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Help! Why Won’t My Christmas Cactus Bloom?

Ask The Expert:

“I have had this Christmas cactus for 15 years, it’s bloomed once. What am I doing wrong?” – Elizabeth

Christmas CactusFlower Shop Network Plant Expert Reply:


While you may think that temperature is a factor in blooming, daylight length is actually the key. Christmas cacti are triggered to bloom during short days. This can be achieved by placing the plant in a dark bedroom or by covering the plant for 15 or more hours a day. It may take up to a month to trigger the plant to produce bloom buds, but once the buds appear the plant can be returned to its usual viewing location. Remember to avoid extreme temperatures that would hinder bud release.

Click for more information on the Christmas Cactus.

Help! My Christmas Cactus Has Not Bloomed In 2 Years

Ask The Plant Expert:

My Christmas cactus has not bloomed the last 2 years. I love my cactus and have not had the problem before. I get new growth, but no blooms. -Loree

Flower Shop Network Plant Expert Reply:

Get Your Own Pink Christmas CactusLike poinsettias, daylight length is a major blooming factor for Christmas Cactus. Blooming is triggered by short days. If the cactus doesn’t receive the right short-day light exposure, the plant will not bloom.

To force your Christmas cactus to bloom place the plant in a dark bedroom, or cover for 15 hours a day. Do this for up to 30 days. Once the bloom buds appear the plant can be returned to its usual viewing location.

Be careful not to exposure the plant to extreme temperatures since this will cause pre-mature bud drop/loss.

Hope this information was helpful. Please let me know if I can help with anything else.

Help! Christmas Cactus Has Lost It’s Spirit

Ask the Plant Expert:

I have a limp Christmas cactus.  How large a container & what kind of soil mixture should I use?  This is a cutting that is special.  Also, there are bugs on the soil – not the plant – help, please!

I don’t have a photo, but the plant hasn’t bloomed since I planted the cuttings.  The cactus has been in the house and I wonder if I should put it outside since I live in Palm Desert, CA.


Get Your Own Pink Christmas Cactus

Flower Shop Network Plant Expert Reply: You do need to re-pot your Christmas cactus. I like to use a potting soil specifically blended for Christmas cactus (for example Fafard Cactus and Succulent potting mix). I would transplant it into a pot that is 1½ times larger than the existing pot.  If you have mealy bugs, try to remove all of them as your transplant the Christmas Cactus.

Christmas cactus can bloom up to two times a year inside. So moving it outside is not necessary. However, you may need to fertilize it or prune it.

Please read Flower Shop Network’s article, The Unique Beauty of Christmas Cactus, it has very valuable information about Christmas cactus.

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The Unique Beauty Of Christmas Cactus

Whenever I think of a Christmas cactus, I am reminded of the large one my Grandmother had while I was growing up. It sat on a shelf in a back bedroom and had long green arms of the unique-shaped leaves that spilled out everywhere around it. Only a few times can I remember seeing the beautiful white tubular flowers blooming on it. I always enjoyed seeing the plant when I visited and wished to have one of my own.

Red Christmas Cactus

Red Christmas Cactus

During a visit while I was in college, I took a few clippings with me to try and start one of my own. The leaves did not survive the plane trip from Nevada to Arkansas, and I was disappointed to hear that the plant had died a few years later. I have since enjoyed the wide array of Christmas cacti bloom colors now available. In fact, I look forward to purchasing one this year to enjoy with my family.

With the holidays right around the corner, you may be thinking about your own Christmas cactus. Will it bloom soon? Perhaps you will look for another one this year, or maybe you will send one as a gift for a loved one to enjoy. The plants can be found in a wide variety of bloom colors, including white and shades of pink, red, purple and orange. If you do not have a Christmas cactus, this is the time of year they can be found in your local florist shop. With a little care, the Christmas cactus can become an heirloom, living long and providing beautiful blooms up to twice a year. It can truly be a gift that keeps on giving.

Christmas Cactus Facts

Christmas cacti (Schlumbergera x buckleyi) are native to Brazilian rain forests and have been cultivated for commercial purposes for many years. In nature, the cacti are commonly found growing in decaying plant matter in tree branch crevices: here temperatures remain moderate and water runs off easily, keeping the plants moist but not damp. Because of these characteristics, the cacti make great houseplants.

The cacti require little care and can live and thrive for many years. The soil should be kept moist, but not wet to touch and should not be allowed to dry out completely. Temperatures should be kept moderate, and the plants should not be placed near a heat or air source, or too near a window that gets direct sunlight. A little houseplant fertilizer can be given before or after the cacti have completed their blooming cycle. With the right conditions, your cactus should bloom twice a year, but can be encouraged to bloom several times during the year. Extremes in moisture, temperature and feeding during blooming time can interfere with the length of blooming and the ability of the cactus to maintain buds and blooms.

Christmas cacti belong to a group of Holiday cacti (Schlumbergera) that include Thanksgiving cactus (Schlumbergera truncata) and Easter cactus (Schlumbergera bridgesii). There are a few differences between the three cacti, including leaf-stem shape, flower style and structure. The most distinguishing difference is the time period in which the flowers bloom. Thus, the Christmas cactus typically blooms late November to early January. While the differences between Thanksgiving and Christmas cacti can be minor, you may want to check with your florist to see which one to choose, if you want a cactus that blooms repeatedly during one holiday or the other.

Schlumbergera blooming in stores during October and November are probably Thanksgiving cacti. Although Christmas cacti can be found in early November, they have likely been grown under special conditions and may not bloom during the same time period next year.

Caring For A Christmas Cactus: Propagation and Re-blooming

Pink Christmas Cactus

Pink Christmas Cactus

If you’ve had a Christmas cactus for many years and the stems could use a little trim, you may consider propagation. After the cactus completes its blooming cycle, let it recover for a month. Then, cuttings of at least two leaf segments can be made from the tips of the stems. A fourth to half of the cutting is then placed in pot with potting soil. Be sure to place three or more cuttings per pot to ensure a full healthy plant. In a few months you will have another Christmas cactus to enjoy.

A Christmas cactus can also be forced to re-bloom. While you may think that temperature is a factor in blooming, daylight length is actually the key. Christmas cacti are triggered to bloom during short days. This can be achieved by placing the plant in a dark bedroom or by covering the plant for 15 or more hours a day. It may take up to a month to trigger the plant to produce bloom buds, but once the buds appear the plant can be returned to its usual viewing location. Remember to avoid extreme temperatures that would trigger bud release.

Regardless of whether you will purchase your first Christmas cactus this year or have an old one, this is perfect time to take pleasure in the plant’s distinctive green leafy stems. Celebrate the exquisite blooms as they appear, knowing you have a spectacular houseplant that can be shared, gifted and enjoyed by all.

Christmas Cactus, Paperwhite Narcissus and Other Holiday Plants

It’s that time of year when the weather outside turns frightful — or at least a bit chilly — and, in northern climates anyway, there’s nothing blooming outside. So it’s natural to crave a little holiday cheer indoors in the form of live blooming plants. Your local flower shop can fix you up with several choices, from the ubiquitous poinsettia to an exotic bromeliad (click HERE for poinsettia care tips in a previous newsletter). Two long-time favorites that are available right now are the old-fashioned Christmas cactus and the deliriously fragrant paperwhite narcissus. We’ll talk about the Christmas cactus first.

The Christmas Cactus

Christmas CactusThe plants most commonly known as Christmas cactus are members of either of two species: Schlumbergera or Zygocactus. The many cultivars of Schlumbergera bridgesii are the most commonly available, with flower colors ranging from red to white with every shade of peach, pink, fuchsia, and even yellow in between. The Christmas cactus is an epiphytic (tree- dwelling) succulent plant, native to the warm, humid rainforests of Central and South America, and while it is botanically a true cactus, it should not be treated like those fat, spiny cacti found in the deserts of the southwestern United States.

Christmas Cactus Care

Christmas cactus care is fairly easy. It does well if given plenty of light (but no direct, burning sun) and regular watering during the growing season of spring and summer. A little extra humidity is appreciated too, which can be accomplished by misting the plant frequently with water. Keep the plant warm. Soil should be well-drained, and the pot ought to be a little snug.

Forcing A Christmas Cactus To Bloom

In the fall, gradually reduce the amount and frequency of watering and begin to prepare the plant for dormancy. This is how to get a Christmas cactus to bloom. Being a so-called “short day” plant (just like the poinsettia), a Christmas cactus requires as least 12 hours of completely uninterrupted darkness every night for about three weeks beginning October 1st. This long period of darkness each night induces the plant to set flower buds, and even the light from an overhead fixture or a street lamp outside the window can disrupt the cycle. During dormancy, maintain the soil on the dry side, but never completely dried out so that the plant shrivels. Cool nighttime temperatures are preferred for buds to set — around 60° F. Beware, however, that buds and flowers may drop if the plant is too cold, too wet, or in a draft.

After flowering, the Christmas cactus will need a rest. Continue to water infrequently and provide cooler night temperatures. In spring, resume normal watering, keep the plant warm and humid, and fertilize every two weeks or so throughout the growing season with a balanced house plant food. Given proper care, a happy Christmas cactus can live for decades.

Paperwhite Daffodils For Christmas

There are no flower bulbs better for forcing than the paperwhite narcissus (daffodils), and they’re usually available right about now. You can either buy the pre-cooled, loose narcissus bulbs by themselves, or ask your florist for some paperwhites that have already been potted up and are beginning to sprout. In either case, the bulbs have already been subjected to an imposed dormant period, making forcing easier. Besides paperwhites, loose narcissus bulbs are also available in a yellow variety called ‘Soleil d’Or’. Select large, firm bulbs. You can plant them closely together in a pot, burying the bulbs just up to the neck in a well-drained soil mixture. Keep the soil evenly moist. Or place them in a shallow dish which is filled with gravel to support the bulbs. Keep the dish full of water. Start them off in a dark, cool spot until they begin to sprout.

Growing Paperwhites

As the narcissus bulbs start to grow, place them in a very bright, sunny window. The maximum amount of light will help keep the growing foliage and flower scapes from stretching and becoming weak and leggy. If the stems do get too weak, support them with slender green plant stakes. Keep the bulbs cooler at night to promote stocky growth.

Paperwhite Blooming Indoors

Forcing paperwhites indoors generally produces flowers in 3 or 4 weeks. Make successive plantings to enjoy a longer blooming period. Bulbs that have been forced usually won’t bloom again, so it’s best to discard them after they’ve flowered.

With a little advance planning — or some help from your local florist — it’s possible to have flowers blooming indoors all winter long. What a lovely way to brighten the season! And of course, a gift of flowers is always appreciated. All of us at Flower Shop Network wish you and yours a very happy and peaceful holiday.