Christmas Cactus – How to Get it to flower Each Year

Does your Christmas Cactus Flower each Year?

A Christmas cactus is the perfect festive plant to have in bloom this time of the year. If taken care of correctly, it will be the star of your indoor plants collection. They can be a little tricky to get to flower if the conditions aren’t just right, though.

How to get a Christmas Cactus to flower each year

I have neglected mine, replanted mine, dried them out and more but I still seem to be able to get mine to come back year after year but making sure that I follow these tips at the right time.

Here are some tips to remember to get your Christmas cactus blooming each year.

  • The Christmas cactus needs short days and cool night temperatures to bloom well.
  • High humidity, bright light and slightly moist soil are also essential.

I keep my Christmas cactus outside in my garden during the summer in a semi shady flower bed, right in its pot.  I don’t bring it in until the danger of frost is imminent.  This practice gives my plant the shorter days and cool nights it needs.  I’ve never had it fail to flower following this pattern.

The flowering season isn’t too long, but to keep your Christmas cactus blooms bright after the holiday, follow these steps.

Keep it in the dark.  These plants really do love darkness.  Don’t keep it in a room where lights are on well into the evening. It flowers best if it is dark for 12 or 13 hours each night.
Prune only lightly. Don’t prune the flat, arching stems (buds form on the tips), and don’t fertilize heavily, or you encourage only vegetative growth.

For next year’s blooms,  do as I described above.   Place it outdoors in a spot where it is protected from strong mid-day sun. Leave it there as late into fall as possible, bringing inside only when frost threatens.

When you bring the cactus indoors, place it in a bright window where temperatures drop to 55°F to 60°F at night.  If nights are a bit warmer (65°F or so), it will take longer for buds to develop.

Christmas cactus

Image credit Flower Shopping

If you follow these steps, you will have a Christmas cactus that is a delight each holiday season.  I divided my huge plant this past summer, and this year I have two large plants just full of blooms.

What is your favorite seasonal holiday gardening tip?  Let us know in the comments below.

  23 comments for “Christmas Cactus – How to Get it to flower Each Year

  1. Shirley
    08/30/2013 at 8:42 am

    My mother-in-law had a cactus (now her son has it) that is 75 yrs old. She fed it bloody water every one in a while and it always bloomed.

    • admin
      08/30/2013 at 12:09 pm

      HI Shirley. Had not heard of that! Thanks for sharing the tip.


      • Hillary
        11/19/2013 at 8:32 pm

        Hi ~ Can you please discuss how often to water? Mine was doing great for the first year, but seems to be dying now. Thank you!

        • Hillary
          11/19/2013 at 8:32 pm

          Never mind, just saw the post below! 🙂

          • admin
            11/19/2013 at 9:15 pm

            Hi Hillary. I’ll just add a little to my other comment. Right now mine is flowering and I water it when the soil is dry down about the the first knuckle when I put my finger in the soil. It needs more water when it is flowering. Once it is done, I water far less.


    • Denise
      12/18/2013 at 10:22 pm

      What is bloody water?

  2. 11/02/2013 at 11:44 pm

    Just how often should these plants be watered? I think I was overwatering mine this past spring, so I repotted it and barely watered it. We had someone house sitting for us and they only watered it a couple times in the 6 weeks we were gone. But it looked great when we came back. I brought it in just before frost and it has buds on it now but I’m afraid to start the watering routine again. I thought I’d lost it.

    • admin
      11/03/2013 at 12:06 am

      It depends a lot on the time of the year. When it is getting to the flowering time, cutting back on water does seem to help as well as giving it lower light for a while.

      In the summer I put mine outdoors and water only when it gets fairly dry.

      The leaves are somewhat succulent and store water so too much can bloat it.


      • 11/03/2013 at 8:18 am

        Thanks so much Carol. I haven’t watered it yet and so far, the buds are staying on the plant. But I need to arrange for it to have more darkness. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that I’ll see some blooms this year as in years past, once the buds appear, they just fall off the plant.

  3. Amy G
    12/12/2014 at 2:52 pm

    when the blooms are fading is it ok to pinch them off? Will that promote or detour more blooms?

    • admin
      12/12/2014 at 11:05 pm

      Hi Amy. Yes that is fine. If you leave them, they will drop off on their own, but pinching them off is fine. It will not encourage more blooms, since they take some time to set but will make the plant more attractive.


  4. alice
    01/04/2015 at 10:25 am

    I have had one of mine for years, I hang it out off one of my large shrubs funny though it gets quite a bit of sun all year and That old sucker blooms no matter what, I do nothing special to it just water, that’s all I do for all my house plants! I have bought 2 more Christmas cactus and both bloomed nicely, the larger one just bloomed out a few weeks ago and now is developing new buds! Hoping for another round of flowers.

    • admin
      01/04/2015 at 12:54 pm

      Hi Alice. I had one in Maine and it would not rebloom no matter what. Here is NC, I can’t kill the thing if I tried. I think the key is summer outside then the cold snap and shorter days and it makes it bloom like clockwork. It needs that temp and daylight change. Carol

  5. 12/09/2015 at 6:04 pm

    I’m in Texas. Hot summer days. Should I just leave it indoors. Grandmother used to put her in the closet for darkeness

    • Carol
      12/09/2015 at 11:41 pm

      I’m in NC. I keep mine outdoors in the summer time and bring it in when the temps start to drop and the days get shorter. I have used the closet trick when I lived in Australia with success.

  6. Lois
    01/22/2016 at 7:56 am

    Again what is bloody water?
    I now have my mother’s two cactus plants. She learned from a lady who had a very large cactus plant that if she feeds it
    castor oil is why her cactus plant was so large in size both plant and the blooms. This lady told my mother her cactus plant
    blooms for weeks on end.
    Also my mother’s plants are different color. One is pink in color and had 14 blooms this year. The red on only had 2 blooms this
    Mom has passed but I do not know how much castor oil to use and how often? Does any one have an answer to this.
    Also the red one is in a larger container and is not pot bound like the pink one. Is the pot to large for the red one that
    only had two blooms? Will also try all of the above suggestions in the future now.

    • Carol
      01/22/2016 at 9:51 am

      Hi Lois. This was a comment from a reader but my take on it is that it is water infused with menstrual blood. Carol

  7. 11/05/2016 at 5:15 pm

    I’m in hot all year round florida.I’m trying to keep the small plant in my bedroom all dark started in November hoping 4 Dec.blooms

    • Carol
      11/05/2016 at 5:49 pm

      Don’t give up. I lived in Australia for 15 years and mine always flowered if I did this. Here in NC, I get them to flower easily by putting them outside in the shade all summer long and bringing them in just before the frost. The cold does them a lot of good. Carol

  8. Anita
    11/06/2016 at 11:22 am

    Thanks 4 the reply, re: my cactus. it’s been in the Kitchen by windows w/western light,but 5:00 hits & it gets unbearable.I’m asking should I leave it in my dark bedroom for a month, now?ALL Day & night? Thanks again

    • Carol
      11/06/2016 at 4:12 pm

      They like 12 hours of darkness this time of the year to flower. It is supposed to mimic what happens when the days get shorter and colder. Carol

  9. Helen
    12/24/2016 at 9:58 pm

    My mothers Christmas cactus was huge and amazing blooms. She also swore by a dose of castor oil.

    • Carol
      12/24/2016 at 10:33 pm

      Hi Helen. That is interesting. I had not heard of doing that! Carol

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