Learn all about the best fertilizer for Christmas cactus here!
Christmas cacti are gorgeous indoor plants that offer brightly colored flowers during the holiday season. Feeding your potted holiday cactus with a balanced fertilizer in the spring and summer months is crucial to getting those gorgeous neon colored blooms in the fall!
Your plant will produce gorgeous blooms when it receives proper nutrients AND shortened daylight and cooler temps in the fall. (Keep in mind that you need both of these elements for the blooming magic to happen!).
Today I’m sharing the best fertilizer for Christmas cactus and when and how to apply it. This approach will also work well for Thanksgiving Cactus, saving you time and money as you fertilize both plants!
Christmas cactus plants are part of the Shlumbergera family, which include Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas cactus.
In its native environment, Christmas cacti live in tropical rainforests where they grow off of decaying plant matter found in the nooks of tree branches.
Their native soil is full of essential nutrients that are constantly replenished from the surrounding environment.
When grown in pots and containers, the nutrients in the potting soil get used up quickly, causing problems for your plant. Because of this nutrient loss, fertilizing is essential.
In short, you’ll want to fertilize your cactus while it’s actively growing, starting in mid to early spring through the end of summer (April through September). You’ll use a balanced formula that will support the plant’s health and encourage a longer blooming period in the fall and winter.
In addition to fertilizer, give your plant a good watering schedule, drainage holes in the bottom of the container, and bright, indirect light!
Best Fertilizer For Christmas Cactus
A quality fertilizer given at the right time will support the plant’s new growth and provide it with energy to set its blooms in the fall.
I like to keep things simple, so I fertilize with Jack’s All Purpose fertilizer diluted at half strength. This fertilizer has a balanced NPK ratio of 20-20-20. I begin my fertilizing regiment in spring, usually in April, if I’m on the ball! You can purchase Jack’s right here.
It’s important to fertilize during this time of active growth, as the plant needs energy for it’s roots and leaves.
Jack’s water-soluble fertilizer is very easy to apply and can be added to your watering routine and applied directly to the potting mix!
The NPK ratio of Jack’s is even: Nitrogen, Phosphorous, and Potassium are all at 20%. This fertilizer will equally support the plant’s roots, foliage, and growth of its beautiful flowers.
Dilute the fertilizer to half strength before applying to your plant.
Optional: To encourage more abundant Christmas cactus bloom, switch to Jacks’s Blossom Fertilizer in mid-summer. This ratio has a higher phosphorous number and will encourage more prolific blooming.
When researching this article, I chatted with many Christmas cactus growers on how they fertilize their cacti. Most growers use a balanced fertilizer, and some cycle in Epsom salts to add magnesium to the soil.
From my research, here are the 3 most common fertilizers:
- Jack’s – This is my preferred fertilizer. It’s balanced, easy to apply, and affordable.
- Miracle Grow All Purpose Fertilizer – This is a popular and highly recommended fertilizer for Christmas cactus. Miracle Grow is convenient because you can also use it on other plants! Dilute to half strength and apply every week to two weeks.
- Fox Farm Big Bloom Organic Liquid Fertilizer This natural formula supports root systems and encourages lush foliage and healthy blooms
The stunningly gorgeous Christmas cactus above was shared by a fellow holiday cactus enthusiast, Cheryl White. Cheryl shares her best fertilizing tips with us here:
“I use Miracle Grow, half strength and fertilize with every watering during non blooming season. My Christmas, Thanksgiving and Easter Cactus do well with the routine.”
When Should A Christmas Cactus Be Fertilized?
Key Points: Fertilize your plant when it is actively growing, from April to September. Stop fertilizing once it begins to set blooms.
A holiday cactus expends energy pumping out gorgeous blooms in late fall. When it’s done blooming, the plant enters a period of rest, so it’s best to let it take time off through late winter to relax!
There is no need to fertilize right after the plant blooms, and water requirements are down as the plant recovers from producing those gorgeous tubular flowers.
For best results, begin fertilizing Christmas and Thanksgiving cacti in late spring and continue until late summer.
We recommend starting in late April or May and fertilizing the holiday cacti until September, during active growth. During this time of year the plant strengthens it’s roots and grows foliage.
New plants propagated from stem segments can also benefit from fertilizer.
How Much To Fertilize
Key Points: Fertilize your plant with every watering during growing season and dilute your fertilizer to half-strength.
On average, this will be about once every 7-10 days. The local environment, humidity levels and temperature will affect how often a plant needs water.
Each climate is unique- a location with high humidity will require less water than a dry environment.
The schedule for fertilizing your plant will depend on how frequently you water. Do not overwater your plant just to get in more fertilizer!
How To Get Your Plant To Bloom
A cactus that fails to set blooms is incredibly frustrating. However, these succulent plants do need specific conditions to develop flower buds.
A quality fertilizer that supports the plant’s nutrients is just one part of the equation. These plants need short days of light and cooler temperatures in the fall to set their blooms.
A quality fertilizer combined with 12 hours of darkness daily, 6-8 weeks before bloom time, is essential for a Christmas (or Thanksgiving) cactus to set blooms.
Learn how to take care of your Christmas cactus here.
Warning! Overwatering while using fertilizer will cause problems for your plant/ (Excess water is the number one problem we see in Christmas cacti!).
Do not increase your watering schedule to fertilize (unless your plant truly craves that excess moisture).
Over-fertilizing can also harm your plant. Signs of over fertilization include brown or yellow leaves, slow growth, and fertilizer residual on top of the soil.
If you are worried about over-fertilizing, simply cut back on the frequency you feed your plant.
Sugar water is a popular fertilizer as it stimulates the plants to perk up, but remember that it can cause root rot and attract fungus gnats.
Even if you are fertilizing, do not neglect soil quality! Give your plant fresh soil and a slightly larger container every 3-4 years. (These plants do like to be root-bound, but eventually, they need a little more space and should be upgraded to a container just one size up from the pot it is in).
How To Encourage Christmas Cactus Blooms
In addition to a proper fertilizing, Christmas cactus will benefit from specific care conditions. Though they are low-maintenance plants, they must receive:
- A soil mix that allows for quick drainage of water off of roots
- A watering schedule should allow the top two inches of soil to dry before watering again.
- A location that has indirect but bright light (much like their natural home that offers diffused light under the canopy of other trees)
- Cooler temperatures and shorter days in the fall to encourage the flower buds to set
As short-day plants, both Thanksgiving cactus and Christmas cactus need to be exposed to longer hours of dark to set their buds.
Thank you so much for reading. If you have any questions, please leave me a message below. I enjoy hearing from you and will help in any way I can!