Thinking of repotting a Christmas cactus plant?
Read on to find out step-by-step on what you need to know about when why and how to repot a Christmas cactus (also known as Easter cactus, Thanksgiving cactus or simply holiday cactus).
All these variations are part of the Schlumbergera genus of plants.
Christmas cactus is a popular houseplant because of its dazzling lilac or pink tubular flowers that bloom for a long time.
If you already have a collection of Christmas cacti in your garden or in your home for a couple of years now, you might want to repot them to make their blooms even livelier.
Don’t worry since this article will guide you through the basics of repotting your Christmas cactus.
Just like any other cacti, this plant is relatively easy to take care of.
However, the only thing that this particular cactus has compared to its family of cactus is that it doesn’t live in an arid environment.
Natively, Christmas cacti live in branches of trees in Brazil’s rainforest.
It means that instead of arid areas, they’re used to a humid moist climate.
To know more about how to properly care for them, here are a few quick facts about the Christmas cactus.
- Easy to grow house plant
- Prefers some sun
- Water when dry
- Names: Schlumbergera x buckleyi, Zygocactus buckleyi, Holiday cactus
- Native: Brazil
- Watering Needs: Requires moist soil to grow
- Light Requirements: Indirect sun Moderate light, partial shade
- Life Span: Can live for 20 up to 30 years
- Height: Maximum of 10 inches or 25.4 cm
- Temperature: About 65 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit
- USDA Hardiness Zones: 9 to 11 for outdoor Christmas cacti
- Season best planted in: Late spring
Welcome! I am so excited to help you learn all about repotting Christmas cactus.
I’ll also tell you why how and when to do it, and the best soil mix and correct pot size to use when transplanting a Christmas cactus!
Table of Contents
When To Repot Christmas Cactus
Most of the time, the best season to repot or transplant houseplant is during spring. It is when almost all plants start to actively grow.
However, your Schlumbergera plant is a bit different. They actually prefer to be potted up right after they are done blooming.
Since they are dubbed the “Christmas cactus”, it is safe to say that they stop flowering by the end of January up to early February.
Some plants may take up to March to stop blooming.
How Often Should I Repot My Christmas Cactus?
The best estimate on when you should transplant Christmas cactus is about every 3 to 4 years.
Although some owners prevent their plants from being root-bound since they are a bit tricky to repot once they are, your Christmas cactus actually prefers being bound to their pot.
Don’t repot them frequently since you may cause more damage than good to your plant. They might also grow slower if they are repotted more than usual.
You’d be surprised how a root-bound Christmas cactus blooms more. It is because this plant likes its roots crowded.
It might be a bit different for younger and smaller plants or cuttings.
These little babies will prosper more if they are repotted once a year for their first few years but just until they are completely established.
Once they are mature, you can proceed to repot Christmas cactus once every 4 years or more.
Choosing Right Pot For Christmas Cactus
The first thing to prepare when transplanting Christmas cactus is the pot. Choose a container that is 1 to 2 inches bigger in diameter than the current one.
Be careful in picking a much bigger pot than what you have since it can also retain too much moisture that would cause rotting.
Note: Clay pots with enough draining holes are the best for your Christmas cactus since it provides better air circulation for your plant’s roots.
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Best Potting Soil For Repotting Christmas Cactus
For the soil, you can use your own mix as long as it drains well and is lightweight. In their natural habitat, Christmas cacti grow on rocks and other plants under trees and shrubs.
It means that they thrive from the nutrients coming from organic leaf matter that falls from the trees over them.
You can say that these plants are quite meticulous when it comes to soil. You can never go wrong with the usual porous mix for bromeliads.
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You can use potting soil that is peat-based.
It is recommended to add some soil amendments like perlite or coarse sand.
These components offer fast drainage while maintaining the damp soil that your Christmas cactus love.
A combination of 2/3 regular potting soil and 1/3 sand is good too.
One popular mix is one-third each of potting soil, cactus and succulent mix, and coco coir fiber and chips.
How To Repot A Christmas Cactus
Repotting a Christmas cactus isn’t a difficult task, however, you might need to be gentle when transplanting older plants or plans that are root-bound. What exactly does root bound mean?
Mostly, root-bound plants, in this case, some Christmas cactus, grow too much for their current container. Then their entire root system becomes bound with their pot.
The roots of your plant wind and twist up the pot until they become root-bound.
- Turn your plant on its side and gently hold the base. Carefully slide the plant out of the old pot. If it’s too compacted, gently tap the sides of the pot against a solid surface. You can also take the plant out by slicing around the edges of the pot using a dull knife or by squeezing the container.
- Carefully massage the root ball to loosen it slightly. Try to get rid of some of the dry, old soil from the roots. It is easier to do this if the roots are slightly moist, you can rinse them slightly if you prefer so the compact potting mix can be removed. Using your hands, gently tease the roots to avoid damaging them.
- Place about 1/3 of your preferred potting mix into the container then put the root ball on top. Fill the pot with more mix until the root ball is evenly placed approximately ½ to 1 inch from the container’s rim. This is the best time to add in compost as you fill it. Get rid of any air spaces by slightly patting the soil with your palms and by shaking the container gently.
- Water the plant moderately for one to three weeks to let the damaged roots recover and to just give them enough moisture. Remember that damaged roots can have a hard time absorbing water than usual and your plant could rot if you give them too much water. You can resume your usual watering schedule after three weeks.
- Place your plant in a shaded area for a couple of days to let it acclimate to its new soil and surroundings. A patio where it can get indirect but bright light is good.
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Repotting After Care
You can resume caring for your newly repotted Christmas cactus like you’re used to after a week at best.
When it comes to watering, water your Christmas once the soil is dry. Since your plant loves moisture, keep it evenly moist by misting it frequently.
Christmas cactus thrive in natural and bright light on medium exposure. Direct sunlight might cause burn on your plant’s leaves.
Also, Christmas cacti love temperatures in the range of 60 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit and they’ll do just fine. Also, make sure that you increase the humidity in your home if it’s a bit dry.
- Feeds through the roots
- For All Cacti and other Succulents
- Just 7 drops of water every time you water
Lastly, your Christmas cactus doesn’t really need to be fertilized.
But it also would hurt if you use a half-strength water-soluble formula like 20-20-20 during its growing season.
You can also just use worm compost with your potting mix.
How Often Should You Water Your Christmas Cactus?
Some prefer not to water their Christmas cactus for about a week or two before transferring them to a new pot.
It’s a good practice since it lessens the possibility of rotting.
However, if you currently have a root-bound plant, it is easier to repot your Christmas cactus if they watered about one to two days before repotting.
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Lindsey Hyland grew up in Arizona where she studied at the University of Arizona’s Controlled Environment Agriculture Center. She continued her gardening education by working on organic farms in both rural and urban settings. She started UrbanOrganicYield.com to share gardening tips and tactics. She’s happy to talk about succulents and houseplants or vegetables and herbs – or just about anything in a backyard garden or hydroponics garden.