How to get a christmas cactus flowering
These beautiful Christmas cactus (Schlumbergera) are known for their outstanding flowers that are usually red, purple, white or pink. These flowers emerge from masses of buds around Christmas as the name suggests.
These very popular house cactus actually prefer a more moist humid environment, unlike most others types of cacti. They are generally easy to grow but are known sometimes for being difficult to bloom and produce masses of flowers during the festive season.
However, this does not need to be the case and the lack of flowers is usually caused by improper care. Typical examples of this is firstly, a lack of water at the correct time of year, secondly insufficient light conditions (they actually need at least 12 hours of complete darkness to promote buds and flowers) and finally, incorrect temperature as this also plays and important part in the bud formation on the plant.
How to get your Christmas Cactus Flowering
If you follow these simple steps you should be able to enjoy masses of flowers.
- The first step is to reduce watering around late summer to early Autumn, probably around October is ideal. This is when the plant is resting and becomes dormant so you will need to keep the soil more on the drier side. Only water when the top inch of soil is dry, the idea here is to keep the soil dry but not completely dry.
- At this important time of dormancy, it is essential that the Christmas Cactus gets at least 12 hours of darkness, if not slightly more to encourage bud development. They also need to be placed in a slightly cooler room aiming to give it a temperature of around 12-15°C (55-59°F). They also need to be placed in a bright location, but not in direct sunlight. This can be achieved by filtering the light with a netted curtain or placing the plant slightly to one side of a window. To sum it up, to encourage blooming you need to pick a room that is between 12-15°C (55-59°F) and only water once the soil becomes dry and make sure the plant gets at least 12 hours of light. This step is probably one of the most important steps in forcing a Christmas cactus to bloom.
- You need to keep the plants in these cool conditions for around 6-8 weeks after which time they should start to produce buds. Once they have produced buds it is time to move it to it’s new location where it will produce the fantastic blooms.
Now that the plant has produced buds the hard part is over, with a little care and the correct growing conditions they will produce masses of blooms.
4. Move the plants to a warmer room, ideally around 18-20°C (65-69°F), again in a bright position, but not in direct sunlight as this can damage plants. Increase watering, keeping the soil moist, but not wet as this can damage the roots and cause the buds to fall. Keep away from any drafty areas.
If you follow these steps you should be rewarded with a stunning flowering cactus.
After care once they have finished flowering
Once they have finished flowering you can prune the ends if needed and remove any weak stems. Place the plant back into the cooler room and reduce watering again only watering when the top inch of soil is dry.
Around the end of May when the risk of frost has passed they can be placed outdoors in a shady spot out of direct sunlight. This will encourage new growth to mature which will also help produce more buds. Around the end of September, early October, the buds may have already started to form. Bring indoors again to a cool room (as described at the start of our article) and reduce watering as recommended above.
Christmas Cactus do prefer to have tight roots which does encourage more flowers, once they are root bound, they can be potted on, usually after flowering or early spring. Pot on every 3-4 years when needed with a cactus compost. Ensure your new pot is only a couple of inches larger than the original pot.