How to Keep a Christmas Cactus Alive Forever

When you’re going for groceries at this time of year, it makes sense to get in and out as quickly as possible. So if you flew past the seasonal plants that usually grow in the front of the store next to the shopping carts and hit the supermarket-style aisles, chances are you missed out on Christmas cacti. (These are the ones that are not poinsettias.)

They might not look like Christmas, especially since many of them come in different shades of pink, orange, and yellow, but that’s actually a good thing because these plants deserve a place on your windowsill all year round. In fact, there are reports of Christmas cacti living for over 100 years , so chances are a plant in the grocery store might outlive you. Here are some tips on how to achieve this (or at least stay healthy).

How to care for a Christmas cactus

If you’ve harvested or received a Christmas cactus this year, don’t throw it away at the beginning of the year like a living Christmas tree. Now it is mostly a part of your family, so it’s time to learn how to take care of it.

In an interview with Tulsa World, Dr. Tom Ingram , a gardener at Oklahoma State University, shared some tips on how to keep this colorful cactus alive. (Which will probably take more effort than you think).

First of all, Ingram explains that Christmas cacti are what the horticultural community calls “short-day plants,” meaning that they need less sunlight and cooler temperatures to produce flower buds. It works outdoors in Brazil, where these cacti are native, but not especially indoors in winter . But there are ways to make it work. Per Ingram:

  • Keep the cactus in a cool, bright room where the daytime temperature is 65-70 degrees, and 55-65 degrees in the evening. (This could mean being in a draft on a windowsill or somewhere else that doesn’t have as much warmth as the rest of your home.)
  • If a cactus is stored in a location where the temperature does not drop to 55 degrees at night, it will need at least 12 hours of darkness each night for about six weeks before it blooms.
  • Make sure the pot has good drainage. Don’t overfill, but also keep in mind that this type of cactus doesn’t hold water like its succulent counterparts.
  • Transplant the plant into a pot about every three years, but not more often. (They like to put down roots.)

Ingram offers more in-depth tips in the article , but at least these tips will save you from putting your Christmas cactus on the radiator because you assume it wants as much warmth as possible and pretend like it’s at home in the desert.

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