Christmas Cactus Tips

By Phelan Gardens Published
Christmas cactus in greenhouse

Christmas Cactus (Schlumbergera bridgesii) are beautiful and reliable winter bloomers.  They offer easy care and are long-lived, often being handed down from generation to generation.  We’ve seen some that are over 50 years old! 

Thanksgiving Cactus (Schlumbergera truncata), a close relative of Christmas Cactus, require the exact same care, but bloom time is usually a month earlier.

Growing Conditions and Care

  • Requires little water when out of bloom, increase frequency when in bloom. These are a tropical cactus so they do not need to go as dry as desert-type cacti. Aim to let the entire root ball go lightly dry when not in bloom, then give it a good drink.  When in bloom, aim for the root ball to go dry about 1/2 way.
  • Prefers a bright area just out of reach of our intense Colorado sun. If the sun is very intense, you may notice some red sun-stressing on your stems.
  • If older plants are root-bound, they should be re-potted into a pot at least 2” larger, ideally during July or August so that it has time to adjust and set new buds. They do prefer to stay root-bound so only pot up when roots have filled the current pot.  Yearly re-potting is not necessary - let your plant’s root mass and overall health be your guide.  If your plant is starting to need water more frequently than once a week, that may be a sign that it wants a refresh.
  • Use a lightweight potting mix with extra perlite added.
  • A general-purpose, mild, liquid fertilizer can be applied during spring and summer months.
  • After mid-September, run the soil dryer than normal, but don’t let the soil constrict from the sides of the pot or let the leaves wither. You can continue to fertilize to encourage bloom. 
  • If your plant never blooms, it may need a brighter location. You can also try putting it in a room that is heated and dark during the evening hours. They will naturally initiate blooms with 12 hours of darkness. Most people don’t need to do anything special to achieve this given our naturally shorter days.  But, if you are having issues, give this a try.



Wrinkling of the leaves can be a sign of extremes in watering. When you water, make sure to allow water to drain away from the pot AND empty any type of tray so your plant is never standing in water.

Does your Christmas cactus drop its buds before flowering? Once you see buds, keep doing what you’ve been doing.  Don’t increase or decrease water, fertilizer, or light.  Place in a room without hot or cold drafts and make sure there aren’t wet/dry extremes or day/night temperature extremes.