The ground is covered with snow and winter is officially here. But wait! A glimmer of hope and sunshine are sure to appear amongst your houseplants. It’s time for your Christmas cactus to bloom!
But what happens when it doesn’t? How do you get a Christmas cactus to bloom? And how do you care for your Christmas Cactus afterwards?
Here are 5 common solutions you can try before you give up on your poor Christmas cactus.
P.S. the “Christmas Cactus” in the pictures is actually a Thanksgiving Cactus. I’ll explain more about that in point number five.
P.P.S: If you prefer videos to reading, here’s the post in video form:
1. It’s Too Warm
Christmas cactuses need to experience a drop in temperature to tell the plant that it’s time to start blooming. If your plant is placed in a south facing window in the warmest spot in your house, try moving it to a north facing window or near a door. The cool air from the door being open and shut should send it the signals that winter is coming.
I’ve noticed that friends who place their Christmas Cactus in a place where it receives no drafts, like in a bathroom or on top of the fridge, have a hard time getting their cactus to bloom.
2. You Gave it Too Much Love Over the Summer (aka Stop Overwatering!!)
I never understood how much people love to overwater their plants until I started a gardening blog. While your Christmas cactus would like a drink every week or two, over the summer it can survive on neglect. It sounds counter-intuitive, but the plant actually needs a period of almost-drought to signal it to start blooming in the winter.
Lazy waterers, rejoice! Finally a plant that won’t die if you forget about it for a month.
However, you can’t forget about it completely. Once the fall hits, begin watering your cactus again at more regular intervals. After the blooms are done, you can ease back on watering again.
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3. It Didn’t Need to be Re-Potted
Christmas cactuses actually like to be root-bound. Who knew?
Wait until the plant is 3-4 years old, or the roots start to grow through the drainage hole before you re-pot it. Select a pot that is only slightly bigger than your current pot. Finally, make sure you use a good quality potting soil that is made for succulents.
Never re-pot a Christmas cactus that is still blooming. It is best to wait until it is finished blooming, or until early Spring.
4. It’s Getting Too Much Light
Starting in October, the plant needs at least 12 hours of darkness to bloom. This might not a problem if you live in a more northern latitude, but maybe a bit trickier the further south you are. Unfortunately, artificial lights can mess with the 12 hours of darkness that are needed. The easiest way to solve this problem is to move your plant to a room in your home that is not often used during the evening.
Also, please don’t take this number as a rule to live and die by!! At my current time of editing this article, it is October 19th in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada, and there is approximately 10 1/2 hours of sunlight everyday. (I checked on a sunrise to sunset calculator.)
Your particular variety might bloom a little sooner or a little later. Just be patient young grasshopper!
5. It’s not Actually a Christmas Cactus
Did you know that there are actually three different types of cacti that look like a Christmas cactus? There is a Thanksgiving cactus, Christmas cactus, and an Easter Cactus. If you’ve tried everything in this post and still no blooms, you might just have a different cactus than you originally thought. To see the difference between the three, check out the picture on this pin. Also, sorry to the original poster, the link is dead or I don’t have access to it. If by chance you see this, I’d love to give you proper credit!!
Why is my Christmas Cactus Blooming in October? (Or February, or April!?!)
Did you know that some Christmas Cacti bloom continually from Thanksgiving to Easter? My Christmas cactus (the one that’s pictured) had blooms shortly after I bought it the first year (2018), then had four seemingly random blooms around Easter in April. This year (2019), it had a main bloom around Canadian Thanksgiving in mid-October, and is now having a second full bloom as I write this in early-December. I suspect that it will continue to bloom all the way until Easter again. 2020 update: if it wouldn’t have moved its location, it would have had a spring bloom as well.
I don’t know if every variety of Christmas Cactus will do this, but I take it as a sign that my houseplant likes the location its in. It’s currently sitting on a window sit that’s West facing and is blocked by a house, so it doesn’t get a ton of light. It’s near the back door of the house, so it gets the occasional draft. Finally, we tend to keep our house on the cooler side as a rule of thumb. Never more than 20 degrees Celsius.
I’ve also kept it in a window sill on a North facing window near the front door and it is equally as happy there.
A Word on PATIENCE
I know many of you want to immediately make your Christmas Cactus bloom and get results right now. Plants just aren’t like that. Your plant needs time to adjust to its new location. So give your plant the best conditions possible for success–low light and a colder location, and be patient. If you’ve read this list and are doing all the right things, you likely don’t have anything to worry about. Just be patient.