How to grow Easter cactus – and get more blooms that last for longer
Our expert guide shows you how to get the best out of these seasonal beauties
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The Easter cactus adds a little seasonal spring color to your home with its gorgeous exotic looking blooms. The flowers come in an array of shades to choose from including various tones of pink and red, as well as pure white.
The correct name for Easter cactus is Rhipsalidopsis gaertneri. They are from a different family to the other more well-known Thanksgiving and Christmas cacti, which are members of the Schlumbergera family (rather than the Rhipsalidopsis family, just to spell it out).
Another difference is that they bloom from late winter to early spring, instead of leading up to and during the festive season. Although all three of these cacti varieties have similar leaves, you can tell Easter cactus apart as they have leaves with a more rounded edge rather than serrated.
It's a long lasting and easy plant to grow, which means the Easter cactus is popular with both beginners and experienced plant growers alike as it's one of the best indoor plants. They're sure to become a firm favorite with you too.
Sarah Wilson has been writing about gardens since 2015, covering everything from garden design to houseplant care. She has studied introductory garden and landscape design as well as floristry. She's a big fan of 'holiday cacti' and has just welcomed an Easter cactus to her indoor plant collection.
Expert tips on how to grow an Easter cactus
Once you get the hang of it, nailing how to grow Easter cactus is easy. Give your Easter cactus the conditions it likes and you will soon be rewarded with plenty of stunning flowers to celebrate the season, just like the Christmas cactus.
Here we explain the best methods for growing an Easter cactus, together with plenty of expert input to guide the way so that when you bring your plant home from the garden center you can give it the best possible experience.
Where to position your Easter cactus
Find a spot for your Easter cactus where it will be exposed to plenty of bright, indirect sunlight such as a room that gets lots of natural light. This is key if you want this indoor flowering plant to bloom well.
'Easter cactus love to be kept in conditions where there is bright light, although they don't like being placed in direct sunlight, which may burn the leaves,' says Alex Tinsman (opens in new tab) of How to Houseplant. 'Usually a comfortable room temperature is enough for them, so around 64˚F.'
Easter cactus plants love a little humidity (they will make a good bathroom plant), so if the air in your home is dry and you don't have a humidifier try placing your plant on a saucer filled with pebbles, then add a little water to it. This will help to moisten the air around the plant through evaporation.
Easter cactus plants prefer cooler temperatures at night too. Make sure there's also plenty of air circulation for your Easter cactus and keep it away from any drafts or heat sources.
Your Easter cactus can go outside too if you live in a mild climate.
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Watering your Easter cactus
Keep the soil lightly moist and allow the soil to dry out between waterings, then water thoroughly until the water begins to drain from the bottom.
'Like with most succulents you should only water when the soil feels dry to the touch,' says Alex Tinsman. 'You should also check that the saucer they're standing in doesn't collect water. Empty it if it does, as they hate to be kept in standing water.'
As when watering other succulents, your Easter cactus won't thrive with waterlogged roots so ensuring that the pot has proper drainage is also important. 'Choose pots with functional drainage holes, so any excess water can run out of the holes,' says indoor plant expert Vladan Nikolic (opens in new tab), of Mrhouseplant.com. 'The exact watering schedule will depend on environmental factors, such as temperature, humidity, and airflow.'
How do you tell if your Easter cactus needs watering? 'Take a chopstick and stick it all the way to the bottom of the pot,' says Vladan. 'Pull it out and if there’s no soil stuck to the chopstick, your Easter cactus is thirsty and you should water it.'
If you think you have overwatered your plant, check for root rot, and cut away any affected roots with sterile scissors, then repot in fresh compost.
It's also a good idea to cut back on watering during late fall to early winter ahead of blooming to encourage more flowers. This mimics the drought conditions cacti love.
Choosing the right soil
Getting the right soil type is a key element of how to grow Easter cactus. If they're going to thrive Easter cactus like good quality porous soil that allows plenty of air to circulate around their roots such as a cactus or succulent potting mix. 'Easter cactus plants have certain requirements when it comes to soil,' says Vladan Nikolic. 'They like well-draining, aerated soil, which is important for root health.'
A good potting mix for Easter cacti should contain about two-thirds of store-bought potting compost and one-third of amendments, such as perlite or coco coir, to keep the soil light and airy. Keep the soil topped up with nutrients by refreshing the compost regularly in addition to using liquid fertilizer during the growing season.
Fertilizing your Easter cactus
Easter cactus plants thrive with regular fertilization. Once the plant has finished blooming apply a feed once a month until you need to prepare it for blooming again, at which point you stop fertilizing your plant.
'Apply a diluted liquid fertilizer every two weeks during the spring and summer months, then stop fertilizing in fall and winter,' says Lindsey Hyland (opens in new tab), gardening expert and the founder of Urban Organic Yield. 'Use a balanced fertilizer diluted to half strength once a month during the growing season, and do not fertilize during winter when the plant is dormant.'
Getting your plant to bloom
This beautiful plant is grown for its vibrant flowers, so it's essential to provide the Easter cactus with everything it needs in order for it to bloom profusely. Typically the Easter cactus flowers in late winter to early spring, and they require long nights and cool temperatures before blooming.
'Easter cactus require 12 hours of darkness a day and cool temperatures in order to flower,' says Vladan Nikolic. 'They bloom after approximately 8-12 weeks of short days, in late winter or early spring.
If the period of darkness is interrupted, even for short intervals, the plant might drop buds. It can also drop buds due to drafts or changes in temperature. 'The key components for Easter cactus plants blooming is to give them enough darkness and to keep them in a stable environment,' says Vladan. 'This means making sure they are not exposed to any drastic environmental fluctuations.'
Pruning an Easter cactus
Pruning your Easter cactus plant is a key element of growing it successfully, especially if you want more flowers.
Deadheading can help your Easter cactus push out another round of blooms during its spring blooming period.
Meanwhile after your Easter cactus finishes flowering in spring it's a good idea to prune it. You don't have to do this but it will help reblooming next year. The best way is to prune your plant while it's still in its active growth phase.
The easiest way to do this is to neatly snap off the uppermost leaf pad at the joint with your fingers or alternatively you can use scissors or shears.
'When the flowering finishes, prune your Easter cactus to encourage branching,' says Vladan Nikolic. 'Use sharp pruning shears or a knife to cut the plant where two branch sections connect. Your plant will then produce 1-2 new shoots from the place where it was cut, which will promote branching.' This means new stems will grow, leading to a bushier plant and – hey presto – more blooms next year.
Easter cactus pests
The Easter cactus is a relatively easy-going plant but sometimes it can be affected by common houseplant pests such as spider mites and fungus gnats.
Mealybugs and other scale insects can also trouble your Easter cactus. If you see cottony white masses on the cactus pads these are mealybugs, while scale forms a series of oval bumps. A weekly application of a homemade bug spray loaded with neem oil should help.
Lifestyle journalist Sarah Wilson has been writing about gardens since 2015. As well as homesandgardens.com she's written for Gardeningetc.com, Livingetc.com, Easy Gardens and Modern Gardens magazines. Her first job on glossy magazines was at Elle, during which time a visit to the legendary La Colombe d'Or in St-Paul-de-Vence led to an interest in all things gardening. Later as lifestyle editor at Country Homes & Interiors magazine the real pull was the run of captivating country gardens that were featured.
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