How to plant and care for a Christmas cactus?

Everything you need to know about growing Christmas cactus!

The Schlumbergera, better known as the “Christmas cactus”, enhances the decoration of our interiors with its dazzling flowering during the end-of-year holidays. Easy to maintain, it would be wrong to deprive yourself of growing it!

How to plant and care for a Christmas cactus?

Origins and characteristics of the Christmas cactus

  • Type: cactus plant
  • Height: 25 to 30 cm
  • Flower color: white, pink, red
  • Name of the fruit: RAS
  • Desired exposure: bright
  • Soil type: neutral, drained
  • Foliage: evergreen
  • Maintenance: easy
  • Sanitizer: yes
  • Diseases and pests: mealybugs
  • Varieties:  Schlumbergera kautskyi, Schlumbergera opuntioides, Schlumbergera truncata, Schlumbergera russelliana, Schlumbergera orssichiana, Schlumbergera microsphaerica…

Schlumbergera is a pretty cactus plant that is called “  Christmas cactus  ” because it flowers during the holiday season , from mid-December to the end of January.

It is distinguished from other varieties of cactus by its appearance: its stems are leaf-shaped, smooth and without any thorns; the latter bear trumpet-shaped flowers which are sometimes white, pink or red depending on the variety.

Originally from the tropical forests of South America, the Christmas cactus cannot stand the cold , and even less frost! In our latitudes, it is then grown in pots as a houseplant , during the winter. 

Planting the Christmas cactus

Because it does not resist temperatures below 10°C, the Christmas cactus is grown in a pot, indoors, in a place where the temperature is around 15°C. Shelter it from drafts, heat sources and direct sunlight; However, reserve a bright location for it . Since its flowers are very fragile, avoid moving it once the first flower buds have appeared!

The Christmas cactus is planted at the very beginning of spring when it is resting. It is possible to repot it approximately every 2-3 years at the same time, making sure to choose a container slightly larger than the current container, in order to ensure good flowering. Promote drainage by choosing a pot with holes at the bottom in which you place clay balls. Use a mixture of potting soil, river sand and garden soil to repot it.

In summer, you can place your Christmas cactus outside, in the shade and sheltered from drafts. You won’t forget to bring it indoors before the first cold weather arrives.

Caring for the Christmas cactus

Water your Christmas cactus regularly, letting the soil dry between each watering. Above all, do not leave stagnant water in the saucer, as this could cause the roots to rot. You can remove spent flowers as you go.

A month after the end of flowering, remove one or two stem segments from each of them, so that they grow new ones. Stop watering for about a month and a half to give the plant time to rest. Resume watering when new stems have formed. Finally, know that pruning is not necessary for the Christmas cactus!

Christmas Cactus Diseases and Pests

Mealybugs are  the main enemies of the Christmas cactus . They take the form of white, powdery blisters clumped together on the stems of the plant. To fight against these pests, rely on a  natural treatment based on black soap . Dilute liquid black soap in water to 10%. Spray this solution over your entire plant early in the morning. Repeat the operation as many times as necessary.

Uses of the Christmas cactus

Know that the Christmas cactus is an excellent depolluting plant ! Indeed, it helps purify the air by absorbing certain pollutants and releasing oxygen during the photosynthesis process.

The Christmas cactus is widely used as a decorative houseplant due to its beautiful flowers which usually bloom during the Christmas time. It adds a pop of color and festive charm to any room. The Christmas cactus is a hardy, tolerant houseplant that doesn’t require much attention. It can thrive in low light conditions and is relatively resistant to temperature fluctuations.

Propagation of the Christmas cactus

The propagation of the Christmas cactus (Schlumbergera) can be done by cuttings, a fairly simple and effective method. Here’s how to do it:

Necessary material :

  1. Mature and healthy Christmas cactus.
  2. Clean garden scissors or a sharp knife.
  3. Pots with good drainage.
  4. Cactus potting soil or a mixture of potting soil and perlite.

Propagation steps by cuttings :

  1. Choose a healthy stem: Select a stem of the Christmas cactus that is approximately 10 to 15 cm in length. Make sure it is healthy and free of diseases or deformities.
  2. Cut the stem: Use clean garden scissors or a sharp knife to cut the stem. Ideally, choose a stem with at least two segments.
  3. Let it dry: Let the cut cutting air dry for a day. This will allow the cut to heal and minimize the risk of rot.
  4. Prepare the pot: Fill a small pot with cactus potting soil or a mixture of potting soil and perlite. Make sure the pot has good drainage.
  5. Plant the cutting: Plant the cutting in the potting soil, leaving at least one segment buried. Press lightly on the potting soil to stabilize the cutting.
  6. Water moderately: Water the cutting lightly, but avoid wetting the soil too much. Christmas cacti do not like constantly wet soil.
  7. Place the cutting: Place the pot in a bright location, but out of direct sunlight. Christmas cacti prefer filtered light.
  8. Aftercare: Wait for the cutting to root, which may take a few weeks. Once the cutting has developed roots, you can transplant it into a larger pot if necessary.

Christmas Cactus Companion Plants

The Christmas cactus is usually grown as a houseplant, but if you plan to place it outdoors during the warmer months, some companion plants can complement its look and requirements. Here are some suggestions for companion plants suitable for coexisting with the Christmas cactus:

  • Sedum (Sedum spp.): Sedums, also known as stonecrops, are succulents that may share similar sun exposure and water management needs with the Christmas cactus. They offer a variety of shapes and colors.
  • Echeveria (Echeveria spp.): Echeverias are attractive succulents that pair well with Christmas cactus. They form rosettes with fleshy leaves and are available in a variety of colors and shapes.
  • Aloe Vera (Aloe barbadensis miller): Aloe vera is another succulent plant that can coexist with the Christmas cactus. It has medicinal properties and is also aesthetically interesting.
  • Agave (Agave spp.): Agaves, with their thick, pointed leaves, can create an interesting contrast with the texture of Christmas cactus stems. They require similar conditions in full sun.
  • Mixed Succulents: Pairing Christmas cactus with other succulents, such as crassulas, haworthias and kalanchoes, can create an arrangement of varied succulents.
  • Hosta (Hosta spp.): If you choose to grow your Christmas cactus indoors, shade plants like hostas can create an attractive visual contrast.
  • Ferns: If you’re looking to add a touch of greenery and softness, some indoor ferns can pair well with the Christmas cactus.