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How To Gift (And Grow) a Christmas Cacti

Art Terrarium Urban Jungle Journal

This time of year, we get a lot of questions about Christmas Cacti in the shop. And for good reason—they’re a super cute species of cacti that make perfect gifts for the holiday season. Native to the jungles of Brazil, these cacti grow off of trees—making them very different from other cacti you might see in the shop.

They’re a favorite of many plant lovers—including me! I have two that I inherited from my grandma, one that I brought home from the shop last year (I just couldn’t resist it), and I just got a fourth as a gift.

I like to keep them around my fireplace, just like my grandma used to. I love their unique look and the way they sprawl and grow. They look amazing when they bloom.

One of the best things about Christmas Cacti is that they can last for decades with proper care. We’ve heard many stories in the shop from people who have Christmas Cacti passed down from their parents and grandparents.

caring for Christmas cacti

Caring for a Christmas Cactus

Since these cacti call the jungle home, their care needs are very different than your typical cactus.

Water them when the top inch of soil in the pot feels dry to the touch. Keep in mind: jungles aren’t bright like the desert. These cacti thrive best with indirect sunlight, and they need more water than their desert-dwelling friends.

Like other jungle-dwelling plants, they also love humidity. Winters in Iowa can be particularly cold and dry, so giving it a mist once in a while will help keep it happy. Keeping a humidifier in the room is a great way to keep them happy, too. Or try setting your pot on top of a tray filled with rocks and water, for a natural humidifier.  

Helping Christmas Cacti bloom

We often get asked how to make Christmas Cacti bloom. Every plant is different, so it’s not an exact science – Christmas cacti can bloom from Thanksgiving to Easter. But, as the Chicago Botanic Garden points out, there are several conditions that will help make flower buds on a Christmas Cactus bloom:

  • A nighttime temperature of 50 to 55 degrees
  • 13 hours of uninterrupted darkness (this means no light at all—not even from a lamp or a nightlight), if the temperature is between 55 and 70 degrees

To create the darkness needed, you can cover your Christmas Cactus with a black cloth or place it in a closet—but make sure to keep track of your light schedule, so it still gets the light it needs during the day.

You can try to time your bloom for a holiday. Just start the process darkness process about eight weeks before the date you’re aiming for. Be sure not to overwater or fertilize during this time period. Christmas Cacti can bloom for four to six weeks, so you can plan accordingly if you want to give them as a gift for a specific holiday.

Thinking of giving the gift of a Christmas Cacti?

Stop in the shop, and we’ll help you find the perfect match. If you need a last-minute gift, our pre-potted options are a great place to start.

Or, for a gift filled with a little more love, spend some time browsing our planter selection (many are locally made by Des Moines artists), and re-pot your chosen cacti at our potting bar.