Red Flowering Christmas Cactus
(Image credit: 8c061bbf_466)

Figuring out how to make a Christmas cactus bloom can be tricky for some. However, by following the proper watering guidelines and ensuring that just the right light and temperature conditions are given, learning to force a Christmas cactus to bloom can actually be quite easy.

How to Make Christmas Cactus Bloom

When you want to force a Christmas cactus to bloom, you need to understand the Christmas cactus bloom cycle: little water, dormancy, light, and temperature. Begin by limiting the amount of water the plant receives. This generally takes place sometime during fall, usually around October or the first part of November (in most places). Cut down on watering just enough to allow the soil to remain slightly moist. Water only when the topmost, about 1 inch (2.5 cm.), layer of soil is dry to the touch. This will enable the plant to enter dormancy. Dormancy is critical for getting a Christmas cactus to bloom. In order to further force a Christmas cactus to bloom, you'll need to move the plant where it will receive about 12 to 14 hours of darkness. Bright, indirect light during the day is fine, however, Christmas cactus requires at least 12 hours of darkness at night in order to encourage bud development. Your Christmas cactus, dark conditions aside, will also need cool temperatures. This should average out to about 50 to 55 degrees F. (10-13 C.). Therefore, make sure the location will accommodate both light and temperature requirements.

Care of Flowers on Christmas Cacti

Christmas cactus plants should continue receiving dark, cool treatment for at least six to eight weeks, or until buds begin forming. Once buds have formed, it usually takes up to 12 weeks (or less) for blooms to appear. The plant should also be relocated at this time. Move the Christmas cactus to a sunny, draft-free area. However, keep it away from direct sunlight, as this may cause the plant to become droopy looking. Also, drafty areas can cause the buds to drop before blooming has occurred. Giving the plant more bright, indirect sunlight will produce more blooming. Christmas cactus also bloom better as pot-bound plants. While watering may be increased during blooming, the amount will vary according to the plant's current light conditions, temperatures, and humidity levels. When you force a Christmas cactus to bloom by giving it the proper care in the right place, receiving the right light and temperature conditions, the plant will not only bloom but may also surprise you by continually producing blooms several times throughout the year. Knowing how to make a Christmas cactus bloom will help you to enjoy the lovely flowers on this popular plant.

Nikki Tilley
Senior Editor

Nikki Tilley has been gardening for nearly three decades. The former Senior Editor and Archivist of Gardening Know How, Nikki has also authored six gardening books.