Knowing how to water your Christmas cactus correctly will ensure that you have a happy, healthy plant that will last many years and produce many beautiful blooms.
Watering Christmas cactuses isn’t difficult. They’re easier than a lot of other plants, but you do need to understand a little bit about them in order to understand the how and the why of watering Christmas cacti.
- A different kind of cactus.
- How often do you water a Christmas cactus?
- Increase the frequency of watering while the plant is in bloom.
- Things that can change your Christmas cactus watering schedule.
- How Christmas cactuses like their water delivered.
- Don’t leave pots in standing water.
- Higher humidity helps Christmas cactus stay healthy and hold blossoms better.
- Good watering gives easy-care Christmas Cactuses long life and brilliant blossoms.
A different kind of cactus.
Christmas cactuses are different than typical cacti. Their water, soil, and moisture requirements are much different. They do not come from dry deserts; in nature, they live in Brazilian rainforests, and they don’t live in the ground; they live in the crooks and branches of trees. Their “soil” is a combination of composted tree debris, moss, and whatever other soil may have blown in.
This means that they are used to a soil that is capable of retaining water. They are also used to big soaks with periods in between soakings where they dry out a bit before being watered again. And it means that Christmas cactuses take in a lot of their moisture from the humid air in which they live.
As you can see, their needs are quite a bit different than dry, hot desert sand. As such, they have higher water needs than most types of cacti. But they need a balanced approach that will not keep them too wet, either, and that allows them to take in moisture from the air.
How often do you water a Christmas cactus?
When to water your Christmas cactus:
In general, Christmas cactuses only need to be watered every two to three weeks. However, you should let your plant and its soil guide you.
Water your Christmas cactus when the top of the soil in the pot is dry. You shouldn't water your plant until the top one-third of the soil is dry (in the average-size pot, this would be about the top two inches of soil, though in bigger plants, it will be deeper).
Increase the frequency of watering while the plant is in bloom.
When your Christmas cactus starts budding and blooming, it will have higher water needs. The plant will be up taking more water, so it will dry out and require water more often. You should still do the “soil touch test” to decide when you give it water, though.
Things that can change your Christmas cactus watering schedule.
You know how it goes. Everyone’s home (or office or other plant location) is different. Some are warmer, some are drier, and some have more direct light. The quality and water retention abilities of your plant soil change watering frequency, too.
Where you place your Christmas cactus in your home can also change how quickly or how slowly it dries out. Plants closer to heat sources will dry out faster, while plants that are kept in cooler rooms or further away from heating units may need to be watered less frequently.
Cactus size and pot size can make a difference when it comes to watering. A larger pot might hold more water, but a larger pot is likely to have a larger plant, so it may also drink up that water faster.
The point is you can’t be rigid in your watering schedule. These factors can all make a difference. You may even find that plants in one room of your home need more or less water than plants in another or that larger plants need to be watered more often. The key is, again, to let the plant be the guide.
How Christmas cactuses like their water delivered.
Christmas cactuses need a good, thorough drink when they are watered. They should not be left in standing water, though.
When it is time to water your plant, either take the plant to the sink and water it or water it in place with a saucer under the plant. Water the pot just until water runs out of the bottom drainage holes. Then wait fifteen minutes for the pot to drain the rest of the way.
If you watered your Christmas cactus in the sink, you can now return it to its space. If you watered it in place, dump out any water that is in the bottom saucer under the plant.
Don’t leave pots in standing water.
Do not leave the pot sitting in pooled water. You do not want to leave water in the bottom as you do with other plants, or the soil will continue to soak up the excess water, and that will keep the roots too moist. This will cause buds to fall, blossoms to drop, and roots to rot, causing the plant to die.
Higher humidity helps Christmas cactus stay healthy and hold blossoms better.
If your Christmas cactus develops buds, but they fall off before they open, the problem is almost always a water and moisture issue. The issue can be too much water or not enough water. It can also be that the air in your home is too dry and isn’t humid enough. There are steps you can take to help remedy that situation.
- Increase humidity around the plant with a humidifier. We have some plant humidifier recommendations here, including recommendations for a non-electric, utility-free option.
- Place your Christmas cactus pot on top of a humidifying pebble tray (this project is easy to DIY).
- Use a whole-home or whole-room humidifier
- Move your cactus to a room with higher humidity, such as a kitchen or bathroom (in fact, Christmas cactuses often do well in bright, humid bathrooms).
- Mist your cactus regularly
Good watering gives easy-care Christmas Cactuses long life and brilliant blossoms.
Christmas cactuses are easy to care for and easy to bring back to bloom. You just need to know the right way to care for and water your Christmas cactus (it’s mostly in the watering). Most of us probably overdo it and overcomplicate it, but once you know what your Christmas cactus needs, you’ll find that it is an easy, low-maintenance plant to care for that will reward you with beautiful bright blooms year after year.
This is such a great article on how to care for your Christmas Cactus. Now I know what I’ve been doing wrong with mine. I wasn’t watering enough and I will now get a nice mister to make my plants happy 😊
That's great! Glad it helped! Happy blooming!
I have a Christmas cactus that I can't get to bloom. The leaves are healthy and new ones still grow on it.
What can I do to get flowers to bloom on it?
They require feeding prior to blooming
Hi Judy. It is possible the cactus you have has an earlier or later bloom cycle and isn't naturally timed to bloom right at Christmas. Mine thinks of itself as more of a Thanksgiving or Valentine's Day cactus, haha! The plants also need a long period of close to dark at night. If the plant is in a brightly lit room, it might not be getting enough dark time in the evenings. These two articles should give you some insight and tell you how to manage the plant to trigger blossoming:
Please tell me I have my father's Thanksgiving cactus. It blooms every year. It is very large strong. Is there anyway to to get the blooms to have color? They are almost pure white they were pink. The plant is over twenty years old. Thank you for your timr.
Hmm. Have you tried repotting it in fresh potting soil? My first thought would be depleted fertilizers/components in the soil. Also, if it is in a very bright window in direct sunlight it might be fading the blossoms. My first instinct is to repot it and refresh the potting soil, though.
It tell so much and help with watering plants...