When you think of Christmas flowers, you probably think of poinsettias. And while we love a good poinsettia here at 1-800-Flowers.com, there’s another popular plant during the holiday season called the Christmas cactus.
When you see how unique and festive these flowers are, you’ll be crossing your fingers that Santa leaves one under your tree. And if he does, it’s important that you know how to care for it.
Christmas cactus fast facts
- The Christmas cactus goes by many names. While its scientific name is Schlumbergera bridgesii (try saying that five times fast), it’s also known as a Thanksgiving cactus, Easter cactus, and orchid cactus.
- Christmas cacti can bloom flowers in a wide variety of colors, including red, purple, orange, pink, and cream.
- The word “cactus” probably has you picturing a desert and the blazing sun, but Christmas cacti actually thrive in cooler temperatures.
- Though Christmas cacti are now sold all over the world, they were once only found in the rainforests of Brazil.
- Good news for all you pet owners out there: Christmas cacti are nontoxic to dogs. So while you should never feed your pet their leaves or the stem, little Fido won’t experience any vomiting or diarrhea if he nibbles on them.
Christmas cactus care
Despite what its name may lead you to believe, Christmas cacti can live long past December. In fact, they can live for up to 20 years with a little TLC and some advice from us.
Christmas cacti need cooler temperatures
Christmas cacti will bloom larger and sooner when left in a room that ranges from 60 to 70° F. Especially in the winter, it’s important to keep them away from radiators and fireplaces, and warm windowsills.
They need sunlight, but not the direct variety
This is where it gets a little tricky. A Christmas cactus can’t be left in direct sunlight because the sun will dry it out, but it also needs plenty of sunlight. So what’s a cactus-enthusiast supposed to do? Your best bet is to leave it in a partially shaded area of your house (or outside, once summer hits) and rotate it every once in awhile.
Christmas cacti need their rest
If your cactus’ buds haven’t set yet, it needs between 12 and 15 hours of complete darkness a day. Only once its buds have set do cacti thrive on lots of light.
Mist your cactus every day
Overwatering will kill your cactus, but that’s not to say it doesn’t get thirsty. Instead of watering it like you would a traditional plant, you should be misting your cactus every day. A few squirts from a spray bottle is all you need to keep your cactus happy. The only time you should be watering the base of the plant is when its soil is completely dry to the touch.
Christmas cacti need nutrient-rich soil
Christmas cacti are hardy plants and can survive in tougher soils, but the best option for them is well-drained soil that’s made up of partially organic matter. While you can always buy organic soil, you can also treat your cacti like a mini compost and toss in organic matter that you would otherwise throw out.