Holiday Cactus Care

By Andrea Laine

Light and temperature:  This plant does not like direct sun and prefers exposure to medium light throughout the year.  My four currently thrive in front of a large north-facing window and a home thermostat that averages 65°F.    

Holiday cacti need long nights to form flower buds.  Be wary of the length of artificial light exposure during late summer and early autumn.  Two recommended options: 1) Set it outdoors in a SHADY spot during the summer.  When many buds have formed, bring it back indoors, or 2) Set it in a less used, cooler room of the house during the summer.  I’ve had good luck with a laundry room (so long as there is a window to let in natural light) or, a guest bedroom.  When flowers begin to bloom move the plant into a higher traffic room so you can enjoy it.

Pinching back the stems in early June will promote branching and places for more buds to form.

Thanksgiving Cactus
Thanksgiving Cactus

Water and fertilization: Water once weekly to keep the soil evenly moist. When flowering is over, reduce amount of water without ever letting the mixture dry out, and resume as before when the stem begins to grow new segments.  Never let water stand in the saucer beneath the pot.

Fertilize plants monthly from the time new growth starts in late winter or early spring, and throughout the summer using a one-half strength soluble fertilizer.  Stop fertilization during the late summer for greater flower bud production in the fall.

Potting:  The holiday cacti flower best when kept somewhat pot bound. Repotting is necessary only about once every three years and is best done in the spring.

Propagation:  In spring or summer take cuttings of 2-3 joints or more. Pinch them off at the joint and place them in a clear glass of water. Once there are a few roots equal to an inch or so (happens within a few weeks), place in potting soil and you have another plant for your home or to gift to the hostess of the next holiday party.

This Christmas cactus is more than 50 years old.
This Christmas cactus is more than 50 years old.

References and Resources

See the first part of Andrea’s spotlight on holiday cacti here: