Caring for Christmas Cactus

With the right care, this tropical cactus can be a highlight of your winter holiday decor for years.
Christmas Cactus

Christmas Cactus

A closeup of a Christmas cactus flower.

A closeup of a Christmas cactus flower.

Christmas cactus is a long-lived tropical plant that flowers for about a month in winter. Not the drought-tolerant desert plant that its name suggests, Christmas cactus is native to Brazil, often rooting in collected leaves and other debris in the crotches of trees.

This popular houseplant doesn't tolerate having wet feet but it also doesn't want to be bone-dry. Use potting soil that offers excellent drainage, water when the top inch of the soil is dry and avoid over-watering; the plant is susceptible to root rot.

The hard part about raising Christmas cactus is getting it to keep its buds and to bloom. To set buds, the plant needs either nighttime temperatures between 50 and 55 degrees or about 12 hours of complete darkness every night. If you're doing the dark treatment, put it in a dark closet every evening. Car lights, security lights, even a television in the next room will interfere with bud set.

Bud dropping is common and can be triggered by too-dry soil, or some disruption in temperature or light pattern. To prolong the bloom period, keep the plant away from warm drafts.

After flowering has stopped, prune off a few sections of each stem to encourage branching. (You can root these sections to start new plants.) Fertilize lightly during the growing season. Christmas cactus does better when it's pot-bound, so re-pot only every few years.

Keep Reading

Next Up

Christmas Cactus Care

Easy growing tips for this seasonal favorite.

Prickly Pear Cactus

This staple of the desert is a versatile gift of nature, but handle with care.

Q&A: Christmas Cactus Bud Drop

Here's a tip on preserving the colorful blooms of Christmas cacti.

The 6 Best Houseplants For the Green Thumb Newbie

These plants will have your apartment looking like it was decorated by Mother Nature herself.

Step Lightly Around a Cactus

A horticulturist explains the dangers of getting stuck.

Winter Flowers

Satisfy your cravings for living color by decorating your home with winter flowers. Discover bloomers that thrive indoors and out.

Flowers that Bloom in Winter

Fill your outdoor spaces with flowers that bloom in winter. Some of these bloomers can even start inside before shifting outdoors.

Hellebores Shine in the Winter Garden

Few plants are tougher and give more pleasure in the winter garden than hellebores.

Winter Blooms

Flowering witch hazel and honeysuckle varieties liven up a garden during cold weather.

Winter Floral Arrangements

Brighten dreary winter days with splashes of living color. Learn easy ways to create your own winter floral arrangements.

1,000+ Photos

Browse beautiful photos of our favorite outdoor spaces: decks, patios, porches and more.

On TV

Desert Flippers

7:30am | 6:30c

Desert Flippers

8:30am | 7:30c

Desert Flippers

9:30am | 8:30c

Flip or Flop

10am | 9c

Flip or Flop

10:30am | 9:30c

Flip or Flop

11am | 10c

Flip or Flop

11:30am | 10:30c

Flip or Flop

12pm | 11c

Flip or Flop

12:30pm | 11:30c

Flip or Flop

1pm | 12c

Flip or Flop

1:30pm | 12:30c
2pm | 1c

House Hunters

2:30pm | 1:30c

Fixer Upper

3pm | 2c

Fixer Upper

4pm | 3c

Fixer Upper

5pm | 4c

Fixer Upper

6pm | 5c

Fixer Upper

7pm | 6c
On Tonight
On Tonight

Love It or List It

8pm | 7c

House Hunters

11pm | 10c

Follow Us Everywhere

Join the party! Don't miss HGTV in your favorite social media feeds.