How to make a Christmas cactus bloom: expert flowering tips

Our advice on how to make a Christmas cactus bloom will keep your festive plant looking fabulous

how to make a Christmas cactus bloom
(Image credit: Vicki Jauron, Babylon and Beyond Photography/Moment/Getty Images)

Wondering why your seasonal houseplant is no longer flowering? You need our tips on how to make a Christmas cactus bloom. After all, these festive succulents are renowned for brightening up the room with their vibrant color, so you won't want to miss out.

They're definitely one of the best Christmas plants in our books, and one of the brilliant things about them is that they can re-flower year after year. Plus, the foliage makes an attractive feature in itself and will add a splash of greenery to your home throughout the seasons.

However, sometimes they don't flower as expected, which can leave plant parents feeling puzzled. Luckily, there are some things you can do to encourage the blooms, so you can enjoy a beautiful display in time for Christmas.

4 tips on how to make a Christmas cactus bloom

Just like learning how to care for a poinsettia, one of the best ways to ensure you get the results you want with your Christmas cactus is to look after it properly. 

Remember that the Christmas cactus has different needs when compared to desert cacti, as explains the team at Essential Living (opens in new tab). They flourish in tropical conditions – think bright, indirect light and higher humidity. But, aside from learning the tips and tricks on how to grow a Christmas cactus, there are a few other things you can do that will specifically help it to flower.

pink Christmas cactus

Some varieties of Christmas cacti will flower in a brilliant shade of pink

(Image credit: Derek Harris/Alamy Stock Photo)

1. Establish a dormancy period

'Planning is key here – but with the right care, it will re-flower every year,' says Jo Lambell, founder and houseplant expert of Beards & Daisies (opens in new tab)

'A dormancy period is required before this plant can bloom,' she explains. 'In October or November, reduce the amount of water your Christmas cactus gets. Move it to a darker spot as well that doesn't get as much light.' You can even go as far as placing this cactus into a dark room overnight every evening, she reveals, as this will encourage fresh buds to grow.

The experts of houseplant food brand Baby Bio® (opens in new tab) agree, saying that during its resting period, you should reduce watering, temperature and lighting to force it into dormancy – 'it typically needs around 12 hours of darkness per day to begin flowering.'

The team at Essential Living recommends using a piece of cloth to cover it up in the evening and then removing it the next morning. You can do this for around six weeks to encourage the flower buds to develop.

'Once buds begin to appear, you can move the plant to a brighter, warmer area in the home but be mindful of placing in direct sunlight or draughts,' the team at Baby Bio® says.

In terms of watering, Essential Living explains that you should water the topmost layer of the soil only, which is about 1in, and only when it feels dry to the touch.

pink Christmas cactus

Reduce watering, light levels and temperature to encourage blooms

(Image credit: blickwinkel/Alamy Stock Photo)

2. Feed your plant with fertilizer

In general, fertilizing plants can go a long way in boosting growth and flowers, and Christmas cacti are no exception.

'The key to encouraging your Christmas cactus to bloom is by fertilizing regularly, using a special cactus feed,' says the team at Baby Bio®. 

With their suggested product, Baby Bio® Cactus Food, available on Amazon (opens in new tab), they say to 'use five to ten drops per half-liter every time you water during the key growing season from spring through to autumn.'

pink Christmas cactus in pot on table

Feed your plant to help it look its best

(Image credit: Vicki Jauron, Babylon and Beyond Photography/Moment/Getty Images)

3. Prune it after flowering

Just after it has bloomed is a good time to cut the plant back to make it grow bushier, as says Jo Lambell of Beards & Daisies.

The experts at Baby Bio® agree: 'Prune your Christmas cactus after it has bloomed, which will encourage more stems to grow and increase the likelihood of it blossoming the following year.' Why not treat yourself to a pair of the best secateurs for the job?

white flowering Christmas cactus in pot

Don't let your Christmas cactus get too hot if you want to encourage flowers

(Image credit: amomentintime/Alamy Stock Photo)

4. Give it a second resting period after it has bloomed

Once your plant has finished flowering and you've given it a prune, return it to cooler conditions for a resting period of two months. The RHS (opens in new tab) says to reduce watering, so that the soil doesn't completely dry out, and keep it somewhere with temperatures of 55–59°F (12–15°C).

After this, you can increase watering and temperature (to around 65-69°F/18-20°C) again until it's time for its dormancy period in autumn.

When do Christmas cacti flower?

Christmas cacti, as the name suggests, tend to bloom around the festive period. The first flowers usually appear in early November and will last until January.

Once the buds have appeared, it can take up to twelve weeks for the flowers to fully develop, as explains Essential Living.

As well as houseplants, there are lots of other natural decor that will add extra sparkle to your festive scheme, from Christmas wreath ideas to types of Christmas tree.

potted white Christmas cactus

A Christmas cactus will brighten up your home in winter

(Image credit: Panther Media GmbH/Alamy Stock Photo)

Why does my Christmas cactus bud but not bloom?

Is your Christmas cactus growing buds which fall off before flowering? The RHS explains that this is usually due to fluctuating temperatures, such as being too hot by day and too cold by night. 

Over-watering can also play a role in this problem, they add.

General poor growth can also be caused by planting your cactus in too large a pot. Learn how to repot a Christmas cactus properly and you'll have a greater chance of success.

Holly Crossley
Holly Crossley

The garden was always a big part of Holly's life growing up, as was the surrounding New Forest where she lived. Her appreciation for the great outdoors has only grown since then. She's been an allotment keeper, a professional gardener, and a botanical illustrator – plants are her passion.