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Farmers Almanac
The 2014 Farmers Almanac
Farmers' Almanac

Keeping Poinsettias and Christmas Cacti

Keeping Poinsettias and Christmas Cacti

With a little information and care, you can keep your festive Poinsettia and Christmas Cactus blooming year after year. Here are some tips to help:

Poinsettias:
For the rest of the winter, keep your poinsettia in a warm, well-lit room away from drafts, and water it regularly. The soil should be kept moist, but never wet. Water it just until the water begins to drain out, and don’t allow the pot to sit in the water.

Once the nighttime temperatures reach 55° F, transplant your poinsettia into a larger pot with a loose, fast-draining soil, and set it outside in indirect sunlight. Fertilize about once every two weeks.

Once the weather becomes consistently warm, in about mid-April, or May, Cut the poinsettia back to about six inches. Continue to prune it throughout the summer to prevent it from becoming sparse and spindly, but do not prune it once September begins.

Move the plant indoors before the first frost, and keep it in a dark closet each night for at least 14 hours. Take it out in the morning and leave it in indirect sunlight for up to 10 hours. These long, dark nights will promote blossom growth, giving you a festive plant in time for next Christmas.

Christmas Cacti:
Place your Christmas cactus in a warm, well-lit room away from drafts and direct sunlight, which can burn the leaves. Remember that Christmas cacti are not true cacti, and do need regular watering. Be careful not to oversaturate it, though. When the soil becomes dry, it’s time to water again. Because it is a tropical plant, your Christmas cactus will enjoy humidity. If the air is dry where you live, keep a plate or bowl of water nearby. The evaporating water will add moisture to the air.

In the summertime, you can place the plant outdoors in a shady location and feed it a basic houseplant fertilizer about once a month. Move it back indoors before the first frost. To encourage the plant to bloom in time for Christmas, keep it in a closet or other dark location for 12 hours each night. A cool room, such as a basement, is ideal, because temperatures of about 50-60° F promotes flower growth.

39 comments

1 Joyce Martin { 12.09.14 at 12:46 pm }

I have 3 Christmas cactus plants. Two are part of my great aunts and she died in 1971. The other one my sister bought my mom a long time ago. 2 bloom at Christmas only and the other one blooms every holiday throughout the year. Half the time I forget to water them and they are in the west window year round.

2 Judy { 12.05.14 at 11:20 pm }

i have my grandfathers cacti that he brought from England, I never knew him, but the cacti is close to 150 years if not over that. This fall a large branch fell off, it just got to heavy and big. I now have 12 + new plants started I hope to give to family members. I do put it out side every summer and it starts blooming shortly after I bring it in and blossoms until spring. I keep it in an east/south corner window in our living room

3 Patricia Waddell { 12.05.14 at 10:21 pm }

I’ve had mine for 4 yrs. it sits in a west facing window and i water it every couple of weeks and it blooms every year starting before thanksgiving until after the new year

4 Susan Higgins { 12.05.14 at 11:16 am }

Hi Rebekah: A lightweight, well-drained potting mixture is important, so look for a commercial mix for bromeliads or succulents. You can also use a mixture of 2/3 regular potting soil and 1/3 sand. But don’t repot too often, as these plants don’t like a lot of repotting activity. Repot them into a pot only slightly larger than the current one. Be sure the container has a drainage hole in the bottom. Although Christmas cacti likes moisture, they will rot if the roots are deprived of air.
Put the plant in a shady location for two or three days, then resume the plant’s normal care routine.

5 Susan Higgins { 12.05.14 at 11:10 am }

Patty bradley: You might be over watering? Cut down on watering just enough to allow the soil to remain slightly moist. Water only when the topmost (about 1 inch) layer of soil is dry to the touch. This will enable the plant to enter dormancy. Dormancy is critical for getting a Christmas cactus to bloom. In order to further force a Christmas cactus to bloom, you’ll need to move the plant where it will receive about 12-14 hours of darkness. Bright, indirect light during the day is fine; however, Christmas cactus requires at least 12 hours of darkness at night in order to encourage bud development.
Also, they need to be away from direct sunlight. They love moist conditions so be sure there is enough humidity in your home.

6 Susan Higgins { 12.05.14 at 11:05 am }

Hi Sandy Jaeger: Most plants are best repotted they display new growth in spring, but Christmas cactus repotting should be done after blooming ends and the flowers have wilted in late winter or early spring. Never attempt to repot the plant while it is actively blooming.

7 Glenda Martinez { 12.05.14 at 10:19 am }

I have my grandmothers Christmas cactus. She had it in 1938. It is now 75+ years old. It is in a 20″ pot and stands 2′ tall. It blooms every year. I can’t even re pot it any more.

8 Deborah { 12.05.14 at 6:50 am }

i have had Christmas cacti for years without a problem and they bl Nov thru Feb. I water a qt-sized plant once a wk w about a cup of water w a little organic plant food. They live in front of a bright window but not direct sunlight or they will burn. I have never seen them live outdoors and have never put them in a closet. They ca’t be too wet, must be well drained. You should be able to start new plants by just breaking off a bracht and sticking it in a pot of dirt below a joint so it will root. I repot every 3-4 years. Seriously you have to work at killing these so start fresh in a north or south window, water and fertilize lightly once a wk and leave them alone otherwise.

9 Sandy Jaeger { 12.05.14 at 4:02 am }

When should a Christmas Cacti be transplanted? Should it be done every year or wait til it becomes root-bound?

10 Teri G { 12.05.14 at 3:40 am }

My christmas cactus is close to 40 yrs. was my grandnothers. I moved to a smaller apt. 2 yrs ago & just this last 2 mos. has not been doing well, it has always bloomed, I put it in a new pot with new cactus soil, but I think its dying it doesnt like where its at. HELP

11 patty bradley { 12.05.14 at 1:24 am }

I’ve had my cacti for a year but dropped so many leaves it went from a bush to one branch what am I doing wrong

12 Cathy { 12.05.14 at 12:14 am }

The only time I got a Christmas Cactus to bloom was when I put it in the back bedroom, in front of a window, that was used for storage. It was the coldest room (I turned off the baseboard heater) and got some morning light (no direct sunshine). It was totally neglected except occasional watering. Sadly, it died when I moved again.

13 darlene { 12.04.14 at 11:05 pm }

I can’t make my Christmas cacti to bloom at all. This is my 3 rd year to have it.

14 Terry { 12.04.14 at 10:29 pm }

I have mine in an southeast facing window that gets a lot of sun. It is watered every week or two and has bloomed before thanksgiving the last two years and then last year again on MLK day. It was a present from my dad who has since passed so I treasure it.

15 My cactus bloomed about 2 months ago, and now its in full bloom again. I've only had my plant for 8 years. { 12.04.14 at 9:29 pm }
16 Rebekah { 12.04.14 at 8:38 pm }

What mixture of soil is best to use when repotting it?

17 Judy { 12.04.14 at 8:19 pm }

I call my Christmas Cacti my Blooming Boob! Last year I had flowers from two weeks before Thanksgiving until The following April non stop!! I figured I would not get flowers at all for this Christmas, and Lo last week the whole plant had buds every where! Love this plant!!!

18 CeGe { 12.04.14 at 7:55 pm }

My Christmas cactus blooms at least 3 times a year. It stays inside all year except when I hose the dust off. It sits inside of a South facing window that has louvre blinds. So it gets dabbled light. I water when dry, maybe every 2-4 weeks depending on the weather. I have had it for at least 6 years and have never fertilized it ( I’m bad about that ). It sits on a 14″ tall dark colored wooden pedestals cake stand. It is a focal point in my dining room.

19 Jana { 12.04.14 at 7:22 pm }

I put my cactus outside all summer under a tree,only water about once a week if no rain. I bring it in after summer is over and as soon as I put it in the window it starts to get hundreds of blooms!

20 Karen { 12.04.14 at 5:45 pm }

For those of you whose cactus doesn’t bloom-They don’t like artificial light. Put in a room where they only get natural light during the day and where no lights are turned on at night.

21 Hannah Greer { 12.04.14 at 5:31 pm }

I heard that you put your cactus in a paper bag for the year and put it in your closet until the holiday season and bring it out then. I haven’t tried it, but I am gonna this year and see how it reacts.

22 Ray { 12.04.14 at 4:55 pm }

My cactus is 30 years old bloom every year my issue is that the stems are like a trees it breaks every pot I stick it in

23 michell { 12.04.14 at 3:57 pm }

My Christmas cactus never wants to bloom anymore! Ive trued all kinds of techniques and nothing seems to work! It is a very old one, it is a cutting off of my great aunts main plant. The main plant is aprox. 100 years old and blooms beautifully every year! Ive had this one for 10+ years and it only has bloomed 4 times in the beginning. So……. what am I doing wrong????

24 dean mcbride { 12.04.14 at 3:38 pm }

My cats and I are killing my cactus. It was a seedling from my mom’s when she past away in January’08. It bloomed that Christmas, (I believe my mom made that happen for me), but never since and it’s down to 1 leave. What can be done?

25 Diana { 12.04.14 at 3:35 pm }

I have a Christmas cactus that I have had for 43+ years. It blooms every Christmas and Easter. I have a special attachment to that plant after all these years.

26 Kymberlee { 12.04.14 at 3:28 pm }

Cactus need to be left out one night in the fall. The lower temperature shocks the plant into bloom.CHEERS!

27 Marge reynolds { 12.04.14 at 2:47 pm }

Why doesn’t!tvmy Christmas bloom.

28 Marge reynolds { 12.04.14 at 2:45 pm }

My Christmas doesen’t want to bloom.

29 Garnet Barkley { 12.04.14 at 2:44 pm }

i don’t see anything about how long to put the Christmas cactus in a dark place or when to bring it out.

30 jodie hay { 12.04.14 at 2:35 pm }

The cactus pictured IS NOT a Christmas cactus. It is a Thanksgiving cactus. Christmas cactus have soft curves to their leaves, not jagged curves like the one pictured.

31 sarahbschneider { 12.04.14 at 2:26 pm }

My “Christmas” cactus blooms for Thanksgiving every year.

32 brandy { 03.16.14 at 2:34 pm }

My cactus has been blooming for four months

33 Maribeth Stack { 03.12.14 at 9:44 am }

I have a Christmas cactus that was my mother’s. It has bloomed around Christmas consistently. I have it upstairs with an eastern exposure and the sunlight it gets comes through sheer curtains. Seems to be working. Also, you can cut off (or pinch) about 2-3 leaves together and transplant in a smaller pot to get more plants. Just keep the new plant watered pretty well, whenever it gets dry if it is in a smaller pot. You can also put the leaves in a water glass or container to root and move to a pot with soil after roots form.

34 USAclimatereporter { 08.09.12 at 6:32 pm }

i never knew these plants exist i did not know what to do with them

35 Karen { 05.17.11 at 10:53 pm }

My Christmas cacti has been blooming since October 2010 and it’s May 2011 still blooming. The point is I don’t recall what I did different.

36 Jaime McLeod { 01.12.11 at 8:27 am }

If you try the method described in this article – making sure that the plant has at least 12 hours per night of complete darkness during the fall – you should get some decent blooms.

37 StephWigstadt { 01.11.11 at 6:55 pm }

I have had a christmas cactus that did not bloom until I moved it to another spot. If the cactus does not like the spot it’s in, it will not bloom. You may want to move it. I only moved mine about 2 feet, and I had beautiful blossoms over Christmas. Good luck.

38 sherry grimes { 01.05.11 at 5:00 pm }

My Christmas cactus was my great grandma’s and she passed away in 1960 (I think) and she had it a long time before she passed away. It is in an old enamel pan and sits is on a old stool that had a wicker seat and the seat in gone. It has always been in this pan. It almost died one year from sitting outside, and my grandmother brought it back to life. I can’t get it to bloom very good.

39 diane { 01.05.11 at 2:34 pm }

I have had my cacti bloom four times one year. the plant is 13years old.

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