What To Do With Your Holiday Cactus: A Guide to Year-Round Care

Christmas Cactus (Schlumbergera bridgesii)

The holiday season brings a plethora of delightful traditions, and for many, the holiday cactus has become a festive staple. Known for their vibrant blooms during Christmas or Thanksgiving, these cacti are more than just seasonal decor. In this post, we’ll explore how to care for your holiday cactus throughout the year, ensuring that its colorful display remains a highlight each holiday season.

Understanding Your Holiday Cactus

Holiday cacti, often classified into Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter varieties, are native to Brazilian rainforests, not deserts. This origin story is crucial to understanding their care needs. These plants thrive in a more humid, jungle-like environment, unlike their desert-dwelling cousins.

Christmas Cactus (Schlumbergera bridgesii)

Key Varieties

  1. Thanksgiving Cactus (Schlumbergera truncata): Characterized by pointed “teeth” on the leaf margins.
  2. Christmas Cactus (Schlumbergera bridgesii): Features more rounded leaves.
  3. Easter Cactus (Hatiora gaertneri): Notable for its star-shaped flowers.
Easter Cactus (Hatiora gaertneri)

Year-Round Care Tips

After Blooming (January – February)

Post-bloom care is vital. This is the time to prune your cactus. Gently twist off a few sections of each stem to encourage bushier growth. This is also an ideal period for repotting, if necessary. Use a potting mix designed for succulents or create your own (a mix of regular potting soil, perlite, and peat moss works well).


Spring (March – May)

As the weather warms, begin to increase water and introduce a balanced, water-soluble fertilizer every other week. If temperatures consistently stay above 50°F (10°C), you can move your cactus outdoors. Place it in a spot with indirect sunlight to avoid sunburn.


Summer (June – August)

Your holiday cactus will enjoy the warm summer months. Continue regular watering and fertilizing. This is a growth period, so don’t be alarmed if your cactus seems to stretch out.


Fall (September – November)

This is a crucial period for setting buds. Start by reducing water and stop fertilizing. To encourage blooming, your cactus needs 12-14 hours of darkness and cooler temperatures (around 55-65°F or 13-18°C) at night. This mimics their natural environment and triggers blooming.


Winter (December)

It’s showtime! Your holiday cactus will be in full bloom. Water sparingly – only when the top inch of soil feels dry. Keep the plant in a well-lit area but away from direct sunlight and drafts.

Troubleshooting Common Problems

  • Dropping Buds: Often caused by a sudden change in temperature or light. Try to keep conditions stable.

  • Wilting Leaves: Usually a sign of overwatering or underwatering. Adjust your watering schedule accordingly.

  • Lack of Blooms: This could be due to insufficient darkness or temperature not being cool enough during the fall.

Your holiday cactus, with a little love and care, can be a dazzling addition to your home, not just during the holidays but all year round. By understanding its needs and responding to its growth cycle, you can enjoy its stunning blooms for many seasons to come. Remember, patience and consistency are key to keeping your holiday cactus happy and healthy. Happy gardening!