The ground is covered with snow and winter is (unofficially) here. But wait! A glimmer of hope and sunshine will surely appear amongst your houseplants. It’s almost 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.
If you prefer watching rather than reading, check out the video below:
FIVE REASONS YOUR CHRISTMAS CACTUS ISN’T BLOOMING
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 overwatering 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 needs a period of almost drought to signal it to bloom 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 regularly. After the blooms are done, you can ease back on watering again.
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 and select a pot that is only slightly bigger than your current pot. Finally, ensure you use good-quality potting soil 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.
Related: How to Propagate a Christmas Cactus
4. It’s Getting Too Much Light
Starting in October, the plant needs at least 12 hours of darkness to bloom. This might not be a problem if you live in a more northern latitude, but it may be 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! When I first edited this blog post, it was October 19th in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada, and there were approximately 10 1/2 hours of sunlight daily. (I checked on a sunrise-to-sunset calculator.)
Your particular variety might bloom a little sooner or a little later. Just be patient!
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, a Christmas cactus, and an Easter cactus. If you’ve tried everything in this post and still have no blooms, you might have a different cactus than you originally thought.
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 pictured) had blooms shortly after I bought it the first year (2018), then four seemingly random blooms around Easter in April. In 2019, it had a main bloom around Canadian Thanksgiving in mid-October and a second full bloom in early December. I suspect that it will continue to bloom all the way until Easter again.
2020 update: If I hadn’t changed its location, it would have also had a spring bloom.
I don’t know if every variety of Christmas cactus will do this, but I take it as a sign that my houseplant likes its location. At the time of writing this post, it was sitting on a window sill that’s west-facing and is blocked by a house, so it didn’t get a ton of light. It’s near the back door of the house, so it gets the occasional draft. Finally, as a rule of thumb, we tend to keep our house on the cooler side. Never more than 20 degrees Celsius.
In the past, I’ve also kept it on 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. 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.
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