How to make a Christmas cactus bloom – from Thanksgiving onwards

A Christmas cactus can easily be made to flower again. Here's how

Christmas cactus
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Whether you want to make your Christmas cactus bloom in time for the festive season, or simply want to know how to make it bloom if it seems to have stopped producing flowers entirely, we have expert advice below.

Usually, Christmas cactus, also known as Thanksgiving cactus or holiday cactus, blooms from November to January, but if you know how to grow a Christmas cactus, you will also know that getting it to bloom again will depend on getting both room temperature and light levels right. Plus, can you 'force' the plant to bloom again?

We've rounded up top tips on watering, lighting and the perfect temperature below so you can enjoy your Christmas cactus' blooms again.

How to make a Christmas cactus bloom

The Christmas cactus can be made to bloom again if is subjected to:

The right light conditions – a week's worth of short days and long nights. A typical northern hemisphere winter will give you approximately 8 hours of daylight and 16 hours of darkness. Put it on a windowsill in a room that's rarely used, since even artificial lights will confuse it.

The right room temperature – Christmas cactus likes cool temperatures, no higher than 60ºF. 

Keira Kay, Bloom & Wild plant expert, explains how to make a Christmas cactus bloom: 'For a second flowering, you will need to reduce the amount of light it's subject to each day, ensuring it’s in the dark 12-14hrs, and stored in a cool room, with a temperature around 50-54ºF (10-12ºC). 

Rachel Martin, of Patch Plants, adds: 'Christmas cactus likes quite a cool temperature and will produce more flowers if kept below about 68ºF (20°C), so keep her well clear of radiators.'

The right level of watering – 'You would also need to cut back on watering, being careful to only water the top inch, and only watering again when it's dry to the touch, this change in conditions will force the plant into a dormancy period – which is vital for new spring flowers.'

The right fertilization approach – knowing when to fertilize Christmas cactus is important: the quick answer is to do so in growing season, from spring to fall.

If you do all this you should make your Christmas cactus bloom again.

When does the Christmas cactus usually bloom? 

The Christmas cactus is a winter-bloomer and comes into flower from November through January. 

How many times a year will a Christmas cactus bloom? 

The Christmas cactus will bloom typically once, however, you can prompt your plant into flowering again in spring with the correct conditions, for example by ensuring it has a short-day, long-night environment and cool room temperatures.

How long will it take a Christmas cactus to bloom again?

'It’ll take six to eight weeks for buds to appear, and a further eight to 12 to come into full bloom,' says that Keira Kay, Bloom & Wild plant expert. 

'Each flower should last from five to seven days, whereas the flowering period of the plant itself can last for three to six weeks.'

Why does my Christmas cactus bloom but not bud?

The reasons that cause Christmas cactuses to bloom but not bud include: rooms that are too hot, too cold or drafty; overwatering; and too many buds. 

If a Christmas cactus is sitting in wet soil, it may begin to suffer root rot. Ideally, you can allow the top inch of soil to dry out before watering again – and ensure the pot's drainage is good. Otherwise you may want to consider repotting the Christmas cactus to a more suitable container. 

As for room temperature, second budding requires a cooler room than first budding – 50-54ºF (10-12ºC) for second budding; between 60-70ºF (15-21ºC) for the first budding. 

And if the plant is too full, consider pruning it – remove older stems at the base. You can propagate a Christmas cactus, so this is a good opportunity to do so.

Why does my Christmas cactus not flower?

It is likely that you Christmas cactus isn't flowering because it is getting too much daylight or too little water, or being kept in a room that's too warm for it. Eight hours of daylight a day then darkness is a must. Bear in mind that the Christmas cactus is a forest cactus so while they don't like their roots in boggy soil, they don't like to dry out, nor do they like very dry, overheated spaces. It's unlikely that you need to repot a Christmas cactus since they don't mind being a little root-bound.

Why are my Christmas cactus blooms falling off?

Christmas cactus' blooms fall off because the plant is either over- or under-watered or because the room is too hot or too dry. Ideally, only water when the first inch or so of soil is wet and keep in a cool room that has a little humidity, too.

Contributing Editor

Ruth Doherty is an experienced digital writer and editor specializing in interiors, travel and lifestyle. With 20 years of writing for national sites under her belt, she’s worked for the likes of, Standard, Ideal Home, Stylist and Marie Claire as well as Homes & Gardens.