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Christmas cactus (Schlumbergera) is a tropical plant that brightens the home with stunning pink blooms over the holiday season (hence the name). Unlike desert cactus, the Christmas cactus doesn’t have spikes, instead it has lovely flowers that come in an array of pinks and reds. This article is based on answering the popular question; how to revive a Christmas cactus.
We’ve all forgotten to water our houseplants, succulents and cacti at some point, or vice versa, maybe you’ve overwatered! But that doesn’t mean that you have to wave goodbye to your beloved plant. We’ve put together our very best tips on how to revive a Christmas cactus.
Wondering ‘why is my Christmas cactus not blooming?’ – we have an article on that too.
Like a regular cactus, the Christmas cactus is great at storing water in its leaves, meaning it is in fact a succulent. However, unlike regular cactus, the Christmas cactus isn’t totally drought resilient and requires more watering, care and attention – especially when you are trying to force bloom. Often after the holiday season is over, we will forget about our beautiful plant and it will take a backseat.
Can you revive a neglected Christmas cactus?
If your Christmas cactus has been sitting on the windowsill all year, with no real attention you are probably wondering if it is even possible to revive the neglected plant, and if so, how do you revive a Christmas cactus? The answer in short is, of course you can revive your plant! It just takes some extra Christmas cactus care.
Once you have identified the problem, it will be easier to resolve the issue. However, if you are unsure of what is wrong with your Christmas cactus and think that it is because of general neglect, there are a few standard actions you can take that should help revive your Christmas cactus.
In this article we will go into a lot of detail of what these steps are, but a very quick overview of what will be discussed is:
- Choose a good soil
- Place near a window
- Pay attention
These are 6 quick and easy steps on how to revive a Christmas cactus and will help the cacti be in a good position to force bloom come October.
The first and foremost thing to do when looking how to revive a Christmas cactus is to water! Water, water and water! If your houseplant has been neglected for a long time then it’s going to be thirsty. You should put your Christmas cactus in a bowl to collect the water that runs through the pot. Once you have collected the water, pour it back into your planter to ensure it has been watered thoroughly.
Watering is an important first step in reviving your Christmas cactus. On average, you would need to water the plant whenever the top inch of the soil is dry. Unlike desert cactus, the Christmas cactus cannot tolerate completely dry soil. So if you have neglected your houseplant then it is probably in some need of a good watering. Once you have thoroughly watered the plant you can then move onto the next step in reviving a Christmas Cactus.
If you think you may have an overwatered Christmas cactus then you can read our blog on that too!
Now that you have watered your Christmas cactus, the next step is to inspect. Take a look at each individual leaf on the plant. If it is crunchy then remove it. If it is soft then leave it. You will also want to take a good look at the soil as well.
If the soil is hardened and crunchy on top, then you will want to remove the first inch. If it is softer underneath then this is good and you just need to replace the top part of the dirt with fresh soil. If it is still hard and crunchy then you will need to repot.
Inspecting your cacti properly is a key element in learning how to revive a Christmas cactus and getting it back into a healthy and beautiful condition, ready for the holiday season.
Top tip, if you want to learn why you should put coffee grounds on a Christmas cactus, then we have a blog on that too!
Choose a good soil
This is one of the most important steps to take when reviving a Christmas cactus. If you don’t choose a good well-draining soil, then it will be difficult to bring your cacti plant back to life!
The best soil for a Christmas cactus will be a blend of organic and inorganic material. It will be fast-draining and will dry out quickly. Christmas cactus harvest the moisture they need in their stems almost immediately, which is why you’ll need an airy, light soil that drains quickly.
The two main elements you will need to look out for when buying Christmas cactus soil is the pH level and making sure perlite is included in the mix.
Typically, I’d recommend the below as a good Christmas cactus soil:
Organic Succulent and Cactus Soil Mix, Fast Draining Pre-Mixed Coarse Blend, 4 Quarts – affordable and great quality, this is usually my go-to for Christmas cactus soil. The organic blend is optimized for a pH of 5.5 which is ideal for a Christmas cactus plant. The soil is also lightweight, fast draining and contains 25% perlite.
Hoffman 10410 Organic Cactus and Succulent Soil Mix – alternatively, Hoffman is a well-recognized brand name and I have no complaints about their organic cactus mix. The soil contains both perlite and peat, which makes it a well-draining mix. It also contains limestone which works as a great pH balancer.
These are both soils I have used in the past and find that the mix is perfect for a Christmas cactus.
This step is only absolutely necessary if you have inspected your soil and found that it is hard and crunchy throughout. Usually, you will only need to repot once every few years and this will be when the roots are growing out of the bottom. But if you have been neglecting your Christmas cactus and need to completely refresh the soil then you will need to repot but not necessarily to a bigger planter. Using the same pot will be fine.
Using a small spoon, carefully remove your Christmas cactus from the soil, leaving a good amount of dirt around the roots and place carefully to one side. Remove the soil that is currently in your pot and replace with your fresh potting soil. Once this has been done you can place the Christmas cactus back inside the planter. And there you have it, you have successfully repotted your Christmas cactus with fresh soil. You are well and truly on your way to reviving your Christmas cactus.
If you are investing in new soil then be sure to get a well-draining soil, or else you may attract Christmas cactus bugs.
Place near a window
You have nearly taken all the vital steps in how to revive a Christmas cactus. The next thing you will need to do once you have refreshed the soil is to place your plant near a window for some good old sunlight. Indirect sunlight is best as direct sunlight can burn the leaves, which we certainly don’t want to happen. Allowing too much direct sunlight will cause your Christmas cactus leaves turning purple.
Too much sunlight will also stunt the growth of your newly revived plant so it’s important you ensure that it is not placed in a south facing window. You should also avoid giving your plant artificial light and the best way to do this is to not have it placed in a room where you are in the evening.
The month will also depend on how much sunlight your Christmas cactus should be getting. If it is late September then ideally you should be getting the cactus ready to bloom, meaning it needs at least 12 hours of darkness a day.
Finally, the last tip on how to revive a Christmas cactus is to pay attention! Check your plant daily for any new signs of growth or signs of wilting. After taking these steps, you shouldn’t find any more crunchy leaves but if you do then remove them.
Make sure you are not overwatering or underwatering your plant as well. As a rule of thumb, water your Christmas cactus when the top inch of soil is dry. It is hard to advise how often this is as it’s dependent on living conditions and climate but usually this will be around once a week. Overwatering can cause root rot so please don’t water unless you have checked the soil first.
How to revive a Christmas cactus recap
Well, that’s it from us here at Succulent Care Guide. We hope that you have learned some valuable tips and advice on how to revive a Christmas cactus! Following these steps should ensure you have a healthy, happy and bouncy Christmas cactus right in time for the holiday season. To quickly recap, the 6 top tips on how to revive a Christmas cactus are:
- Choose a good soil
- Place near a window
- Pay attention
These are the main steps you should follow if you think your plant is in need of some TLC. However, there are many different common Christmas cactus problems that you should keep an eye out for such as root rot and pests. If you notice any of these then different steps will be required in transforming your Christmas cactus back to life.
Here at Succulent Care Guide, our aim is to provide informative content that will help you with all your cactus and succulent needs. We love all things plants and succulents and want to give you the very best advice possible. You can follow us on Instagram or Pinterest to see even more unique content.
If you have any of your own experiences on reviving a Christmas cactus, or have followed these steps and have any of your own notes, leave us a comment! We always aim to get back to you as quickly as we can and always love to hear from our readers about their own Christmas cactus stories.
We have different articles on Christmas cactus care, so why not take a look at our related posts? You’ll find even more helpful tips and tricks on caring for houseplants. Let us know if you can’t find what you’re looking for and we will be happy to create a guide for you. We also have articles and blogs on different types of cactus and succulent, so whatever you’re after, you’ll find it here.