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28.10.07

How To Make Your Christmas Cactus Bloom

Christmas Cactus Blooms, How To Get your Christmas Cactus To BloomIt is the time of year when store shelves are stocked with Christmas cactus plants so people can decorate their homes with them during the holidays. About the same time that they start appearing on store shelves questions on how to make your Christmas cactus bloom start appearing on gardening forums and in the Home & Garden section of newspapers. I've already seen a few Christmas cactus owners posing questions on gardening forums I frequent. What amazes me is the lengths people go through to get a Christmas cactus to bloom.



Good horticulture or hortitorture?*

The most common advice I come across regarding getting a Christmas cactus to bloom involves placing them in a closet from 6pm-6am for a period of 6-8 weeks. I'm not making this up. I did a search using Google For Gardeners- to see what the .edu websites would recommend. The advice to place it in a closet from 6pm-6am came from the "Christmas Cactus FAQ" on the Purdue Extension website. On a gardening forum I participate at a member posted that she kept empty boxes around so she could cover the plants for the same period to simulate putting them in a closet. These practices make sense because what people are doing is faking longer nights to trigger a Christmas cactus to bloom in time for the holidays. While these methods work they seem more like torture than good plant husbandry-these are plants not enemy combatants or a red-headed stepchild.

The picture of the Christmas cactus above was taken by me today on my back porch. Notice the flower buds forming on the Christmas cacti? Guess which method I used to get my plants to start forming flower buds.

Did I:

A) Place it in a closet next to Sen. Larry Craig?
B) Cover it with a box like a Guantanamo detainee?
C) None of the above.

If you choose "C) None of the above" then you answered correctly. Two weeks ago my white Christmas cactus started forming buds and the others have started to follow. I didn't need to bring them into a closet or cover them with a box because I let nature do the work. As the nights have gotten longer and the local temperatures have dipped into the 50s the plants have reacted by forming flower buds. My Christmas cacti will stay outdoors until we get our first frost in Chicago or all the buds have formed, whichever comes first.

The box and closet trick work but there's nothing easier than just leaving your plant alone and letting nature do the work for you. After you've gotten your plant to form buds or you've brought it home from the store consider where you place it very carefully. If the location your Christmas cactus is placed in is too warm or too dark the flower buds will shrivel and die. Keep your Christmas cactus moist in a bright and cool location away from heating vents, fireplaces and drafts. If you are a Cacti & Succulent enthusiasts or have a keen eye you may already know that my Christmas cacti are frauds if not stay tuned...

* Yes, I know hortitorture is not a real word. I'm just being funny.

65 comments:

  1. This is one plant I've never had any luck with, so I haven't bothered with them for years. I used to put the dropped leaves in a bottle of water and they quickly rooted, and then I would throw them out. What a waste. Your specimen is looking good.
    Aiyana

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. this is really a fairly easy plant to cultivate. i have the original still (15 years old) and made dozens of new ones from it. that bottle trick, it will do nothing but rot out what you put in it.

      Delete
    2. had this plant for 5 years
      i put mine in the outside toilet in the summer and then when the weather cools down i put outside,
      last week i noticed buds growing, then i brought it inside will look lovely for christmas,i always get loads of flowers on mine
      when taken a cutting i take it when it has just started growing next year i take the top two part wet the soil lay on top and put soil on the join when watering just drip water on it dont over water it i have two lovely new plants this year

      Delete
  2. Aiyana,

    To be honest I don't even like them that much. But I can't resist buying them after Christmas when they go on sale for under a dollar. It is crazy how cheaply you can buy one of these plants.

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  3. Though I don't own a Christmas cactus, my friend does...so will pass this info on to her. Nice photo!

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  4. Mine lives in the bathroom and seems to like it. It's going to bloom very soon though :(

    ReplyDelete
  5. Mine bloom without any effort from me, also...except for one. I will try the closet trick on it and see what happens.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Connie,

    Good luck with your friend's CC.

    CG,

    If it is happy where it is then don't do anything to it. We hurt plants with kindness more often than do them good.

    Lisa,
    Good luck with the stubborn one.

    ReplyDelete
  7. I just discovered your blogs and am happy that you are willing to share so much information and advice!

    My "Christmas Cacti" (guess they're Thanksgiving ones) were both outdoors on our pretty shady, somewhat sunny front porch. They stayed there until about 2 weeks ago... it began to cool off, so I brought them indoors. They're both ready to bloom!!!

    I just learned from you that temperatures have a lot to do with their readying to bloom. And, yes, they're different colors. Bright pink and light pink/white.

    I'm also going to share your techniques for propagation of sansevieria with my mom. Her large potful of Mother-in-Law tongue has grown quite tall and bloomed (for the first time) many times this past summer!

    ReplyDelete
  8. Shady
    Welcome to my blog and I hope you can find use from it from time to time. The stuff here is just information I've learned that I'm passing on or maybe keeping a record of I should say on the net.

    Thanks for visiting.

    ReplyDelete
  9. I believe fertilizer also plays a part in how many blooms will surface. My mother's thanksgiving cacti had fewer and fewer blooms every year. This year, I used the 'fast growing cactus' fertilizer on the thanksgiving cacti and suddenly they have lots of buds this year. I'm really impressed! I'll definitely be using it every year on these plants.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Where do yo but the fast growing cactus fertilizer or is it a general purpose fertilzer? I also replanter 3 ball castus(i dont know the pootru ;'''''''''''''' I locater in eastern Oklahoma. The put of a pretty bloon this sumer. I anm concerened about the roots freezing this winter in pots instead of their native ground (i did incorapet the navive soil in the pots(with potting soil) I'm growing them in. Would you reccomend taking them into a cooler location for the winter? the temp. I got them very seldom go below 0 degree for a short time. The lagest one (or seems to be the mother plant) is about the size of a tennis ball,the other 2 that produced on the sides of the mother are now about the size of ping pong balls.(like chick and hens) They are really eazy to handle as the spines are reaally close together. I just hate to see them die because of my taking them from there navive soil. Can some one help me on this and the fertilizer needed?

      Delete
  10. Hi- just discovered an am loving your site! Thanks for hosting.

    I'm doing well with bloming, now that i live where I can kisck them out for the summer, but I still have one problem.

    Periodically, they insist on dropping branches. They seem fine and then just drop large healthy looking limbs. My plant is slowly getting sparcer instead of larger. Any ideas?

    Thanks!

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    Replies
    1. Anonymous11:28 AM

      I've read a lot on this subject lately, on several sites, because I have one that has never bloomed, so this year I thought I'd better try to find out why. Consequently, I put the cactus in a spare bedroom next to an uncurtained northwest facing window a month ago. The room gets down to 45-50F in the eve and maybe 60 during the day because it is an unheated room. And lo and behold, a saw several small buds on the leaf tips this morning! om my.. So my question is.. how long do I keep it in these cooler conditions? How large should the buds be before I bring it into the living room? Also I am concerned because my living room is small, and heated by a wood stove so the temp in here can be over 70'F+ with the front door wide open for some much needed air circulation and cooling.(Weird, I know!! Oh, and I live in PNW Wa State) So..Will this drastic change in temperature cause my flower buds to fall off? This would be devastating since I have been waiting for over 5 years for this thing to bloom! I know I could probably move the plant to the other bedroom but the window is small and high so it doesn't get a huge amount of light and theres not a lot of wriggle room in there to set up a growing station. Please help..!!

      Delete
  11. Hi Sue,

    Thanks for stopping by. You posed an interesting question that I figured deserved an explanation in a post.

    Christmas Cactus Losing Branches

    Follow that link to see the post I created for your questions.

    ReplyDelete
  12. My Christmas cactus has a bunch of buds, which is pretty good since a month ago I thought it was dead. I've done absolutely nothing to it. I'll be sure to show you mine (when it blooms) if you me yours!

    ReplyDelete
  13. Hi Wicked,

    I'd love to see you plant when it blooms. If you click my labels you can see all but one of my pics that I'm waiting for.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Hi... Is outdoors a good place to keep the cactus. How much watering do they need and is it ok to leave them under partial sun during summer.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Also wanted to know... I have gnats on my christmas cactus and african violets. I have not been able to locate a place that sells vermiculite or perlite here in India as suggested in almost every page i read about AVs. However, I was wondering if I can spray neem oil on these plants to avoid d gnats flying around the house. Btw, I have a 4 month old baby so I very worried to use any pesticide

    ReplyDelete
  16. Anonymous8:06 AM

    I have a Christmas cactus (2 actually) I bought for holiday season, they were lovely and bloomed, put them in an eastern facing window in January. Now they are blooming again! Forgot they were there, water rarely, and they're blooming! This is only late March - do they bloom more than once a year? Thanks!
    Noreene@mail.com

    ReplyDelete
  17. I received a cactus from a neighbor years ago and it continued to grow and is now very large. It is next to the window, so it gets light. I did notice that I need a new pot because the cactus is so big now; maybe it is about 4-5 feet tall and has stems that branch out in different directions. I noticed that one of stems of the cactus started turning brown a few months back and it seems to be spreading up the stem. It is also starting to feel a little mushy. I do not want it to spread anywhere else on the cactus. Is there anything I can do? Maybe cut off the dead stem? Did I water it to much? Any insight would be very helpful. Thank you!

    ReplyDelete
  18. JD,

    Sorry for the late reply (very late) but you can ust water when it is dry. I don't know about neem for AVs because I haven't tried it and especially around the baby, I couldn't say.

    Anonymous,

    They can bloom more than once if they like the conditions.

    Sunstream,

    Cut off the rotting part until you get to solid plant growth. Could be that you watered it too much or the plant is "sick" causing it to be prone to things like rot. If you've had it for years it may be time to repot it or at least make sure it isn't pot bound.

    ReplyDelete
  19. Anonymous6:07 PM

    Ienjoy reading about your cactus. I have one that is huge and I would like to separate it. How can I do that without injury to the plant. It's ready to bloom now so of course I would wait till after the blooms are gone.

    Carol

    ReplyDelete
  20. @ Carol,

    Hi. Sorry for the late reply. When your plant isn't in bloom you could take a large knife and just split it down the center like you would a watermelon. It may go into a bit of shock and drop some leaves or something but it should recover.

    ReplyDelete
  21. I have grown the Christmas Cactus in Dayton, Ohio I have used Miracle Grow spay on the plant once a week to get plenty of growth. You have to use the water soluble miracle grow powder and use as per the instructions given by the manufacturers.

    In fact I was able to multiply the plants several times more from the original plant.

    I love this plant

    krishnamurthi

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  22. That's a nice concept...to just let nature take its course. But lets remember where 'nature' is for these plants. You said yourself its in the tropics.

    Lets not forget that some of us are proud to call ourselves Canadians. We've already had our first frost a long time ago! If I put it out for the last part of our growing season here...well, I would have brought it in a long time ago, and it would be blooming now.

    As a horticulturalist, I can assure you that the cornerstone of ornamental horticulture is replicating nature under artificial conditions.

    So, for me, I like to treat my cactus well for 10-12 hours a day-grow lights in a cool room help a lot. Then, its the evil 'gitmo' box (or dark room you take your pick).

    Best of luck with your blooms!

    ReplyDelete
  23. Anonymous12:35 AM

    Hi there,

    I was just wondering what the lifespan of one of these plants is. My mom has one at her house that is around 70 years old! Is this normal?

    ReplyDelete
  24. Anonymous5:57 PM

    The reason I came here was because I have had a Xmas cactus for at least 7 years and it has NEVER bloomed. Help

    ReplyDelete
  25. Anonymous9:48 AM

    Hello,
    I inherited a 30 year old Christmas Cactus from a friend. It bloomed for the first two years, but there are no signs of blooms this year and there were none last year. I tried placing the plant in solitary confinement in the closet and now I think she is mad at me.She expresses her anger in a passive aggressive way... no blooms. What can I say, or do to help her to bloom again? Should I contact a Psycactologist?
    Thanks,
    Janine

    ReplyDelete
  26. Janie,

    Thanks for the laugh! Are you fertilizing it enough? If the cooler temps and shorter days aren't enough to make it bloom, it may need some fertilizing or maybe repotting. See if the soil is full of roots, that may be a reason for why it is acting up.

    ReplyDelete
  27. Anonymous1:49 PM

    I have a Christmas Cactus that I grew from a cutting. It is fairly large, but has never bloomed.
    Do these plants need a male and female to bloom?
    Perhaps it needs to be repotted?

    ReplyDelete
  28. Anonymous,

    No, they don't need a male or female plant to bloom. Where and how do you keep your Christmas cactus? One reason that could be keeping it from blooming could be that it hasn't gotten enough fertilizer or that the soil is lacking in nutrients if it has been in the same soil for a couple of years.

    ReplyDelete
  29. Anonymous9:52 AM

    I have a christmas cactus that I planted from a cutting, it's growing very well but it's been over 1 year now and it's never bloom. I gave my Mom a christmas cactus about 5 years ago, it was in full bloom when I gave it to her and it never bloomed after that. I would like to know what kind of fertilizer is good and is Miracle Grow good for a cactus. Does it need good light but no direct sunlight and then a dark or (dormant) period like I heard from other people? Also I live in Canada if that's any help.

    ReplyDelete
  30. Anonymous2:51 PM

    My mom always had a christmas cactus. Hers not only bloomed for Christmas but again at Easter as well. She would put it down in the basement in the dark cool place, covered it with a grocery sack and not water it for two months. Then when she brought it back upstairs it burst into bloom for the holidays. Also she never watered it from the top...she always had a pot with holes in the bottom and it sat in a saucer or pie plate where she put the water. The plant drew it up from the bottom. She also watered her african violets the same way. they would not get leaf rot this way.

    ReplyDelete
  31. I have had a Christmas cactus for at least 10 years and it has bloomed every year with no special treatment. It was always kept indoors, but this summer I had a screen room built on my house and the cactus spent the summer out there. It exploded with new growth and looks fantastic! the nights are now getting cold (late Sept/early Oct) here in Central IL, so I am going to do what you suggested and leave it out until frost and see if the buds do form. This cactus also gets a few buds around Easter but not nearly like it does at Xmas. I guess I lucked out with a regular bloomer! Thanks for your entertaining article!

    ReplyDelete
  32. carol Motte6:38 PM

    I have two Christmas Cactuses..during the summer I left them on back deck where they got natural light and fertilized them twice with miracle grow. watering only once every other week. now they are very healthy and full of small tight buds...I think they will be beautiful at Thanksgiving. I will bring them indoors as soon as the temps get in the high 30's. they don't need a lot of attention....break off any unhealthy branches ...keep away from heat vents indoors....they should be beautiful this year. Good luck carol motte

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Anonymous11:37 AM

      Wow! High 30's? I read today...bring indoors when temp dips into the 50's. This is what is so confusing because there is a lot of conflicting info on the web. So bring indoors before freezing right? So 34F is ok? Will the buds already be formed by then? Most people keep their houses much warmer. How warm is too warm? So confused..

      Delete
  33. Anonymous1:32 PM

    i have just aquiredone and wasn't sure it would bloom this year, but it looks good, and is getting buds. yeah!

    ReplyDelete
  34. Hi, had a good friend tell me once all you have to do is put them in an east window which is all I do and they bloom from Oct to April for me.

    ReplyDelete
  35. Anonymous9:21 AM

    I received a cacti for Christmas four years ago. It,(Carlos), since then, has been successfully re-potted and has bloomed every year. I did not move my plant to darkness. I, instead withheld water for 2 weeks. (I usually water once a week). Last year I felt sorry for him so I watered mid-way through the 2 weeks and he lost all the blooms.

    ReplyDelete
  36. Brenda6:15 AM

    I don't have a window that faces the east. Does it matter for it to bloom. Also my cacti is 3 yrs old bloomed the first yr after I got it and hasn't since, could it be that I repotted it in a pot that doesn't have holes in the bottom for drainage? Help, I miss the beautiful blooms and would love to see them by christmas.

    ReplyDelete
  37. Anonymous1:34 PM

    My Christmas cactus is over 30 years old. It was my husband's grandfather's. They were going to throw it away, so I took it. It was during the holiday season (about 10 years ago) when I got it, and full of blooms! Unfortunately, it hasn't bloomed since. We repotted it and gave it a "haircut" 2 years ago, but still nothing. It's far too big to put in a closet. Any other suggestions?

    ReplyDelete
  38. Anonymous1:52 PM

    The last time my Christmas Cactus bloomed was over 14 years ago . It's always been in a south facing window. It's a slow grower.

    This month, it decided to bloom - in abundance. Over the years I have changed the soil, fertilized it and watered when dry. Never has it bloomed.

    I hope this will be the start of an annual display.

    Now if only my Wisteria would get of its duff and bloom!

    ReplyDelete
  39. Anonymous7:09 AM

    Thank you for this info . I have mine in the closet but understand now what to do.

    ReplyDelete
  40. Corey9:08 AM

    I have one I am trying to get to bloom. I live in NY so I had it out on my enclosed porch, where is was really cool. When it gets to freezing temps, where should I put it in my house?

    ReplyDelete
  41. Anonymous10:20 PM

    I put my xmas catus in the closet I witheld water and still no blooms, It was in bloom when I bought it, but nothing since.

    ReplyDelete
  42. I was excited that my thanksgiving cactus (as you just taught me) actually had one bloom open up a couple weeks ago. http://www.pbase.com/laryl/image/141008544

    Today I notice there are serveral buds, I think they are buds but.. I also noticed two new leaf sections that instead of being flat, are triangle shape, like a star, with three edges instead of flat/two. Have I pruned it back too much and it's going weird on me?

    ReplyDelete
  43. Someone at my school (I'm in a very large high school) threw a Thanksgiving Cactus in the trash. It was not in bloom when I found it there, but I took it out of the trash, brought it home, repotted it, and put it on a windowsill in my dining room. It has been living there for 3 years now and blooms around Thanksgiving time ON ITS OWN, with no help from me other than to water it every 2 weeks. I love this plant, and wish I had more of them.

    ReplyDelete
  44. Anonymous1:29 PM

    My bestfriend brought me a Christmas Cactus after I had my daughter a little over a year ago. I'm not really good with house plants and only have about 4 that have survived over the years. I have to say that my Christmas Cactus is one of the easiest plants I have ever cared for. All I did was repot it sit it on my kitchen counter and water it once a week sometimes every 2 weeks, I also turn it when I water it. Everyone that has posted so far keeps saying theirs blooms once a year, mine blooms every couple months. Is that weird?

    ReplyDelete
  45. jackieblue3:15 PM

    I have a catus that I thought was a Thanksgiving or Christmas one but, this thing blooms all through the year my aunt had 2 pots of the stuff and it was terribly dry and in the middle of the summer. She gave me one pot and it never quit blooming even through the winter. What kind of catus might this be? I live in Georgia (deep south. Hope you can help

    ReplyDelete
  46. Anonymous2:18 PM

    I have just a few too many of these...according to my husband !
    I have plants that originally came (as far as we know) from his
    grandmother...given to his mother...about 1940. I got the slip
    from his mother about 1990...and now I have started 3 for each of my three daughter-in-laws...and they are about 14"high...so I guess I
    know how to grow them...but many have no blooms!

    The ones that do bloom...bloom three times each year and I am
    fine with that, doesn't have to be Christmas.

    But I want more blooms...

    Is it blooming fertilizer...
    Is it not being outdoors...
    Perhaps they just don't like me...

    what do you think?

    ReplyDelete
  47. Anonymous5:20 PM

    It is April 14th and my Christmas Cactus is full of blooms. I live in Trail BC so Summer is coming. Is this odd for it to bloom now?

    ReplyDelete
  48. Anonymous4:57 PM

    I have numerous Christmas Cacti...several different species/colors. I have no problem getting any of them to bloom twice a year. They spend the coldest months of the year in a basement plant room under artificial light (late October thru March). In April, I open my West facing shady screened in porch and move them out there, where they love it! I have found the secret to setting buds is at least two weeks of night-time temps of 55 degrees F. or below. It is now the middle of May, and they're all budded and blooming again. I repot as needed, fertilize a couple of times a year and water only when dry. Every couple of years, I give them a "haircut" and start new plants from the sections I break off. I've already potted up 22 new plants (5 branch sections each pot) from two mother plants. I'll go through the remainder of the mother plants after they finish blooming. I estimate I'll end up with 80 new pots this summer.

    ReplyDelete
  49. Thank you for the info .... my Cactus just doesn't seem to like Fort Worth, Tx ... But I well move it from the sunny window and find a cooler spot ... let's just see what we can do!!!

    ReplyDelete
  50. Anonymous10:26 AM

    I brought a Christmas cactus from Florida home 2 months ago. My dad had it growing outside. I live in Missouri and I keep it inside and water it a little once a week. I keep it in front of a bay window with other plants. It is starting to turn pink. I am leaving it alone. I read if it is doing fine, don't bother it. I have a smaller one that is not doing well, and wasn't when I got it. I will try to put that in the closet and see if it helps. Good Luck!!!!

    ReplyDelete
  51. I have 3 christmas cacti and have been keeping them inside. I hear you saying to keep them moist but I have also heard to keep them dry and then only water them when they are completely dry and then soak them, then dry them out again. So on and so forth. If I want them to bloom for christmas what can I do now to help them to bloom. We are already having cold weather here with frosts at night. We have been having some mild days so I am going to put them outside for the day time and then bring them inside at night. What do you suggest?

    ReplyDelete
  52. I have 3 christmas cacti and have been keeping them inside. I hear you saying to keep them moist but I have also heard to keep them dry and then only water them when they are completely dry and then soak them, then dry them out again. So on and so forth. If I want them to bloom for christmas what can I do now to help them to bloom. We are already having cold weather here with frosts at night. We have been having some mild days so I am going to put them outside for the day time and then bring them inside at night. What do you suggest?

    ReplyDelete
  53. Anonymous9:56 AM

    Since I live in Canada, it's impossible for me to leave my plant outside past the end of September. It will die for sure if I do. Frost is too uncertain up here once October comes. My house has old windows though so it's pretty cool in most rooms. I simply put my cactus in a room that we hardly use so that it doesn't get a lot of light during the night and then I leave it to do its thing. I can usually get mine to bloom simply by doing that. :)

    ReplyDelete
  54. Anonymous11:10 AM

    Mr. Brownthumb, I don't believe the picture you have at the top of your blog is a christmas cactus, It is a Thanksgiving cactus. I have one of each sitting side by side in a room, and the Thanksgiving cactus blooms most of the time, where the Christmas cactus has never bloomed. I know they are closely related, but must need different things to make them bloom. I think people should be aware of the difference especially when buying on if they are wanting it to bloom. Thanks Peg

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Peg,

      You are correct. The Christmas Cactus and Thanksgiving Cactus thing is addressed in another post on the holiday cactus here. Most growers only sell the Thanksgiving Cactus and pass it off as both Christmas and Thanksgiving Cactus.

      Delete
  55. I have a huge Christmas cactus. It pleases me with only one bud and bloom each year February time. Why only one bud ? The flower is magnificent in bloom and if the whole plant budded and bloomed it would be a spectacular sight ? Can't face covering it up 12hrs a day .. That does seem harsh ! Help ......

    ReplyDelete
  56. Anonymous3:53 PM

    Living in Florida, my Christmas cactus loves the weather. However, the plant has gotten so large I feel it needs repotting. Is now (August) the time to do this?

    ReplyDelete
  57. Anonymous11:55 AM

    does the Christmas cactus come in white. I have never seen any, I have red and in the past I had [each colour

    ReplyDelete
  58. Anonymous11:27 PM

    the best blooming christmas cactus i ever had was one given to me in an almost dead state.....it had not been watered for who knows how long....i watered it and put it in my heated (50-60 F) greenhouse and it formed hundreds of buds and bloomed almost solid red.




    f

    ReplyDelete
  59. My Cactus blooms and flowers from Dec. to march with red and white flowers all over it. I leave my cactus alone in my window. I only water it when it needs it. I love it.

    ReplyDelete

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