The Christmas cactus is a beautiful houseplant and is slightly different from a regular cactus in the sense that it blooms with purple and white flowers. Also known as Schlumbergera, the Christmas cactus is a common gift to give at…can you guess? Christmas!
But a common question amongst collectors is ‘why is my Christmas cactus not blooming?’. Getting a Christmas cactus to bloom can be difficult for some and requires the right lighting, temperature, and care. In this article, we aim to guide you on the most common reasons why your houseplant isn’t blooming and how to fix them!
Find out more on Christmas cactus care and Christmas cactus soil requirements.
How do you make a Christmas cactus bloom
If you have been gifted a Christmas cactus then congratulations! They are a lovely indoor plant and can really make your room pop. But if this is your first proper houseplant, then you are probably after some Christmas cactus care tips. First and foremost, you’re probably wondering how you make a Christmas cactus bloom? To get your cacti to bloom you first must understand the Christmas cactus bloom cycle. This includes watering, temperature, and light. From here you will be able to take the appropriate care actions to force it to bloom.
But right now, we’re looking at WHY your cactus isn’t blooming. If your plant has been neglected for a while, then read up on how to revive a Christmas cactus.
Why is your Christmas cactus not blooming
There are many different reasons why your beloved Christmas cactus may not bloom. This article will aim to discuss the 5 most common reasons and more importantly, how to fix them. To begin with, let’s outline what those 5 reasons are:
- Wrong temperature
- Repotting at the wrong time
- Too much light
- It’s not a Christmas cactus
In my experience, if you are having trouble getting your houseplant to bloom, it’s going to be because of one of the above reasons.
When you think of a cactus, you think of blazing hot desert temperatures right? And in most cases this is correct. Most species of cacti need a lot of sunlight in warm temperatures, however, the Christmas cactus needs to experience a drop in temperature to allow it to bloom. The right time to move your cactus into a cooler area is around September / October.
If you have your plant in a south-facing window (to receive most sunlight), try moving it to a north-facing window, where it is more likely to receive a draft. The buds will set in nice and strong if it is placed in a cool room or porch of 55 F. You may notice buds begin to drop when exposed to a high heat of 90 F or above and can even cause your Christmas cactus leaves to fall off.
However, just because the Christmas cactus needs a cooler temperature to force bloom, it doesn’t mean that they are tolerant of frost and cold weather conditions. They are still a tropical plant that thrives best in warm temperatures and moderate to low moisture levels. Exposing your Christmas cactus to freezing temperatures will be sure to expect the pads to be damaged.
If you have set your Christmas cactus at the right temperature and are still wondering ‘why is my Christmas cactus not blooming?’, then it could come down to overwatering. The popular winter plant actually needs less water right before flowering.
As with any cactus, overwatering will encourage bugs and cause the root to rot, which ultimately will stop your plant from blooming. As a general rule of thumb, you should only water your Christmas cactus when the top inch of the soil is dry. It’s hard for us to advise how often you should water your Christmas cactus because living conditions and climate need to be taken into consideration.
If you keep your Christmas cactus outdoors in a hot and dry environment then it will probably need watering every 2-3 days, especially if placed directly in the sun. If you keep your Christmas cactus indoors and in a cool room, it may only require watering once a week.
You should be watering less in the winter and fall as this will help force bloom and you can actually get away with almost drought-like soil and watering once a month! After your flowers have bloomed, you can start to water regularly again.
Overwatering can also cause unwanted problems such as Christmas cactus bugs and wilted Christmas cactus leaves.
Repotted at the wrong time
Another common reason why your Christmas cactus isn’t blooming is that you may have repotted unnecessarily. Christmas cacti actually like to be root-bound and you should only even begin to think about repotting once the plant is 3-4 years old. Alternatively, wait until the roots are growing through the drainage holes to repot.
A Christmas cactus will happily bloom in the same pot for years, so don’t rush into repotting. You should also never repot the plant whilst it is actively blooming as this will cause damage. It should be done after blooming ends and the flowers have wilted (usually early spring).
There are lots to consider when repotting Christmas cactus from timing to soil and pot size. But if your Christmas cactus is still a baby, then you won’t need to think about any of these things for a long time. Ensuring you don’t repot too early will encourage bloom and will make for a happy and healthy plant.
Too much light
If you’re having trouble getting your Christmas cactus to bloom then you could be exposing it to too much sunlight. Desert cactus love sunlight and should get a minimum of 4-6 hours direct sunlight a day. However, the Christmas cactus is a tropical plant and needs bright but indirect sunlight.
Too much light will stunt growth, burn the leaves and you will notice your Christmas cactus turning purple and wilting. If your Christmas cactus is an indoor plant then you should have it placed in a north-facing window. To encourage bloom, your plant should also be getting at least 12 hours of darkness a day. Artificial light can mess with this, so the quickest solution is to have your plant placed in a room that isn’t often used in the evening.
In late September you should begin preparing for bloom. Make sure the plant is covered or in a dark room for at least 12 hours a day. After 3 – 4 weeks you will notice the buds begin to appear and this is when the darkness schedule can cease. As the buds begin to bloom, you can move it to a display area however this should still be out of direct sunlight.
It’s not a Christmas cactus
Okay, so you are certain that you are doing everything above correctly. You have it in the ideal temperature, are not over or under watering, haven’t repotted, and have been keeping it in the darkness for 12 hours a day prior to bloom. And you are still asking yourself ‘why is my Christmas cactus not blooming?’.
Well, an answer could be that it is not actually a Christmas cactus! There are actually 2 other variations of cactus that look very similar to a Christmas cactus and these are the Thanksgiving cactus and the Easter cactus.
When looking at Christmas cactus vs thanksgiving cactus vs easter cactus there are minor differences to look out for. The difference between the 3 can be found in the shape of the plant’s leaves. If your plant is a Christmas cactus then it should have scalloped or tear dropped leaves. The Thanksgiving cactus (Schlumgera truncata) has pointed and claw-shaped projections whilst the Easter cactus (Schlumgera gaertneri) will have very rounded edges.
If you are having trouble forcing your Christmas cactus to bloom and have tried everything above, then you may just have a different plant than you initially thought.
Why is my Christmas cactus not blooming? A quick recap
The Christmas cactus is a fantastic plant to have in your home and can be treated as an indoor or outdoor plant. With the right care and attention, you can force your houseplant to bloom during the holiday season. This blog has outlined the 5 most common problems when having trouble getting your Christmas cactus to bloom and they are:
- Wrong temperature
- Repotted at the wrong time
- Too much light
- It’s not a Christmas cactus
As a rule of thumb, for a healthy and happy plant then you should follow these guidelines carefully. But you should also bear in mind the environment of the Christmas cactus. Different environments and conditions will require different care guides, however, this is a good guide for general care. Mainly, you will need to think about the plants living conditions when watering. You should take the overwatering section on this blog as a guide only. Use your own judgment on when to water your Christmas cactus.
Of course, there will be other Christmas cactus problems you might encounter but hopefully, this guide will help you with the blooming. We have a whole bunch of useful tips on this site such as using coffee grounds on a Christmas cactus and advice on the best potting soil for a Christmas cactus. Not to mention all the facts you need to know such as origins of Christmas cactus and the types of Christmas cactus.
The Christmas cactus is a wonderful winter plant that will give your home that added wow factor. They are vibrant, colorful, and full of life. They make awesome presents and will be appreciated by any plant lover!
Here at Succulent Care Guide, our aim is to provide you with tips and tricks on maintaining your succulents and cacti. If you have any questions or would like to know something and can’t find the answer on our site, then you can contact us by commenting on this post.
Likewise, if you have any of your own tips or suggestions on why a Christmas cactus won’t bloom, then again tell us in the comments! We always love to learn new things.
2 thoughts on “Why is my Christmas cactus not blooming?”
I started fertilizing my Christmas cactus with Cactus Juice last spring/summer, foliage looks more green and shiny, but it didn’t bloom this past Christmas. THey’ve been in the same outdoor/screened patio on east side of house for past 5 years. Any ideas?
Hi Sharon, to encourage bloom your Christmas cactus should be kept in 12 hours of darkness a day! You should begin doing this late September for 3-4 weeks or until you notice the buds bloom 🙂 I hope this works for you