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Caring for Your Christmas Cactus and Poinsettia

Caring for Your Christmas Cactus and Poinsettia

Even after the holidays are over, your Christmas cactus and poinsettia plants don’t have to be retired. With a little information and care, you can keep these beautiful plants thriving year after year.

Caring For Your Christmas Cactus:

Place your Christmas cactus in a warm, well-lit room away from drafts and direct sunlight, which can burn the leaves. Remember that Christmas cacti are not true cacti, and do need regular watering. Be careful not to oversaturate it, though. When the soil becomes dry, it’s time to water again. Because it is a tropical plant, your Christmas cactus will enjoy humidity. If the air is dry where you live, keep a plate or bowl of water nearby. The evaporating water will add moisture to the air.

In the summertime, you can place the plant outdoors in a shady location and feed it a basic houseplant fertilizer about once a month. Move it back indoors before the first frost. To encourage the plant to bloom in time for Christmas, keep it in a closet or other dark location for 12 hours each night. A cool room, such as a basement, is ideal because temperatures of about 50-60° F promotes flower growth.

Blooms on a Christmas cactus

And don’t forget about your poinsettias! These tips will help keep them blooming long after the holidays are over.

Caring For Your Poinsettias:


For the rest of the winter, keep your poinsettia in a warm, well-lit room away from drafts, and water it regularly. The soil should be kept moist, but never wet. Water it just until the water begins to drain out, and don’t allow the pot to sit in the water.

Once the nighttime temperatures reach 55° F, transplant your poinsettia into a larger pot with a loose, fast-draining soil, and set it outside in indirect sunlight. Fertilize about once every two weeks.

Once the weather becomes consistently warm, in about mid-April, or May, Cut the poinsettia back to about six inches. Continue to prune it throughout the summer to prevent it from becoming sparse and spindly, but do not prune it once September begins.

Move the plant indoors before the first frost, and keep it in a dark closet each night for at least 14 hours. Take it out in the morning and leave it in indirect sunlight for up to 10 hours. These long, dark nights will promote blossom growth, giving you a festive plant in time for next Christmas.

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  • Mary Morrison says:

    I have placed my cacti is the dark 12 hrs and brought it out during the day ( but not direct sun) I have been doing this for over a month and it does not look any different and will not bud. How do I get it to bud and bloom?

  • Frances says:

    I have had my Christmas cacti for about 20 years now moved to different places and it still blossoms at least 2 to 3 times a years at one time it blossomed every other month it is so big don’t know where to put it when company comes I get afraid it will get broke I almost killed it for I did not know you could not put them in bigger pots found out they love to be close an hug each others roots every one loves it trying to grow more but it is hard to do love my cacti its all most done blossoming now hope it blossoms for Christmas again my daughter has a baby one I trying to bring back for her this year it also has 3 blossoms on it so she will have hers back soon we are all happy

  • Loreen Keeth says:

    My Christmas Cactus is over 30 years old. We have many descendants sitting on various stands and sills. The oldest is in a sun room that is about 68 degrees Sept thru June, it starts blooming in Nov. and continues till Easter. The 2 that are kept warmer in a west facing room look a little sad and rarely have more than a couple of blooms. We have on in our cabin, the heat wasn’t even on till last weekend and she has blooms all over her. The cabin is just north of Gaylord, we’ve had several weeks with sub freezing temps, 6″ of snow last weekend.

  • Carrie says:

    I live in Sayre PA, I am not from here, I moved from Lynchburg, VA two years ago. I’ve had several Christmas cacti in the past and I always kept them indoors in bright light near a cool window in the fall. I had some lovely blooms too!
    Currently, I inherited a Christmas cactus and because I’m not native to this part of the country, I need advice. It has always been on the front porch (see below for details) but I put it under the carport all summer out of direct sun and it has a lot of new growth now. A week or so ago I put it in the enclosed front porch with walls to walls windows of bright northeastern sunlight because I the squirrels kept hiding their walnuts in the soil. This porch does not have heat or air conditioning or shades. Today I noticed a couple tiny buds and I am ecstatic! But here is my dilemma, the night temps are steadily dropping and the day temps are staying 60-40s. But next week it will probably frost and then I’m sure it’ll be even colder. Where do I put my pretty plant to ensure it’ll bloom? Leave it on the front porch? Bring it inside to a brightly lit bedroom where temps are 65ish? And as far as watering, I haven’t had to water it too much because it isn’t in a draining pot so I don’t want to saturate it too much, it stays damp. Please help me figure out where to keep it! Oh and where to keep it after it blooms too!

    Thank you so much for the help, love and light to you all. Carrie.

  • Joyce Pankew says:

    I live in northeastern Alberta, Canada. I have a Christmas Cacti that I cannot get to bloom. I bought it 3 years ago at Christmas, it was in full bloom. Now I cannot get it to bloom. I had it on my deck all summer that faces east, brought it in and kept it in a bedroom with very little sun and still no blooms. What am I doing wrong.

    • Susan Higgins says:

      Hi Joyce Pankew: try limiting the amount of water the plant receives. The soil should be slightly moist — only water when the top layer of soil is dry to the touch. This will enable the plant to enter dormancy. Dormancy is critical for getting a Christmas cactus to bloom. Then move it to a spot where it will receive about 12-14 hours of darkness. Indirect light during the day is Ok, just make sure it gets at least 12 hours of darkness at night. Next, it also need cool temperatures of about 50-55 F. to encourage dormancy and blooming. Good luck!

  • Nancy Pierson says:

    I have my mother’s Christmas Cactus which is over 50 years old! It begins blooming in mid November through May. Also have my Aunt’s which sometimes blooms into July! Have given away many plants from my Mother’s. And a tiny Poinsettia I purchased at our local Lowe’s 3 years ago is now in full bloom!

  • We have huge cati one is about 40 years old. Water weekly and starve for one month i(November) tons of blooms come Christmas. says:


  • Ollie Busby says:

    Honest to goodness, I have a Christmas cactus in WATER!!! That’s all! No dirt, just water and she blooms every Christmas. Wish I could post a photo on here. It blooms a beautiful salmon color. I nave two others in water only also. My plant that stays inside is in the dining room window all year round. Lots of sun. I Love my cactus! She’s big and beautiful!!

  • Jean Collins says:

    I received my Christmas in 1957. The lady that gave it to me just passed away at 106. Just last year I had to repot it It was huge. It sits on my front porch from May to late September.

  • Deb says:

    My Christmas cactus is over 50 years old! My Grandmother had it when I was growing up that she kept in the south room of her home! It was a big plant and I’m not sure how old it was then. I got it from my mother sometime after my Grandmother passed in 1968 when she was 68 years old. My mother always said it was a Christmas cactus because the leaf like ends were round and that a Thanksgiving Cactus has pointed fork leaf like ends that resembled forks that you could remember by what you used to carve a turkey on Thanksgiving! I do have one of each and one blooms at Christmas and the other one at Thanksgiving! Nothing makes me happier than to have this one bloom pink flowers around Christmas! If it’s not true on the identification of these, so be it! I will never believe different! Thanks Mom. I miss you!

  • Stephanie says:

    After reading many of these comments of 75+ year old Christmas cactus, I can no longer “brag” about mine! I bought it in 1976 after Christmas at the local Stop & Shop on the “reject” table. It was in a 1″ pot and looked about ready to die. It’s now in a 10″ pot and blooms 4-5 times a year. My only concern is that a few of the stems are starting to decay and I lost a few branches over the years. Anyway to prevent this. I haven’t repotted it in years. And, now I am afraid to. Any thoughts?

    • Andrea Riegler says:

      Make sure plant gets enough fertilization to help ensure vigor of plant. As they get older, those branches tend to get heavier with new growth. You can always root them to make more plants.

  • Lois Rankin says:

    For years I plant my poinsettia in the ground after Xmas . They always bloom right before Xmas every year.

  • Anna Mowrey says:

    My cactus is 6 yrs old , it was my moms before she passed away in 2010.and she was 85 . We had those plants in our house all our lives .i love the beautiful pink one .ive never seen another color .mine blooms 2-3 times a year .i repotted my one . Very large .

  • Peggy says:

    I have a cacti. The blooms are orange and it blooms about 4 times a year.I’ve heard they like to be root bound and mine is root bound. Its been in the same pot for about 14 years. . I also us one of those ball watering spheres. It seems to be very happy in its, no sun location.

  • Theresa anderson says:

    Delores Christiansen….. Willing to share a cutting?????

  • Fawn says:

    My Christmas cactus is 78 years old. It belonged to my Great-grandmother who received it as a Christmas gift in 1937 from my Great-grandfather. When she passed away in 1968 it was given to my grandmother. When my grandmother passed away in 1995, it was given to me. It blooms every year-sometimes around Thanksgiving and sometimes near Christmas. It’s starting to bloom right now. I cherish this plant!

  • Mary kane says:

    Thanks for all the info! I have one that is blooming after putting it outside a couple months ago in TX. Will bring it in and see what happens!

  • Lee says:

    I inherited my mother’s Christmas cactus after she died in November 2014. I hadn’t seen it bloom in years and repotted it last summer. It budded on the first anniversary of her death. Thanks Mom!

  • Pat Pagliuca says:

    My Christmas cactus is on my bay window shelve in my bedroom and is approximately 10 years old. I have repotted it twice since I got it. It seems to be thriving. There is a minimal amount of sunshine in that window. My Christmas cactus blooms twice a twice a year, in the fall and in the spring. It just bloomed in November and still has a few buds left to bloom. My daughter also has a Christmas Cactus in her home and her’s is also in bloom. My Christmas cactus has never bloomed at Christmas time. I have had other ones in the past and it was always the same, but twice a year. It is a very hardy plant and as you say, does not requiring watering very often.

  • Jan Dorn says:

    I inherited my mother’s Christmas cactus in 2001 when she passed. It is huge and seems to have outgrown it’s pot and I wondered if I sent a picture of it, you could recommend if I should try and transplant it into a larger pot or if I should just leave it as is.???

    • Susan Higgins says:

      Hi Jan Dorn, Christmas cactus repotting should be done after blooming ends and the flowers have wilted in late winter or early spring. Never attempt to repot the plant while it is actively blooming. Experts say that you shouldn’t rush to repot Christmas cactus because they thrive when the roots are slightly crowded. And frequent repotting can damage the plant. Repotting every 3-4 years is usually adequate, but you may prefer to wait until the plant begins to look wilted or you notice a few roots growing through the drainage holes.

  • Jean says:

    Put Styrofoam peanuts (you can use stones=but get too heavy)in the bottom of your pot so the plant does not get water logged. Also use a pot that has a whole in the bottom so water can drain. Let plant dry out before watering. Plant more than one together in the same pot. Put outside in summer and it will grow better. Use good soil=it has more nutrients and plant will grow quicker. mix dirt with miracle grow soil and 10-10-10. for some reason mine do better in an east window.

  • Linda Bobo says:

    Wendy, concerning tiny white mites: I also had this problem. Mine moved from one infested plant to another. I tried many things before I tried Dawn dish detergent. Add about 1/2 cup of detergent to 3 cups of water in a spray bottle. Spray the soil and around the base of the plant before you water so that solution can seep down into soil. It took about 6 months to rid all my plants of the mites, but it worked. I have now cleaned up over 12 pots of cactus. It really works and does no damage to the plants.

    • BJ says:

      1 tablespoon of dish soap & crushed up cigarette tobacco mixed with 2 cups water will kill mites quickly. Also they make an Organic spray with only natural ingredients. Eight & Insecticidal Soap are both safe for vegetables & house plants once dry

  • Erie Byrom says:

    Exactly Virginia, mine gets morning and late afternoon sun when I put it out after last frost(I live in Georgia) and bring it in right before the first frost. My mother told me that the cool autumn nights sets the blooms.Turning it every week or so is good as it will keep it symmetrical and I water it moderately. It is full of big beutiful double pink blooms every year around Thanksgiving, my mother always called it a Thanksgiving cactus.

  • Betty droddy says:

    Deloris Christensen would you be willing to share a piece of your 110 yr old cactus?

  • Delores Christensen says:

    Hi all. I hava a Christmas Cactus that is 110 years old. I got it from my mother in law in 1965. She got it from her mother in law, who got it from, etc, etc. it blooms every year and I have shared many starts from it. Merry Christmas everyone.

  • Virginia Nancarvis says:

    Sounds like one can do anything to a Christmas Cactus and it remains alive.
    Mine is ten years old that I re-potted once. It had never bloomed until one year I placed it outside facing strong sunlight all summer. It began to set buds soon after I brought it inside, before frost, and was covered with fluorescent pink blooms. The stronger the sunlight the more blooms I get. The pot needs to be turned, while outside, every few weeks so the flowers cover the whole plant. It gets watered sparingly and is pot bound…

  • Stephanie says:

    I have had a piece of my mother-in-law’s Christmas Cactus. For years it didn’r grow much and only bloomed a little. Then one of my mom’s friends said to add 1/2 bottle of castor Oil in October and a cup of Milk in March. ( Remember oil in Oct. milk in March). Since I started doing this it has grown like crazy, and blooms for about 2-3 months! Only my mom’s friend is still alive, and I send her a picture of it when it blooms.

  • Betty Loop says:

    About 4 years ago I brought home from New Orleans to Oregon little cuttings from several of my mothers Christmas cacti. The mother plants were not in bloom at the time, so I did not know what colors they were. I rooted them in water and planted them all together in a pot. They bloom once a year with various colors: pink, orange, white. I water them slightly once a week, just enough to keep them alive. I see one of the comments on this site says the jagged leaf catus are Yhanksgiving cacti. I wonder if that is not true of mine because it blooms just before Thsnksgiving and last several weeks. Mine is now a spread of several feel round and I am enjoying it. I’ve also propergated some plants from it.

  • Becky says:

    I have a Christmas cacti since 1997 sometimes it blooms 2 times a year the stem got as big as a small tree and part of it broke off paid 2:50$ for it the store was gonna throw it away because of the way it looked I got a deal

  • Wendy says:

    Lisa, I am having the exact problem with my Christmas Cactus. I have had it for three or four years and it has always been beautiful… blooming on it’s own without having to put it in the basement. The other day I noticed that it was starting to turn a purple color on the leaves. The next day the leaves were all wilted looking and droopy. It has about a dozen blooms on it but it looks really sad. This morning I noticed a little mite looking bug but can’t find any others. I feel bad because it was such a beautiful plant.

  • Debra Klan says:

    Cathy, I Lways use reg cactus soil, have transplanted 2….they don’t need transplanted very often….just be careful not to disturb roots….set it in new soil, and water lightly….I always use slightly warm, tepid water on all my plants too, not to shock the roots…set and a window with light, not full sun.

  • Lisa says:

    I’m having problem with my Christmas cactus they all seem to die they usually are big and beautiful but this year I just can’t seem to keep them alive some are turning purple and some look like they have a spider-mite I treated them and they still look bad someone turn a goo at the bottom of the root I don’t know what I’m doing wrong

    • BJ says:

      Sounds like root rot. Unpot carefully, take a sharp knife & cut off all soggy roots + an inch. Repot & make sure roots never sit in water. I put pea stones in my overflow dishes to make sure.

  • erin says:

    my christmas cactus stays in my kitchen, year round. In oct, i put it in an east facing window day and night, it bloomed last year nicely in dec. This year same thing ,… but it is in full bloom for 2 weeks already, hoping to keep it going for another 3 weeks[ new little buds are coming on]

  • Nancy A says:

    This is the first time I’ve actually managed to keep a poinsettia alive so I decided to try getting it to turn red. Both of my poinsettias from last year fit in a large box so I cover them up at night. I have red leaves!!! Yay me.

  • jeannia says:

    I rec’d several pieces of a red Christmas cactus from my MIL and put them in solo cups to root. They all came from the same red plant at the same time. Well, they started budding, then blooming – they were all red, except one – it was WHITE! It bloomed first and has another bud ready to open. I am going to plant them soon and share with some friends and family – but I am keeping the white one.

  • Sis says:

    I’ve had mine for 9 year’s and they bloom twice a year, love mine

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