If you’re looking for a vibrant, festive, and easy to maintain house plant this holiday season, we recommend the Schlumbergera, also known as the Christmas cactus. Other names for this charming plant include the ‘holiday cactus’, ‘Easter cactus’, and ‘Thanksgiving cactus,’ but no matter what you call it, you’ll love having one of these holiday blooms brighten up your home.
The Christmas cactus plant gets its name for its preference for flowering in the winter, often right around Thanksgiving and Christmas! The succulent, which spends most of the year looking modest and green, produces stunning slender-petaled blooms. These beautiful flowers almost look like little hummingbirds mid-flight.
Blooms will appear year after year on this succulent with proper care, part of which includes giving your Christmas cactus the best and most nutritious soil.
Christmas Cactus Background
The Christmas cactus is part of the Schlumbergera genus of plants. Native to Brazilian rainforests, these delightful succulents are classified as epiphytes, which means that their roots cling to other plants to support their weight. If there are no nearby plants available, the resourceful Christmas cactus can also tangle its roots around stones, making it epilithic.
Christmas Cactus Care
It’s not hard to grow a beautiful Christmas cactus if you know how to get the right conditions for these plants to thrive. They are quick growers, and some varieties can manage to climb to a height of two feet tall in a matter of years! Here are a few important tips to keep in mind when caring for your plant.
Temperature & Humidity
Schlumbergera is perfectly happy with any temperature above 65° Fahrenheit (18° Celsius). Because of these natural conditions, these plants thrive in a humid environment. However, care should be taken to keep the roots well aerated and relatively dry. Failing to do so will lead to root rot, the effects of which range from poor blooming and growth to death of the plant.
When in bloom in the winter, the soil of a Christmas cactus should be kept moist; watering frequency can be reduced when it is not blooming. Regardless of the time of the year, the plant should be misted regularly, especially if it feels completely dry.
Christmas cacti grow best in a spot that receives partial shade or filtered light. It is best to ensure that your Christmas cactus is not in a spot that has constant bright light or direct sunlight. Unlike many other houseplants and succulents, the Christmas cactus blooms during the late fall through early winter.
Christmas Cactus Soil
When dealing with Christmas Cacti, the primary concern should be finding and maintaining the right soil mixture. Despite the plant’s sturdy appearance and respectable size, its roots are delicate. Much like an orchid, a Christmas cactus in poor soil will be susceptible to root rot and infection.
Though a Christmas cactus can grow in most types of soils, its best growth will only happen in the right conditions. When seeking out a growing medium for planting and growing your Christmas cactus, you’ll want to find something that is loose, loamy, and has great drainage; the standard potting mix is not recommended and may even be detrimental to the health of the plant.
Making Your Own Christmas Cactus Soil
A more cost-effective and reliable way to get soil for your Christmas cactus is to make your own. Homemade soil allows for you to tightly control the quality, contents, and traits of your plant’s soil. Think of this as building the perfect home for your plant. By adding the right amount of various components, you can fully and properly cater to your plant’s needs.
Plant's Growth Needs
- Appropriate acidity
- Good drainage
- Excellent aeration
- Proper nutrition
You can begin by finding (or making) a potting soil mix. The soil should be slightly acidic, though neutral soil will also work. Christmas cacti do not fare well in basic soil. Because you will need to transplant these plants yearly, you should keep any excess soil you have when you’re done mixing.
There are multiple ways to achieve the desired aeration and drainage. Aquarium gravel, sand, blay drainage balls, perlite, and cactus potting soil are all perfectly valid ways to give your Christmas cactus a good balance of moisture retention and aeration. These all classify as a drainage medium.
Finally, you’ll need to give your plant the nutrition it needs. Though you can purchase fertilizer, it’s more cost-effective and eco-friendly to make your own. If you happen to be a lucky owner of a Lomi countertop composter, you can create lush, vibrant fertilizer for your garden from your food scraps and bioplastic waste.
After adding your composting material, garden and other organic matter into the Lomi, simply allow the machine to work its magic for 3–20 hours. When it’s done, mix the compost with a bit of soil (one part compost to ten parts soil) and you will have a potting mix that is filled with nutrients ready for planting.
The Ideal Mix
- Potting soil
- Drainage medium
Mix these components well, and you’ll have the perfect potting mix to fertilize and grow your Christmas cactus plant and have it blooming in no time!
Maintaining the Soil
Because of its delicate roots, great care should be taken to maintain the soil’s quality. For starters, it’s good to have some extra soil on hand. The rapid growth of Christmas cacti makes them a candidate for frequent repotting; in fact, it’s generally recommended that you repot your plant yearly!
When To Repot Christmas Cactus
Since Christmas cacti grow quickly, it's best to look at repotting Christmas cactus plants yearly.
The primary concern for Christmas cacti soil is waterlogging. Always ensure that the plant has proper drainage. When potting the cactus, double-check that all the pot’s drain holes are free of debris. Whenever there’s excess water in the plant’s drainage dish, be sure to empty it out.
Should your Christmas cactus become waterlogged, it’s best to discard the soil and repot the plant. However, in mild cases, you can try to dry out the excess moisture yourself.
As a temporary measure, place the plant on some newspaper. This will absorb excess moisture while you add new, dry soil to the mix. You may need to repeat this process a few times with fresh newspaper; the end goal is to have a mostly dry root ball.
Another thing to be aware of when dealing with Christmas cacti is the soil consistency. Whenever you add fertilizer, be sure that you’re not creating soil that is excessively dense or heavy. Adding a bit of loose drainage medium such as sand or gravel, or creating a drainage hole can help avoid this issue.
Once you’ve solved these problems, then your only concern is providing high-quality compost and fertilizer. Though store-bought milled peat and compost may be convenient, these costly measures increase your carbon footprint. By opting to, instead, use your homemade compost, you can provide rich, natural, and eco-friendly nutrition for your plant.
Out of all of the convenient countertop composting units on the market today, only one works as quickly, effectively, and reliably as Lomi. Our environmental promise ensures that your unit is carbon neutral from the moment the first part is made to the second you plug it in.
While other brands may promise compost, the end result is often little more than compressed and dehydrated blocks of table scraps. Lomi is different. In addition to its ability to break down approved bioplastics, Lomi is capable of easily turning food scraps into true, organic, and healthy compost.
You can get your hands on a Lomi today. One unit is $49 down now and $450 when your unit ships. Don’t hesitate to reserve your Lomi today!