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Why, How, And When To Prune A Christmas Cactus

Why, How, And When To Prune A Christmas Cactus

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The Christmas cactus is definitely one of my faves! I’ve been told that it’s hard to maintain so I was skeptical about getting one. Luckily, I decided to buy it, and now after so many years the only thing I can say is that it’s among the easiest plants to care for. 

Once you meet its basic requirements, you’ll have a thriving holiday cactus that will reward you with its splendid blossoms. 

Pruning is an important aspect of plant care and in this article, I’ll show you when and how to prune a Christmas cactus and the benefits of this practice.

Let’s get started!

Is It Necessary To Prune A Christmas Cactus?

If you’ve had a Christmas cactus in your home for years and it does just fine even though you’ve never pruned it, you have the answer to the necessity of pruning. 

So yeah, it’s not necessary to prune this type of cactus. But, pruning does have benefits and will have a positive effect on the overall health of these plants. 

Why Prune An Older And Larger Christmas Cactus?

These plants have one uncommon feature regarding their anatomy. Plants typically generate leaves to perform photosynthesis but in the case of the Christmas cactus, it doesn’t produce foliage but rather cladodes, which are flattened green stems

Cladodes basically include everything needed to grow a new plant. Pruning will help your cactus preserve the energy it will use to display new growth and produce blossoms year after year. 

The larger and older the cactus is, the sturdier and more woody these cladodes will be. This is completely normal and part of desired growth development since the plant needs assistance to support its weight.

The main problem is that your Christmas cactus may split or crack in the mature growth stages. The cladodes become very sensitive to diseases, with root rot being the most common one.

One of the reasons for this high sensitivity is the growth habit of these plants in their natural habitat. 

Christmas cactuses are referred to as epiphytes or plants that live on other plants and use their nutrients instead of the nutrients from the soil. Both the root system and cladodes uptake the food. 

When we plant our Christmas cactus in the soil, it must uptake nutrients and water from the soil; since the plant isn’t used to such a habit, its susceptibility to rotting increases.  

What Will You Achieve By Pruning?

The first thing you’ll enhance by pruning this type of cactus is the air circulation. You’ll make it easier for the inner parts of the plant to uptake nutrients and water. 

Second, you’ll allow the light to reach all the inner parts of your Christmas cactus. The plant needs light to generate blossoms, so by pruning it you’ll encourage better flower production. You’ll also avoid etiolation in your cactus, which occurs due to the lack of light.

If you prune a large Christmas cactus, you’ll take off some of its weight so it’ll be less susceptible to cracking. 

Once you prune your cactus, you’ll help it focus its energy on producing new growth and you’ll get a healthy and bushy plant. 

Reasons To Prune Your Holiday Cactuses Every Year

You don’t have to wait for your Christmas cactus to get older and larger to prune it. The first reason you should prune these plants from the beginning is to encourage fuller rather than longer growth.

The plant will start growing upwards once you remove all leggy growth. 

I highly recommend you start pruning while your Christmas cactus is still young. You have less growth to prune and it will be easier for you to maintain a fuller shape in the future. 

Yearly pruning will encourage healthier growth and better flower production

When To Prune?

You should prune your Christmas cactus four weeks after they finish blooming. You shouldn’t wait for the plant to start generating new growth. 

If you wait for too long, you risk the overall health of the plant. 

Pruning after blossoming will help the plant to redirect its energy and display healthier new growth and more blossoms

How To Prune

Many beginner growers are concerned about the difficulty of pruning. Luckily, it’s not a hard task; it won’t take much of your time and doesn’t require any special skill. 

You should start by wiping the dust off your Christmas cactus. This step may seem odd but it will help the cladodes to uptake water easier. 

Wash your hands and select the cladodes you want to prune. Grasp the cladode on both parts of the joint and carefully twist until they’re divided. That’s basically it. 

If you’re removing some longer growth near mature and thick stems, you should use some cutting tools. A knife, a pair of scissors, or pruners will work well as long as they are sharp and sanitized

The twisting method won’t work on older cladodes; it may lead to breaking the whole portion or even the entire plant.  

There isn’t a specific number of cladodes you need to remove per pruning. The only thing to pay attention to is not to remove more than one-third of your Christmas cactus plant. Excessive pruning will stress your cactus and it will need a lot of time to recover. 

How To Care For A Christmas Cactus After Pruning

Leave your cactus alone for a few days after pruning. Then, mist it well to allow it to scar over the removed sections. Water will also hydrate the plant.

Resume regular care; ensure enough light and pay attention not to overwater this beautiful cactus!
These are one of the fastest-growing cactus species and will develop healthily with little care. Pruning will definitely encourage vigorous new growth which will result in numerous blossoms that make your Christmas decoration even prettier!