With the holiday season upon us, it is time to think festive. I’m talking about holiday plants and flowers, and the Christmas cactus in particular.
This undemanding houseplant is perfect for beginners and pros with a hectic schedule. And I find it a lot easier to care for than regular cactuses.
I tend to irrigate succulents and cactuses more than they need, but this doesn’t happen with the holiday cactus.
Here are the basics about irrigating your Christmas cactus the right way.
Let’s get started!
Different Than Your Regular Cactus
Knowing how often to water cactus plants indoors is convenient. However, it doesn’t do you much good when it comes to Christmas cactuses.
These aren’t your typical desert plants. Christmas cactuses need a lot more water than their drought-loving counterparts.
They are native to rainforests of southeastern Brazil, where they grow on moss-covered trees or rocks. This means they don’t need classic cactus potting mix.
Plant your Christmas cactus in something that can retain moisture. A medium with coco coir, pumice, and some compost, leaf mold, or worm castings works wonders.
Additionally, Christmas cactuses love humidity and cooler temperatures. This makes them the complete opposite of their desert relatives.
All this indicates that they have much higher moisture requirements, so let’s check them out!
How Often To Water Christmas Cactus
Generally speaking, you should irrigate your Christmas cactus every 1-3 weeks. But don’t let this be your only guide when setting up a watering routine.
The best thing you can do for this plant is examine the soil before watering. If the potting mix is dry, you can go ahead and irrigate your Christmas cactus.
Make sure not to overwater this festive plant. This practice can lead to serious issues and even kill your Christmas cactus.
If you’re unsure whether to irrigate this plant or not, know that it is best to err on the underwatering side.
Irrigate More Frequently During Blooming
Triggering the Christmas cactus to bloom isn’t that difficult. However, you will have to adapt your watering frequency during this period to keep it healthy.
That means increasing the watering frequency once your Christmas cactus starts flowering. We do this because emerging buds will suck the soil bone dry.
But you shouldn’t turn to guesswork even in this case. Let the soil dryness still be your guide. It will give you a healthy plant that’s never had to deal with the troubles of overwatering and root rot.
3 Factors Affecting Watering Frequency
Not all Christmas cactus plants require the same amount of water. It all comes down to the location you keep them in, the size of the container they grow in, and their potting mix.
Here’s how these factors affect watering frequency!
The place you put the Christmas cactus in your home plays a great role in its watering frequency.
For instance, plenty of indirect sunlight, a warm environment, and low humidity mean you’ll have to irrigate this plant more often.
In contrast, lower light levels, cooler rooms, and high air moisture result in less frequent watering.
And don’t keep your Christmas cactus near drafty locations (heaters, AC vents, old windows, doors you often use, etc). Drafts dry out the air, stressing out your Christmas cactus in the process.
#2 Pot Size
Large pots mean that they can hold a lot more growing medium. This makes us think that the soil remains moist for longer, resulting in less frequent irrigation.
But that’s usually not the case!
Larger containers typically house larger plants. These may need more moisture than the smaller ones to function properly.
So, if you have a big Christmas cactus grown in a sizable planter, you might need to water it more often.
However, always check the potting medium before irrigating it. That’s because temperature, humidity, light levels, and growing mix all affect watering frequency.
#3 Growing Medium
Finally, the potting medium plays a huge role in watering frequency.
Plant your Christmas cactus in a soil that retains a lot of moisture and irrigate it less frequently. Well-draining substrates increase the moisture needs of this plant.
We’ve established that the Christmas cactus doesn’t mind moisture. Make your life a lot easier by planting it in a mix of coco coir, compost, and similar ingredients. Leave the plain cactus soil for your succulents and desert cactuses.
How To Water The Christmas Cactus
The best practice is to pour water into the soil until you notice it draining through the drainage holes.
You can do this above the sink or in the pot if you have a saucer underneath it.
But know that it is crucial not to leave this plant in standing water since that can lead to root rot.
Instead, allow it to drain for about 15 minutes before putting it back in its usual spot and emptying the saucer.
Avoid Leaving Them In Standing Water
I can’t stress this enough – don’t leave your Christmas cactus in standing water!
The soil will continue to soak up moisture and the roots will remain wet for too long. All this increases the risk of root rot.
This is a terrible fungal disease that can kill your plant. And yet, overwatering can still hurt your Christmas cactus even if it doesn’t lead to root rot. Your plant may drop flowers and start drooping.
Bonus Tip: Increase The Humidity
Christmas cactus is a tropical plant that thrives in higher humidity. That means keeping it at relative air moisture levels of around 50-60%. Low humidity levels may lead to discolorations, dehydrated appearance, and even flower drop.
Luckily, it’s easy to increase indoor humidity levels. All you have to do is turn on your humidifier, and that’s it.
But don’t despair if you don’t have this neat little gadget. You can always turn to misting, which is the next best thing.
Many growers recommend using pebble trays, but I’ve found that humidity trays don’t work. They can only increase air moisture level by 7% and only for the smallest of plants. If your plant likes humidity, that’s not a big enough increase for it to thrive.
P.S. If you keep air moisture high enough, you’ll need to irrigate your Christmas cactus less frequently. That’s a great thing that makes your life easier.
Water Properly For A Good And Happy Cactus Life
Watering is key to a healthy and happy Christmas cactus, but it’s not the only thing you should. There are other chores to think of if you want to keep it blooming this holiday season.
Pruning a Christmas cactus is a crucial job that many beginner growers overlook. And don’t forget to fertilize this plant every so often; it will encourage flowering by and large.
Finally, don’t overcomplicate it. Irrigate this plant whenever the soil dries out, and both you and your plant will be happy.