How Often to Water Christmas Cactus
If you have a Christmas cactus, Easter cactus, or Thanksgiving cactus, you’ll want to make sure it’s being watered properly. These aren’t true cacti, and rather than living in the heat of the desert, they naturally grow in tropical rainforests! They’re not something you can leave alone for months on end. Here’s how often to water Christmas cactus:
How Often to Water Christmas Cactus
Christmas cactus plants should be watered whenever the top third of their soil is dry. You can test it with your finger by checking the top inch of soil, or the top 2 inches for larger pots. This usually works out to a thorough watering every 2-3 weeks, but that depends on where they live in your home.
Many factors affect how often Christmas cactus need water. Light and humidity levels, along with the time of year, change how frequently the soil dries out and needs watering. Direct sunlight, warmer weather, and dry conditions mean they’ll require more water. Indirect light, cool temperatures, and humid conditions require less water. Christmas cacti also need more water when they’re blooming.
To keep the Christmas cactus from drying out as quickly, you can keep a humidifier nearby or mist them occasionally. You can also set the pot on a tray of pebbles with water underneath to encourage evaporation. High humidity is especially helpful for them when they’re blooming.
Once you’ve been watering your plant for a while, you’ll get a good sense of what its watering schedule should look like, and you can test the soil less frequently. That said, you should check again during transitional seasons when their watering preferences change, like late summer and late winter.
How to Water Christmas Cactus
Once you’ve determined the best time to water your Christmas cactus, you need to know how to properly water it. They should be watered slowly and steadily from the top until the excess water flows out of the drainage holes at the bottom of the pot. After around 15 minutes, you should dump the excess water that has collected in the dish underneath. Leaving the excess water can lead to overwatering and root rot, since the roots end up sitting in stagnant water and festering.
To avoid needing to dump it later, you can water your Christmas cactus in a sink. Turn the faucet on low and run it until water starts to seep out the bottom of the pot. Then turn the faucet off and leave the pot in the sink for 15 minutes to let it drain before putting the plant back in its regular spot.
Christmas Cactus Watering Problems
Christmas cactus, like all plants, suffer when they’re overwatered or underwatered. It’s generally better to underwater a Christmas cactus than overwater it, since they’re more likely to bounce back from underwatering (and the fix is easier), but neither option is good. Here’s what to watch out for:
Overwatered Christmas Cactus
An overwatered Christmas cactus can have soft, mushy leaves and black stems. They may also drop flowers and start showing signs of root rot. You’ll know it’s an overwatering issue if the plant consistently sits in soggy soil.
For a mild case, you can set it in a dry, sunny area for a while to help with evaporation. More severe cases may require repotting. To do so, remove the plant from its pot and get all the dirt off the roots. Dispose of all the dirt and clean the pot to get rid of any disease. Cut any rotten roots and branches off with a clean pair of shears or pruners, then repot the plant in fresh, dry potting soil. Make sure it doesn’t get too much moisture while it recovers.
Underwatered Christmas Cactus
Underwatered Christmas cacti often show their displeasure with wrinkling leaves and dropped buds and flowers. You can usually tell when it’s an underwatering issue because the soil will be exceptionally dry, and the pot will feel much lighter than it should be when you lift it. If the plant is suffering from getting too little water, the fix is to… water it immediately!
Another problem for Christmas cactus is mineral buildup from being watered with hard or treated water. Christmas cacti can be sensitive to high calcium content, along with other minerals and chemicals, so avoid using tap water if you know your water is hard or treated. Signs of a mineral buildup problem include the plant turning brown in places and a white buildup on the surface of the soil.
To fix this issue, use distilled water or rainwater to water your plant in the future. To fix a severe buildup issue, flush the cactus by setting it outside or in the sink, then running distilled or rainwater through it until the water starts draining out the ports on the bottom of the pot. Do this several times, letting the water drain out completely each time. You can also repot the cactus in fresh, clean soil.
FAQs About Watering Christmas Cactus
How much water does my Christmas cactus need?
There’s no set amount a Christmas cactus should get per watering, it just needs to be watered until the excess starts running out the bottom of the pot. The excess can then be disposed of.
How can you tell if a Christmas cactus is overwatered?
An overwatered Christmas cactus often has black stems and soft, mushy leaves. The plant may also drop buds and start showing signs of root rot. If your plant shows these symptoms and is currently sitting in soggy soil, it could very well be an overwatering issue.
How long can Christmas cactus go without water?
A Christmas cactus can often go up to a month without water before it starts to suffer, but that’s based on average growing conditions. More sun and drier air will cause it to lose moisture much faster.
Do Christmas cactus like to be misted?
Yes, Christmas cactus do like misting, especially when they’re blooming! They would be naturally damp in their humid rainforest home and would gather most of their water from rainfall and the air, so misting is a great option when you start to see flower buds.
Why are the leaves on my Christmas cactus limp?
Overwatering and underwatering are both common causes of limp Christmas cactus leaves. You’ll have to check the soil to tell which one it is, then use the appropriate fix listed above.
Should I water my Christmas cactus from the top or bottom?
Christmas cactus should be watered from the top.
Can a Christmas cactus recover from overwatering?
Yes, with the right care Christmas cacti can recover from overwatering! Recovery methods vary. For a mild case, just placing them in a dry area with bright light to get them to dry out all the way can help. For severe cases, repotting them in a fresh, dry potting mix after pruning off their rotting branches and roots should help. Either way, make sure the cactus doesn’t get too much water while it recovers.
About Christmas Cacti
At this point you might be wondering why anything with “cactus” in its name is so particular about getting lots of water. The truth is that these aren’t true desert cacti at all – rather than hot, open plains, these cacti come from the tropical rainforests of Brazil! It’s a very different environment, and one in which they’re used to lots of water. These tropical plants naturally grow on trees and rocks, getting nutrients and water from the air and rainfall rather than the ground.
They’re called Christmas cactus because of their tendency to produce gorgeous blooms around the holiday season (other holiday cacti, like Easter cacti, bloom around that time instead). Here’s how to know which type you have!
Even though your cactus is more likely to bloom around its particular holiday, you’ll quickly learn your new plant will bloom whenever it feels like it! I have some that bloom at least four times a year – and that includes summer along with the other seasons!
Also known as Schlumbergera x buckleyi, the Christmas cactus is a low-maintenance plant when brought indoors that prefers indirect sunlight and infrequent but deep waterings.
Enjoy Your Christmas Cacti!
Whether you have Christmas, Easter, or Thanksgiving cacti, you should now know how to properly care for your holiday cactus. These beautiful plants can live to be over 100 years old with a good care routine, so make sure they have the right amount of sun, water, and nutrients, and enjoy!
Poinsettias are also common indoor Christmas plants. Here’s how to water them.