Christmas Cactus Care

Schlumbergera truncata

Q. How should I care for my Christmas cactus when it stops blooming?

A. Christmas cactus (Schlumbergera) is one of the plants most often associated with the holidays because it usually blooms between mid-November and late January. Varieties are available in white, pink, red, and purple and are usually sold in full bud with at least a few blooms. After the plant is finished blooming, it needs a resting period for about two months at which time very little, if any, water should be given and it should be placed in a location that receives moderate light. If the foliage or stems begin to shrivel during its resting period, give it a minimal amount of water and the leaves should recover quickly. Closer to spring, as days begin to lengthen, increase water slightly and move the plant to a location that receives more light. After all danger of frost has passed, move the plant outdoors to a full-sun location. In order to trigger bud formation in late fall, the plant should remain outdoors until nighttime temperatures reach 40 to 50 degrees Fahrenheit. When the plant is brought inside, keep it in a cool room that remains dark after sunset to continue bud formation. Once the plant forms buds, keep movement to a minimum to prevent the buds and flowers from dropping.