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Caring for Your Christmas Cactus and Poinsettia

Just because Christmas is over, it doesn't mean your Christmas cactus and poinsettias have to be retired. With a little information and care, you can keep these beautiful plants thriving year after year.

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:

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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Jaime McLeod

Jaime McLeod is a longtime journalist who has written for a wide variety of newspapers, magazines, and websites, including MTV.com. She enjoys the outdoors, growing and eating organic food, and is interested in all aspects of natural wellness.

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Mary Morrison

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

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

Shelly

Simply place the piece that falls or breaks off in another pot of dirt and they usually start a new plant. I treat them just like any other house plant. They’re very easy to start

Loreen Keeth

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

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

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

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

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.
Ollie Busby

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

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

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

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

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

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

Anna Mowrey

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

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

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

Fawn

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Delores Christensen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Melissa

Christmas cactus I can never be left in a room with ripening fruit. The ethylene gas that is given off by the ripening fruit causes the Christmas cactus’ buds to fall off before they ever bloom. I hope this helps.

Pat Reszkowski

Christmas Cacti Do Not have to be kept in the dark for 12 hours after being brought indoors close to first frost. They are not fussy either as to which location you keep them indoors. Feed miracle gro several times a year, they also like to be root bound, and can stay in the same pot for many years. No plastic pots, clay or ceramic with good drainage are the best. I have mine for close to 30 yrs and have propagated and given plants away from the mother plant. Mine have also bloomed more than once in a year. If a piece breaks off just stick it in the soil & it will root. I have to say that after their bloom I pretty much ignore them, watering when dry or leaves start to look shriveled. Good luck with your Christmas & Thanksgiving Cacti!

Colleen

My 87 yo mother has HER grandmother’s Christmas Cactus, my great grandmother gave it to my grandmother (I remember watching my grandmother nurture this plant) and my Grandmother gave it to my Mom. It blossoms every year! I can only imagine how old it is!

Kathy

I have had a few Christmas cacti over the years. If I repot them, they die. I now have two. One is maybe 4-5 years old and the other I received as a gift last Christmas. They are both in the little plastic pots they came in. I am nervous to put them in pots because all others have died after I have done that. Any suggestions on how to repot these? I have had many successful plants over my lifetime.

BJ

They hate the roots disturbed. I have broken the pot to replant or if plastic, cut it off with scissors. My ponytail is just as fussy. I put mine in cheap clay pots & put that in a pretty one to hide it.

Dianne Calderwood

I have two Christmas cacti about 6 yrs. old. They sit on a table in a N.W. window. I only water when the dirt feels dry. Two weeks or more… They are getting ready to bloom now. Last year they didn’t bloom. Love this plant.

maryann

I honestly can done any issue you have with your cactus…..
Water once a week… not a drenching water.. with Seltzer….period…

Good for all plants… couple of times a month… that’s it.. my caucuses bloom three times a year…

Mary

I just inherited a Christmas cactus from my mother in law. She said it was her grandmother’s.My mother in law is 78.
I am glad to have found this article. I don’t know much about Christmas cacti, and I don’t want to kill this one.

Angela

This past summer I re-potted my overgrown, root bound Christmas cactus. Afterwards, like I always have in this past, I kept outside until just before frost and brought back indoors to its usual winter location. It had doubled in size and looks very healthy! By this time it normally would be covered in blooms, but sadly only has just a few. My thoughts is that it spent all its energy into growing and not producing any flowers. What is your opinion? Thanks

BJ

Could be what you are feeding it. 10/10/10 works well. Too much nitrogen gives lots of green but stunts the flowers

Sara

I put those fertilizer houseplant sticks in my cactus once a year. It now blooms 2 or even 3 times a year. It’s huge. I have it off to the side of our window.

Cindy

I have a Christmas Cactus that is over 10 years old and I keep it in a window that is facing the west most of the year because I also put it outside in the sun once the temps hit in the lows of the 50’s at night (I live in upstate New York) and it’s outside usually until sometime in September and it loves it. This year it bloomed multiple times (I lost count….that is how many times it bloomed) and it is blooming again. The last few Christmas Cacti that I had I didn’t really have luck with but this one I have. I gave the previous ones to my mother and they thrived with her. I water it about every two weeks and also give it Miracle Grow (that is probably why it blooms so much Hahahaha) about twice a year. It isn’t a huge cactus but it is one of my favorite house plants that I have.

Jimmy

There’s my problem! I still have a poinsettia from last Christmas but now it’s lanky and pretty bare and fully green. I never pruned the thing and I didn’t give it the dark room treatment, I guess I messed up it’s photoperiods! Oh well, I still love that little plant!

Jan

my Christmas cactus has buds on it, but I can’t seem to get the buds to open up to bloom. What can I do to get the blooms to open?

Kari

My mom has a Christmas Cacti that is over 42 years old.

Bridget

It is my understanding that the Christmas Cactus prefers shade / indirect light year round (I keep mine in a north window). When it starts blooming in November / December it can come out to the main room (although the south light does seem to suppress the blooms) Allow soil to dry between waterings.

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