded area, and never left outdoors if the temperature rises above 90 degrees as it will burn quickly.  If  moving the plant to the outdoors be sure to adjust your watering routine to accommodate the warmer climate.  Instead of watering once a week you will need to add water every two to three days.   Be sure to add a sufficient amount of food for the plant and keep your eyes open for signs of soil bugs.Controlling Pests and Feeding your Garden for more tips.

It is easy to grow your own Christmas Cactus, or start another one from your own plant.  In the picture above you can see that each stem of the cactus is divided into several segments.  Break a few piece off at least three segments long.  Allow the end to dry for a few hours before you attempt to plant it.  Prepare the above mention mixture of 75:20 potting soil and sand.  When ready dip the tip in rooting compound and plant the stem at least 2 inches below the soil.  You can use a natural rooting compound made with willow shoots gathered from the spring and soaking them in water, or you can purchase some at any nursery. 



  1. I have a Christmas cactcus which I love and I had just repotted it about a month ago. I unfortunately did not put any sand in it but used organic potting soil. It is doing well and started blooming already. How much coffee do you recommend to use? How do I keep it blooming through the holidays? I appreciate your advice.

  2. Marla, Since Christmas cactus like to bloom when the days grow shorter I would recommend keeping them away from any direct sunlight. a good dark corner works well. You may try covering it with a box for a period during the day. I mix just one to two cups of coffee grinds to a plant, depending on the size of the pot. I like to repeat this little booster every eight to ten weeks. Hope that helps.