Christmas cactus is a wonderful gift plant that many people like to give or receive. But many times after you get the plant, questions fill your mind. Which window should I put it in? How much water does it need? When should I fertilize it and how much?
These are all valid questions. In this article, I will try to give you the answers you seek. You really don’t have much to worry about because the Christmas cactus is one of the easiest to care for plants you could ever receive. They will grow for many years, reminding you of the time and giver of your plant.
Even though Christmas cactus is one of the easiest plants to grow, it still needs some special care if it is to grow for years to come.
Christmas cactus grows best in a well-drained potting soil. You can use bagged cactus or succulent potting soil or make your own. It is a simple recipe of combining equal amounts of compost, peatmoss and coarse grained sand. You may also use regular houseplant potting soil, but you will need to watch the amount of water you give your plant. My Christmas cactus’ are all growing in regular potting soil and the only problem I have had are my cats knocking off the stem pieces. Which is all right because it gives me more plants to propagate.
When the outdoor temperatures are below 55° Fahrenheit, you will need to grow the Christmas cactus indoors. Place the potted Christmas cactus in a bright window, but not in direct sunlight. A south or east facing window works well, as long as you have a sheer curtain between the window pane and plant to help diffuse the sun’s rays. If you notice that the leaves look burned, move your plant further away from the sunlight.
When the outside temperatures warm and remain above 55° Fahrenheit, move the Christmas cactus plant outdoors. Find a bright, but shady location to place the pot. I grow mine on my front porch that faces east. My mom had hers on her front porch that faced to the northeast. They both received the shade, along with the right amount of light.
From the spring through September, water the Christmas cactus keeping the soil evenly moist. In October, withhold watering completely. Resume watering in November. Because this is the dormancy time for plants, only water when the top half of the soil feels dry. To know when your plant needs water, test it for moisture. Stick your finger into the soil to the second knuckle. If the soil feels dry, it is time to water. After the blooms fade, do not water the plant for 1.5 months.
Feed the Christmas cactus with a liquid fertilizer in the spring, when new growth is visible. Give it a light feeding every 2 to 3 weeks with a weak solution of fertilizer. Mix and apply according to label directions for proper amounts. Too much fertilizer won’t make your plants grow faster, it will burn them.
Mist the Christmas cactus to increase the humidity especially through the winter months. If you have a humidifier, set that up in the same room as your Christmas cactus. You can also fill a bowl with pebbles. Pour water into the bowl, stopping when the water is just below the rocks’ top. Place the pot on top of the pebbles or set the bowl beside your plants. Add water as it evaporates.