Christmas cactus is a jungle cactus that prefers humidity and moisture, unlike its standard cactus cousins, which require a warm, arid climate. A winter-bloomer, Christmas cactus displays flowers in shades of red, lavender, rose, purple, white, peach, cream, and orange, depending on the variety. These prolific growers eventually need to be repotted. Repotting Christmas cactus isn't complicated, but the key is knowing when and how to repot a Christmas cactus.
When to Repot Christmas Cactus
Most plants are best repotted when they display new growth in spring, but Christmas cactus repotting should be done after blooming ends and the flowers have wilted in late winter or early spring. Never attempt to repot the plant while it is actively blooming. Don't rush to repot Christmas cactus because this hardy succulent is happiest when its roots are slightly crowded. Frequent repotting can damage the plant. Repotting Christmas cactus every three to four years is usually adequate, but you may prefer to wait until the plant begins to look tired or you notice a few roots growing through the drainage hole. Often, a plant can bloom happily in the same pot for years.
How to Repot a Christmas Cactus
Here are some Christmas cactus potting tips that will help you find success:
- Take your time, because repotting a Christmas cactus can be tricky. A lightweight, well-drained potting mixture is critical, so look for a commercial mix for bromeliads or succulents. You can also use a mixture of two-thirds regular potting soil and one-third sand.
- Repot Christmas cactus into a pot only slightly larger than the current container. Be sure the container has a drainage hole in the bottom. Although Christmas cactus likes moisture, it will soon rot if the roots are deprived of air.
- Remove the plant from its pot, along with the surrounding soil ball, and gently loosen the roots. If the potting mix is compacted, gently wash it away from the roots with a little water.
- Replant the Christmas cactus in the new pot so the top of the root ball is about an inch (2.5 cm.) below the rim of the pot. Fill in around the roots with fresh potting mix and pat the soil lightly to remove air pockets. Water it moderately.
- Put the plant in a shady location for two or three days, then resume the plant's normal care routine.
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A Credentialed Garden Writer, Mary H. Dyer was with Gardening Know How in the very beginning, publishing articles as early as 2007.
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