The plant known as the Christmas cactus is in fact not a cactus at all. Rather, it’s a succulent epiphyte that grows in trees or attached in the cracks of rocks. Hailing from the tropical coasts of Brazil, the Christmas cactus generally favors humid, moderately sunny conditions. The exception to this rule is when the Christmas cactus begins to prepare itself for its dazzling December display.
Christmas Cactus Blooming Cycle
A true Christmas cactus will begin to set its buds in late November or early December. With proper care, the plant will provide stunning blossoms just in time for Christmas. Although there are several plants that are sold as “Christmas cactus,” be aware that they may in fact be Thanksgiving cactus, or even Easter cactus. The only difference in the care between these species, is the holiday season in which they bloom.
Setting Buds on Christmas Cactus
To prepare your Christmas cactus for its seasonal spotlight, it’s important to first remove it from bright light. Christmas cacti need up to six weeks of darker conditions and cool temperatures to form flower buds. To begin this process, simply place your cactus in a dark room, closet, or even basement for 13-16 hours daily. For best results, pick a location that is about 55°F (13°C). During this time, water the plant sparingly and don’t fertilize.
Christmas Cactus Flowering
After buds begin to appear on the outside edges of the plant’s stems, it’s ready to reintroduce into warmer temperatures and longer periods of light. Place the cactus in a moderately sunny area where the temperature is approximately 65°F (18°C). Within six weeks, the blooms will open, showcasing their vibrant, cheerful colors just in time for the holidays.
With a small amount of planning, and a whole lot of “hands off’ attitude, you will find your Christmas cactus flourishing in no time at all. Because of its easy-going nature, this houseplant offers a perfect starting point for any beginner looking to exercise their green thumb. With a variety of colors to choose from, there is no doubt that anyone can find the right Christmas cactus to beautify their own home.
For more information on how to care for your Christmas cactus and lots of other low-maintenance succulents, check out our collection of articles, All About Growing Succulents