Some of the links in this post may be affiliate links.
Christmas Cactus Care Indoors
Have you been frustrated with your Christmas cactus or Thanksgiving cactus not blooming for you? I will give you the secrets in this blog post that will make you successful. It will work like magic! And it’s so EASY that it is ridiculous!
I will also give you tips on growing and propagating your Christmas cactus as well. The care tips apply for both Christmas Cactus and Thanksgiving Cactus.
The care is the same and I will show you what the difference is too. Most places mistakenly sell Christmas Cactus as Thanksgiving Cactus!
If you follow my tips in this post, you will have a beautiful, long-lived houseplant that will bloom for you every year. These are actually wonderful heirloom plants that you can pass along to future generations.
Before I get into the care, I have a little story about this plant.
While growing up in my parent’s house, I received cuttings of a Christmas cactus from my great aunt’s house and used those to make a new plant.
I took care of it for over 15 years while I still lived in that house, and it grew into the largest Christmas cactus I had ever seen. In fact, it grew so huge that part of the plant collapsed under its own weight!
The plant had trailed probably 3 feet long. I should have taken it with me 🙁 But I left it with my parents.
It hung in front of a large sliding door, facing a Northern exposure, so it received plenty of bright indirect light.
It was so huge that it remained in bloom for a solid 3-4 months! Although I can’t promise you the same until your plant grows to mammoth proportions.
Christmas cactus (genus Schlumbergera), despite the name cactus, actually grow in tropical rainforests and originate in Brazil.
They are actually epiphytes, similar to many orchids, so they’ll grow on trees instead of in the soil. And they actually ARE cactus! Except they are the jungle version of their desert cousins.
Christmas cacti, and the very closely related Thanksgiving cacti, generally prefer bright indirect light, although some sun is OK. Especially morning sun.
You’ll know if they are getting a little too much sun because their leaf segments will start to turn reddish. If this occurs, your Christmas cactus is likely getting too much sun.
HOW CAN YOU TELL THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN CHRISTMAS CACTUS AND THANKSGIVING CACTUS?
You can easily visually tell the difference between Christmas cactus and Thanksgiving cactus by looking at the stem segments. The leaves are technical modified stems.
But we will call them leaf segments here…
The Thanksgiving cactus will have small pointy tips as you can see in the photo below.
Christmas cactus segments will not have the tips and the segments will be rounder. They also tend to have a more pendulous growing habit than the Thanksgiving cactus. Especially has the plant grows old.
Take a look at the rounder leaf segments with no points on the Christmas cactus below.
Christmas Cactus Care
Although they look a little different, the care is identical! Many times though, they’re both labeled as Christmas Cactus when they are sold!
A northern window will do fine (especially if it is a larger northern window), and an eastern window would work beautifully.
A west or south window would work as well as long as you can protect your plant from too much direct sun by using sheer curtains or slightly closed blinds if needed.
Don’t underestimate the importance of LIGHT in growing houseplants, especially flowering houseplants.
Over the years, I’ve heard so many people complain about how poorly their plants are doing, when they don’t even have their plant situated in front of a window!
With few exceptions, most of your houseplants should always be directly in front of a window in order to achieve the best results.
Below is my Thanksgiving cactus that I propagated from my grandmother’s plant and that I’ve had for a few years now. It started as just small cuttings.
It is hanging in a south window however it doesn’t get a lot of direct sun because of an outdoor wall that is blocking the sun for part of the day, but it is a nice, bright window and it is thriving.
Water & Fertilizer Requirements
Ensure that your Christmas or Thanksgiving cactus has excellent drainage and is not sitting in water for long periods of time.
Since it is an epiphyte and grows on trees in nature, they demand excellent drainage.
I can’t recommend a frequency to water your plant, since it depends on your individual lighting and temperature conditions.
Allow the top inch or so of your Christmas cactus to dry out before watering again, but at the same time, you should avoid letting the entire pot dry out.
You can use any balanced houseplant fertilizer for your Christmas cactus. I’ll continue to fertilize until about October or so. Then I’ll refrain from fertilizing until new leaves start growing in the Spring.
Getting your Plant to Re-bloom!
This is the million dollar question! There are two main tricks to get your Christmas cactus or Thanksgiving cactus to rebloom in December or November or so (as the names imply).
The first is uninterrupted darkness at night. If you have your plant in an area where you have lamps or any other lights on at night, this will deter your plant from blooming!
Even if you have lights on for short periods of time. They need evenings of complete darkness in late summer and Fall in order to set buds. This is probably the most important factor.
The other factor that helps the plant set buds is cooler nighttime temperatures. Any drop in temperature at night would be helpful, with night temperatures in the 55F-65F range probably being ideal.
One way to achieve this is simply by placing your plant outdoors so that they are exposed to these lower night time temperatures for a few weeks.
It’s always fun to have my readers get back to me when their plants suddenly start blooming after I tell them what they need! You’ll be surprised how quickly plants respond to proper care!
Christmas Cactus Propagation
I already mentioned the gigantic plant that I propagated from my great aunt’s plant. Unfortunately that plant did not come with me when I moved out of my parent’s house. 🙁
However, I was able to propagate a new plant from my grandmother’s Thanksgiving cactus before she passed away. The plant is shown in the picture below.
This is the same plant as the photo of my plant that you just saw above, except it was not quite as old in the photo below.
Propagating this plant is easy. I took a few segments off my grandmother’s plant and then placed them in a jar of water. Before you place them in water, allow them to air dry for a few days.
This will allow the cuts to dry and callous over so that the segments don’t rot. These plant are true cacti (although they are the jungle cousins and not from a desert!)
They grew roots fairly quickly, and then I potted them up in a good all-pupose potting soil. You can add some perlite to the soil to lighten it up. In fact, this would be a great idea as these plants need great drainage.
You could also put the cuttings directly into soil, but I tend not to use this method. There is nothing wrong with it, but I prefer to use a jar of water because you can clearly see when the roots start growing.
After the roots are visible and growing actively, then I pot up the cuttings.
If you follow the tips in this post, you will eventually have your very own, gigantic Christmas cactus that will bloom for months during the dreary winter season!
Do you have a Thanksgiving or Christmas cactus? I’d love to hear all about it. Comment below!