Does Christmas cactus bloom more than once a year? Oh yes it does!
If you followed my beginner’s plant care guide for Christmas cactus (Schlumbergera), you probably had a profusion of colorful flowers in November or December and are wondering if you have to wait another whole year before your plant blooms again.
The surprising answer is: Nope!
Given proper care under the right conditions, Christmas cactus can actually rebloom in February—and this goes for Thanksgiving cactus or any houseplant labeled simply as “holiday cactus” as well.
Here’s how to get a repeat flowering from your holiday cactus long after the holidays have passed.
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Secret #1: Reduce watering.
In October, start reducing the amount of water your plant normally receives. Lightly water the topmost layer of soil (just the first inch or so), and only when the soil feels completely dry to the touch. Too much water may cause flower buds to fall, so the first inch of soil should be moist (but never waterlogged).
The new, minimal watering schedule will force your Christmas cactus into dormancy, which is critical for getting the plant to bloom (and rebloom). This is where being a lazy houseplant gardener works to your advantage!
Secret #2: Provide at least 12 hours of darkness.
As a short-day plant, Christmas cactus needs 12 to 24 hours of darkness every day to enter a flowering period.
If you keep your plant in an office, this is pretty easy as there’s a good chance your office stays dark all night. At home, however, it can be a little tricky finding a suitable room that’s dark from sunset to sunrise with all the artificial lights we turn on in the evenings.
My suggestion if you want your Christmas cactus to bloom again? Move it to a spot where it’ll get at least 12 uninterrupted hours of darkness, like a closet or basement (where the doors stay closed).
If you don’t have a space with absolute darkness in your home, you can also cover the plant with light-blocking fabric (like blackout curtains) around 6pm and remove it the next morning after 6am.
To make sure the fabric doesn’t crush your plant, I recommend placing the plant under an upside-down hamper (or any similar structure that can act as a frame) and draping the fabric over that.
Keep your plant in this cycle for approximately six weeks to promote the production of flower buds.
I’m not a morning person, so I sometimes even leave my plant in darkness for up to 16 hours a day. When this happens, I’ve found that new flower buds start forming a little sooner—usually within a couple weeks.
Remember that wherever you store your Christmas cactus at night, it needs to be in total darkness for a minimum of 12 hours. Be mindful of street lights, motion-sensor lights, or nightlights. (I know it sounds crazy, but it’s all light to the plant.) Do not turn on any lights at night, even for short periods, as it can disrupt the darkness cycle required and affect the blooming process.
Secret #3: Keep temperatures cool.
The ideal temperature for Christmas cactus to bloom is 50°F to 55°F, and the room has to be free of cold drafts and hot drafts. So keep it away from leaky doors, heating vents, and fireplaces, or any place where the temperature fluctuates a lot between warm and cold.
At home, I turn my heat down to 62°F at night and leave my plant near a well-sealed window, which keeps it cool enough in the evenings.
When people ask why their Christmas cacti grow flower buds that eventually fall off, the problem is almost always caused by drafts, warm temperatures, or too much water.
Recommended products for Christmas cactus care:
- Leaves & Soul Premium Potting Soil for Orchids, Bromeliads, and Epiphytic Plants
- Emily’s Naturals Neem Oil Plant Spray Kit
- The Grow Co. Succulent & Cactus Plant Food
- Cute Farms Cacti, Succulent & Aloe Fertilizer (Liquid Pump Bottle)
What to do once your Christmas cactus blooms again
While creating these ideal conditions to force your Christmas cactus to bloom a second time might feel a little intimidating, it’s actually much easier done than said.
Just follow these tips and you’ll get an extra show from your Christmas cactus to brighten up the dreary days.
The bloom this time around is much more sporadic and won’t be nearly as big as the holiday extravaganza you got, but it’s beautiful nonetheless and should last at least a month or so to take you through the rest of winter.
Flowers typically last about five days, and the cooler your home remains, the longer the flowers stay in bloom. (Warm temperatures will cause flowers to fade faster—when they start to look bad, I simply twist them off.)
Once the flowers appear, gradually increase watering as you go back to your normal care routine. The amount of moisture required will depend on temperature, humidity levels, lighting conditions, container size, and the mix your plant is potted in.
In general, Christmas cactus should be watered every 10 days or so in winter, and every 7 days in summer (sometimes more often, if you live in a sunny, arid climate.)