Christmas Cactus care

evergreen_2009November 4, 2009

1) What type of pot is best suited for Christmas Cactus? Clay or plastic?

2) What size pot do these plants like? Do they like a lot of space or do they like to be crowded in a smaller pot?

3) After blooming, I move my Christmas Cactus to a dark spot in my house; around October or November, I move it near a window so that it begins to bud.

Is that the right thing to do?

4) I am also having trouble with leaves folding up and dying, and also whole branches falling off. I am trying to follow some of the advice given on the forum.

Thanks! Evergreen_2009

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Hi, I can can offer advice for your questions.

1 These plants like small pots, They like to be crowed. If your thinking of repotting, Only repot to the next size up pot, so if it's a 4 inch pot, transplant to a 5 inch pot.

2 Plastic seems to work best for this plant, But clay works too.

3 I have heard of that pratice, but I have seen that it is not needed, I do have most of my plants in a dark room which I sleep in. but one of plants is in a room where the light is always on and it is budding right up anyways. Othe 2 major things for blooms are Darkness and temp. if temps are too warm I will say over 70.F at night, they normally hold off from flowering.

4 leaves drying up and fall is not normal, your problem seems to be one that you may be overwatering. Hold off on water for a few days until the pot is dry. A trick I like to use for watering is stick your finger in the soil and if it comes out dry then it's time to water, but if it's wet hold off. I Also lift the pot and feel if it still feels heavy, if it's heavy I don't water.

The next stemp is finging out what it is, Is what you have a True Christmas Cactus? There are 2 types that are blooming around this time of year. 1 is Christmas Cactus and the other is called Thanksgiving Cactus ( any type sold now days in big stores would be the Thanksgiving cactus type) One way to tell is, Check out the leaves. If they have sharp points it's a Thanksgiving Cactus, and if the leaves are rouned with no red stripes on the leaves, and no points then what you have is True Christmas Cactus.

I hope this advice helps!

    Bookmark   November 4, 2009 at 10:40PM
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I have a wonderful article on this subject but it's too long to write here. Go to

I receive this article in 12/22/06 so I hope it is still available. This article is 8 pages of information. Good luck I hope it works, this man wrote several articles in the l980s. It is very accurate. Norma

    Bookmark   November 5, 2009 at 12:40AM
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No. 3): Do you mean that you keep your Schlumbergera in a dark spot even in spring/summer?

    Bookmark   November 5, 2009 at 2:53AM
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Hi...What I get from that is, that is where she has it for the time being to help it along to bud and flower..Great conditions for them to do so.

By nature, these require alot of good light for vitality and good growth, to build their energy reserves, to prepare for their showy display!
Then need very little light when it is time to coach them into wonderful blossoms... Sometimes just cold along with good light can do the same. Mine is still ouside in lots of light and sun, but in very cold conditions, ready to bust in blooms..;-)

We'll see hostalover grows them all year in the dark...:-)

    Bookmark   November 5, 2009 at 1:53PM
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to me, i think keeping them outside in the summer and early fall is the trick. last year, i kept them inside all year, and they didn't want to bloom.

after a humid summer in the summer with light shade, then some cool nights, and they've blown up with flowers. I think I understand now how they can be 'tired' after blooming!

for watering, I usually go by the top of the soil being dry, the pot being light, and the end segments feeling thin and soft.

    Bookmark   November 5, 2009 at 10:42PM
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gardenbear1(6 Ma.)

I keep mine in clay and Plastic pots, with the clay you will need to water more, I keep mine out in the shade house all summer where it gets lots of bright light, they won't come back in until later Sept. or just before the first frost by then they have set buds and by late Oct they are starting to bloom, my white Christmas is the first to bloom and then its the reds that will bloom next, after blooming I give them one more watering then its off to the spare bedroom to rest until spring the temp in the room is around 60 so they don't need to be watered and I just wait for spring.


    Bookmark   November 5, 2009 at 11:48PM
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I have never gone to that much trouble to move them around from light to dark, inside or outside. I have mine in the same locations year round and they always bloom at about the same time every year. I only water when the soil is really dried out and the pot feels light. However, since the house is hotter and drier in the winter time, I mist my indoor plants daily with a very weak dilution of compost tea or plain tap water.

I had one a couple years ago that was growing at a phenominal rate, putting out new branches and blooming like crazy. When I felt that it had outgrown it's pot I decided to give it a bigger home. In the process of repotting I found a large red wiggler in the soil. There must ahve been a worm egg in the compost tea that hatched out and grew inside the pot. Not sure what it was surviving on for two years, but the plant seemed to benefit from it. Cheryl

    Bookmark   November 6, 2009 at 2:05PM
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Funny you should say this! My neighbor has hers in the same spot for years in her bedroom, and that thing flowers like crazy every year on time for christmass..It amazes me why some have a problem and why some don't.
I envy her ability to just sit back, while I have to give mine all the conditions described here to get mine to the same.
Sometimes I think the lentgh of days alone triggers bloom for some..

Do you think that some people, including I, might have easter cactus, and get confused by trying to bloom the earlier than should with these techneques for this time of year?
If left alone, do you think that easter cactus would just bloom without all these measures?

My neighbors cactus is a "true" christmass cactus. Absolutely bright red and huge! That room is actually kept warmer than described by many, because they are older. Weird..

When it blooms, I will ask them to take a pic and for a few cuttings too...


    Bookmark   November 6, 2009 at 2:45PM
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You know, I was just thinking. She did tell me she has a tendency to forget to water it. I have seen it go to a severe wilt.
Do you suppose that kind of treatment is a reason it might flower for her,,Sort of a shock treatment from drought, or better said "abuse"..?

    Bookmark   November 6, 2009 at 2:48PM
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johnh_or(Portland OR Z8)

1) I've always used clay myself though I doubt it makes much difference.
2)I think they like to be somewhat least mine seems to like it!
3)I never move mine, never turn it while blooming. It blooms usually 3 times a year.
4)I am guessing this may be the plants defense to not enough water.

Pic of bloom taken today....I guess since my plant has the sharp points, it's CC?

    Bookmark   November 6, 2009 at 5:14PM
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pirate_girl(Zone7 NYC)


Just gorgeous, the photo & especially the color of the blooms! But this is outdoors (looks like) & you're in Portland right? So at some point it has to go indoors?

No, the sharp point on the stems would make it a Thanksgiving cactus, it's the more rounded stems (w/out points) that's the CC.

Looks like great growing from here!

    Bookmark   November 6, 2009 at 5:43PM
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johnh_or(Portland OR Z8)

Hi pg.... Thanks! Yup, in Portland. Actually, this is an indoor plant all year. It sits in a south facing bay window. Seems to love it there. Thanks for clearing up the sharp point thing...I can never remember!

    Bookmark   November 6, 2009 at 5:55PM
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What a beautiful pic. I'm wondering about the specific colors though. Are they all different colors regardless of whether they are CC, TC or EC? I have a couple of each and always enjoy when they bloom, but never paid much attention to which ones were which color.

I have copious notes on my gardens, year by year accounts of 100+ roses, photos and drawings. Just never have done it for the houseplants. NEW project!

    Bookmark   November 21, 2009 at 1:41PM
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That is a beautiful picture!! Thankyou for sharing and explaining how you get yours to bloom...I have window that might be just as you described for mine..I would like to just leave them in one spot instead of doing different things to encourage them to flower...It would be nice if they would on their own left alone..

I was wondering if white flowered ones are hard to find?
I myself never see them sold here locally..I have a white one givin to me buy a friend across the country and when that is in bloom, everyone that visits me, begs me to start a cutting for them saying they only see all the colored ones but white.
I did start one this fall, that is about to flower already, while I anxiously wait for the mother plant to do


I use clay for mine feeling it is what the plant would likely prefer.. They do very well for me. Some of mine are almost root bound, and some have lots of room for root growth, and they all do just as good as the other..

Ps. You know how I said my neighbors does well year after year? Well, I just talked to her yesterday, and she said it died suddenly! She never even thought to take cuttings and keep it going...It was sooo beautiful. She accidently over watered it...:-(


    Bookmark   November 21, 2009 at 2:42PM
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I inherited my Mom's Christmas cactus(at least I thinkmits a Christmas cactus0 and we brought it home at Christmas time from mt sister's place. My nephew had cared for it for 2-3 years and now it was my turn. Well it did great until recently! We lost whole sections that wilted and fell off!! We repotted it in the same pot with new soil and its still doing poorly.
I have little experience with these plants! Any advice is welcome!

    Bookmark   June 21, 2010 at 4:50PM
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Hi, my CC did the same thing! It's just loosing whole branches and I can't stop it. How do I plant a whole branch or should I just take pieces and plant them? What a shame because it was a very beautiful plant and it would bloom 2 times a year. Help please!

    Bookmark   June 22, 2010 at 6:03PM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

Take healthy cuttings, from the tips, three to five segments long. You can allow them to dry for a day in the shade or you can pot them directly. While it is possible to root older, woody (lignified) cuttings, it is more difficult.

When whole branches begin to drop, you must look at the roots. Check for rot (overly wet), check for dry pockets (overly compacted peat moss, for example), and then check for bound roots.

Even without knowing more, I would advise you to re-pot in a bark-based mix, set the plant in shade for a few days, and then return it to bright, indirect light.


    Bookmark   June 22, 2010 at 9:35PM
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Hey Josh: Thanks for the info. I will do as you suggest. I repotted a while ago from clay to plastic and perhaps I have been over-watering, but I always check the firmness of the leaves. Oh well, now I'll take some cuttings off the broken branch and make some new plants :) I'll let you know what happens. Thanks again.


    Bookmark   June 23, 2010 at 8:04PM
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Hi Josh,
Thanks for the answer. We took it out and repotted it with new soil and saw nothing unusual except for maybe some impacted roots. It was very hard getting it out of the pot. Hubby said it wasn't getting enough air because of poor drainage. We gave it new drainage but when I used the meter to check the moisture level today -it shows bone dry all around except right by the plant in the roots! There it is moist to downright wet! Should I water or not??? I did take a section and put it in succulent soil to try and root it. We had EXCELLENT success with Jose's (our ancient Hoya who died) cuttings.
The cactus is still droopy and I fear I may be the one that kills Mom's plant! I'll just die if this happens!!!

    Bookmark   June 24, 2010 at 2:49PM
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pirate_girl(Zone7 NYC)

What's new soil & pls. explain what you mean by 'giving it new drainage'?

C&S mix is not the right mix for these, while they are cacti, they're tropical, jungle cacti, not desert cacti. Given that, a good mix for these is African Violet Mix (AV mix) w/ abt 30% more perlite (lite & fluffy, not hard & heavy like C&S mix can be.

What do you mean by 'impacted' roots? If you did nothing to them to change that, I'd guess they're likely still 'impacted'.

Sounds like you didn't solve the root/drainage problem.

I'd take it out of the pot & crumble off ALL of the mix w/ my fingers, can be a chore, a fork helps, sort of fork thru the roots like a rake. (I just had to do exactly this to my Easter cacti whose mix (from the purchase) had hardened off into concrete & was gonna kill the plants as even tho' I watered every other day, they weren't drinking.)

PLEASE, if you don't wish to kill the plant, do as I suggest. Don't water it again w/out unpotting it, or you're likely to cause more damage.

I'd suggest forget water meters, I hear they're inaccurate. I've been growing in this aptmt of mine easily 15 yrs. (200 plants at most) no water meter.

One needs to make the effort to learn watering: feel the weight of the pot when dry & then again feel the weight of the pot when newly watered & feel how much heavier that is.

If you must check for wet/dry, take a chopstick or a long knife, poke it all the way down in the pot. If it comes out w/ mix on it, it's still moist. If it comes out clean it's dry & you can water. If you've ever baked & tested a cake for doneness w/ a knife or a toothpick it's the same idea.

If you do nothing, it's doing to die as it can't reconcile wet immediately around the roots & dry everywhere else, not going to work. Pls. do as I suggest & give it some time, then report back how it's doing.

I'm happy to share my Easter cacti are showing signs of recovery & I only did my 2 repots this past wknd; the plants were starting to suffer & now they're looking all happy & upright again.

Good luck!

    Bookmark   June 24, 2010 at 3:18PM
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Thanks for replying! The soil I used is a mix for citrus, palm and cactus. Its loamy with good drainage. We did take off the dying impacted roots but is it possible the pot may be too small? We just repotted it in the same pot.We put gravel in the bottom of the pot for drainage.
I just hope I didn't overwater in the 1st place tho I was trying to be so careful with that since I killed my Grandma's cactus that way.

    Bookmark   June 26, 2010 at 2:11PM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

Gravel does not improve drainage.
I would re-pot in a mix of Bark, Perlite, and maybe a bit of African Violet soil...not much
soil, though, since you're growing these in a colder zone.


    Bookmark   June 26, 2010 at 2:53PM
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Why would gravel not improve drainage? It is far from obvious.

    Bookmark   June 27, 2010 at 1:44AM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

"We put gravel in the bottom of the pot for drainage."

the fine particles actually clog the spaces between the large gravel, and there water begins to perch.
This information comes from Al's (Tapla's) several Threads on Water movement in Container Soils.

When thoroughly incorporated into the soil, gravel is excellent as grit. Not only does gravel reduce
volume, it holds little moisture itself and is durable (against compaction). Gravel can improve drainage,
but a layer of gravel at the bottom will not.


    Bookmark   June 27, 2010 at 1:41PM
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It depends on what kind of growing medium you use. Once upon a time I used gravel in the bottom of my pots (I no longer do that), but they never clogged. A few prerequisites must be fulfilled for that to happen:
1. The soil must contain enough fine particles to fill the pores in the gravel layer.
2. These particles must be mobile.
3. The pores between the bits of gravel must be small enough, which depends on the size distribution of the gravel.

I never even thought of using a drainage layer for Schlumbergera, the compost I use for them are so porous that it would be completely useless.

    Bookmark   June 28, 2010 at 12:15PM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

Very few growers use such a high quality medium.
And, if the particles are of a good size, then the need for a drainage layer would be moot -
as there would be no perched water.

Most growers, however, use a mix with plentiful fine particulate.

I grow Christmas Cactus in bark and grit, personally.


    Bookmark   June 28, 2010 at 2:27PM
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I know I am going to lose this plant. Its just dropping branches and is down to one last branch. I found that the fallen segments start growing roots after a few days! Can I resurrect this plant by rooting them? Do I sink them into the soil or lay them on top?? I tried sinking them in the Cirus, palm Cactus mix but they are drooping.
I am desperate. The parent plant is failing.
I also have another question-my family brought the plant up here midwinter--that included a ride across Long Island Sound by ferry. The plant always had a bit of droop to it from arrival here. Could it have been chilled?
I am just heartsick. My nephew took care of this plant with little or no knowledge of how to care for them for 2 years and it thrived and even flowered every Christmas. I accept it and its dying. Any advice to propagate would be welcome. I noticed the little roots on the segments--is that normal?? I'm rambling. . . .Help!

    Bookmark   July 8, 2010 at 6:49PM
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I never tried to propogate these, but if you have a lot of cuttings you may try rooting some like this.

Good Luck; I let my Grandma's Echinopsis die and she loved that plant so I know how you feel.

I think if it got cold on the ferry the problems would have been apparent a while ago.

Here is a link that might be useful: growing christmas cactus

    Bookmark   July 8, 2010 at 7:15PM
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pirate_girl(Zone7 NYC)

Maybe pls. re-read this whole thread as I just did, several times. There's a LOT of info. here. We've tried to help you, I know I have.

Why not try to talk w/ your nephew & have HIM teach you how he cared for it, since it did well in his care.

I agree that any effects from crossing the Sound in winter would have shown up months ago.

It's only been 12 days, could you please give the plant some time to recover?

    Bookmark   July 8, 2010 at 8:49PM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

Did you ever remove that layer of gravel from the bottom of the pot?


    Bookmark   July 9, 2010 at 3:19AM
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No I have not disturbed the plant since it was repotted. Its shriveling at the crown and dropping branches and I hope I did not overwater at some point! I didn't think so-but its possible. My nephew probably cared for the plant using advice and care tips from my husband who used to work in a nursery years ago. By time my husband got involved the plant was alre4ady droopy and dropping branches and breaking easily. The plant was a bit droopy on arrival here in late Jan yet it did flower and I thought it was going to perk up. Never really did.
Hubby said the soil mix we have is perfect for the type of plant. I appreciate all the help and its probably way too late for the parent plant but its dropped branches are growing what looks like roots between the segments! Do I just set them in the mix? Or stick them in deeper? I don't see anything in reference to these roots growing from between the segments that are just laying on the table!!!
If anyone can answer that question so i can revive this plant like i did Jose I'd be in your debt!!!

    Bookmark   July 9, 2010 at 3:50PM
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pirate_girl(Zone7 NYC)

Roots btwn the segments is normal, not a trouble sign & nothing special for you to do. Stick them down into mix at least the depth of one full segment.

Be forewarned, if you didn't take the gravel out, it's likely to be a problem.

There's something not right in the drainage of this plant. Trying to fix it up top without resolving the drainage problem below may not work, but I'll hope it does.

    Bookmark   July 9, 2010 at 4:57PM
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Thanks for the info. The plant was failing long before we repotted it with the very coarse gravel in the bottom of the pot. When we took the plant out of the pot it was WEDGED so tight and little roots were coming out of the little hole the pot has for drainage.They broke off when my husband tried to get the root ball out. The poor thing was already dropping segments and branches and had a whole section that was dead. I fear I may have given it too much water--or too soon---my husband thinks by then we were already too late and said he thought the plant was suffocating because the roots weren't aerated. I don't know maybe a combination of that and me giving it one drink too many. I am now trying very hard to get some segments to root and take hold so this plant is resurrected the way I did for Jose my old Hoya that is now reborn and flourishing! Do I stick the segments in the mix and cover it like the article says or can I leave them uncovered? The window this time of year gets indirect light. Sun will begin to drop down by late August or so. I've been misting them every day and two look promising.
This is the 2nd Holiday cactus I have killed and feel so bad!! My other regular cactuses are doing fine--sigh. I think I will use one of those wooden s skewers for testing ,moisture on these should I succeed in propagation. If I read the article correctly i think this may actually be thanksgiving cactus.
Thanks and lets hope I can get those little things to grow. The parent plant is dead.

    Bookmark   July 11, 2010 at 4:40PM
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I have now about a half dozen cuttings done. Wish them luck. Hope I get at least one of them to take and grow so I can resurrect this plant!! I've never propagated this species before. Thanks everyone for trying to help me save the parent plant. Its going with me to the lake to join Mom's ashes. She so loved that plant.

    Bookmark   July 14, 2010 at 1:53PM
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