Darrell Blackwelder: It must be Christmas; the cactus is blooming

Published 12:00 am Sunday, December 1, 2019

The holiday season is officially here, and Christmas cactus are now in full bloom at local garden centers and retail outlets.

Christmas cactus (holiday cactus) is not a true cactus, but more of succulent, native to the forests of Brazil.

Humidity is very important requirement for proper growth and development of the plant. Locate it in a room with high humidity or place the container on a tray of pebbles filled with water in a cool room with bright, indirect light. Direct light from the sun will cause the leaves to turn yellow.

After bloom, the plant should be allowed to rest by withholding water enough to just keep the plant alive and avoid fertilization. Move outdoors to a location with filtered light and treat as you would a normal houseplant, feeding and watering on a regular basis.

Bring the plant indoors in the late summer with other house plants. These plants need a resting period to initiate bloom, so void regular watering unless the leaves begin to wilt for a month.

Locate the plant where temperatures are between 60-65 degrees for a period of six weeks to coerce flower bud development. These plants are short-day plants like poinsettias, so they need to be exposed to 13 hours of continuous darkness each night. Any type of light that interrupts this continuous dark period will stop flower formation.

Once the buds develop, locate the Christmas cactus to a location with bright indirect light.


Darrell Blackwelder deblackw@ncsu.edu is the retired horticulture agent and director with the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service in Rowan County.