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Christmas Cactus Fertilizer

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!

pink christmas cactus that has been fertilized

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.

pink thanksgiving cactus plant
My beautiful Thanksgiving cactus in bloom in November.

Fertilizer Needs

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. 

Christmas cactus soil

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.
huge Christmas cactus that has been fertilized with Miracle Grow

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! 

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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.

christmas cactus being propagated

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! 

Learn how to rescue an overwatered Christmas cactus here.

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.

Common Problems

Overwatering

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

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.

Soil Quality

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. 

Learn more about caring for them here: Thanksgiving cacti care + Christmas cacti care.

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!

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76 Comments

  1. Have enjoyed reading your article on Christmas cactus. Would like to have had the whole article without all the ads. I am just beginning to enjoy my Christmas cactus and it would be so good to have copied this and had it on hand for reference. Thank you so much for this information.

    1. Joy, thank you so much for that feedback. The ads help me keep my kiddos clothed and fed, however you gave me an excellent idea to have these articles available through email to read without ads. I will work on that, please check back in for an update! Updated- Joy I am emailing you a copy of this article, please check your inbox! 🙂

          1. I just finish reading the article on the Christmas cactus my little baby is sick however it’s blooming right now and I didn’t think it would Bloom until around Christmas when I water her it’s only once a week and I get very little water so how much fertilizer should I use should I use to fertilize a by itself or should I add it with my water and I thoroughly enjoyed reading the article thank you

          2. Hi Pamela! So instead of watering just a little bit each time, I would recc giving your plant a deep drink, so the roots can absorb the water. Then, let your plant fully dry out before watering again. I do think liquid fertilizer is the best!

      1. I just read your article and wish I had read it a year ago. I received a Christmas Cacti when my father passed away on November 30, 2022. It was in a beautiful pot without drainage holes. I have kept it indoors where it get artificial light for about 12 hours daily. I was unaware about the 12 hours of darkness during the Fall months. How do I give it complete darkness when I have it in my dining room on a shelf? I didn’t know about fertilizing it and have only watered it about every 10 days or so. I just noticed the other day (on or about January 18th) that it just now has buds, so it is blooming a bit late. I so want this plant to live as it a reminder of my late father. I would so welcome your advice and a copy of this article emailed to me at [email protected]. I am so glad that your article popped on on Google’s search page. Thank you so much in advance.

        1. Hi Brenda! My condolences on the passing of your father and would love to help you with your plant. So to induce darkness you can get a dark colored pillow case or sheet (black) and drape it over the plant in the evenings to get that extra darkness. Yes, check out my post on watering for more tips on how to water your plant. They can bloom late And, sending you this article now!

      1. Thank you so much for this article on Christmas / Thanksgiving/ Easter cactus. I learned a great deal from you. I do wish could print this article, unfortunately it will not allow me to do this.
        Thank you again.
        Debbie

    2. Could you please email me this article I understand why you have adds but I’m not able to print this out and it is difficult to write all this information down as I have R/A in my hands. Thank you for all the great info in your articles

  2. My mother used to put her Christmas cactus in an upstairs room ,pull the blinds till it was dark and put a blanket over it. This may sound a bit crazy but it worked! When she brought it back downstairs in late fall its blooms were beautiful!

    1. It dropped below freezing 🥶 this last week and my plants were covered outside. But it didn’t work my Xmas cactus got frost bite and now inside. Looks terrible and I am scared I will lose it. I have taken this everywhere that I have moved. What can I do to save my baby?

      1. Hi Diana, I got both of your messages but I have to approve them before I can respond and am not on my computer at night. I apologize! Okay so I would give your plant a little bit of water, then if it does okay give it a little more water and see if it perks up. Depending on the damage, the plant may not make it. Christmas cactus come from tropical regions and are not accustomed to frosts. Saying a prayer that your plant pulls through this time!

  3. I enjoyed the information. My Christmas Cactus came from a broken piece on the ground. I was helping a neighbor move & didn’t know what it was so I put it in a shot glass of water in a window full of sunlight. That was 5 years ago& has had every year beautiful blooms. Now I know how to take care of it properly I’m scared to. Might kill it not sure what to do cause it’s only had water & strong sunlight. Thank you.

    1. Hi Susan! I wouldn’t be scared! If you can, propagate some of the clades in water or soil so you have more than one plant growing . I have heard of people growing Christmas cacti permanently in water. I would do some research on this and see if it’s a good option for your plant- especially if it’s been in there for five years!!!

  4. I enjoyed reading your article on Christmas cactus. I bought one while it was in bloom. After the blooms fell off I kept watering it only when it was dry about 1” down. In about September or October I put it in a dark closet for 12 hours with a bag covering it. After taking it out I set it under bright grow lights. Then back in closet. I did this until December hoping to force blossoms. But no luck. Could you please send me a copy of this article. Maybe by next Christmas I’ll have a beautiful bright plant to be proud of. Thanks in advance.

  5. I enjoyed all the informaion in your article. My Thanksgiving catcus is a few years old and blooms beautifully throughout late fall. The photo you included was gorgeous and has inspired me to take mine to the next level! I would love to have an email copy of the Thank you!
    Linda

  6. Hi Jamie,
    I learned a lot from your article. I have my great great grandmother’s Christmas cactus and I want to keep it growing and blooming. Would you please email me this article as well to [email protected]
    Thanks so much,
    DJ Loftis

  7. Please send me the full article on the Christmas cactus, it is very well written! I was recently gifted one from my daughter and would enjoy having blooms next Christmas.

  8. Thanks so much for your information on proper care. I have 2 Christmas cactus from my mother-in-law after she passed , which was about 15 years ago. They are still alive, but no longer bloom. I will start following your instructions & hope for better results. Thanks again!!

    1. Hello Glenda! That is so sweet that you inherited two beautiful Christmas cacti. I hope they are able to start blooming again and wish you the best. Thank you so much for visiting my blog! -Jamie

  9. I totally enjoyed your article. I have 3 Christmas cactus and two bloomed this past December. Could you please send me the article to my email. It is [email protected]. I would love to transplant two of my cactus they are old and need to have soil changed. Thanks again. Genie ison.

    1. Hi Genie! Yes, sending the article now. I also have an article on transplanting holiday cactus and a great article on soil needed-you can find those under the holiday cactus tab at the top of my site. Thank you for stopping by!

  10. I got my mom’s Christmas cacti when she passed away in December it is beautiful thank you for the direction on how to care for it. It is full of blooms she was always good with plants could you please send me an email of this direction thank you again ill send a picture of the cacti.

  11. Me encantó su artículo sobre los cactus navideños
    Me encantaría recibir por email la información de sus cuidados

    Gracias de antemano

  12. Thank you for the information on the cactus. I need all the help I can get and this came at the right time. My cactus was looking worn out. It’s about 10 years old this gave me hope to keep babyin it.

  13. Thank you for such an information packed article on the Christmas Cactus care! We inherited ours from my Fiancée’s Aunt after she passed. It had one bloom on this Christmas, hopefully we will have more this year! Excited to see it grow and bloom!
    I would love to have the article emailed as well!
    Thank you so much!

    1. Hello Anne! You’re welcome, I’m so glad you found the article beneficial. I hope your cacti blooms in full next year, and I am sending the article your way right now! Blessings- Jamie

  14. I found your article very informative and thank you for the information. I would appreciate a copy. Thanking you in advance.

  15. I am so excited to have stumbled across you!!! My family has a xmas that is over 100 years old and has spawned lots of offspring.
    When my mom passed we potted slips from her plant and set them out at her funeral. They were all snatched up by friends and family and those who didnt get a slip asked if we could get a slip to them.
    Do Easter cacti need the same light requirements to bloom?

    1. Hi Denise! Welcome! Thank you for your sweet comment. What a thoughtful gesture to share that beautiful Christmas cactus with so many people. I am sure your mom is smiling down on that. Yes, Easter cactus are also short day plants and do need about 12 hours of darkness per day to set their buds. 🙂

  16. Thank you so much for your article! I have a few Christmas Cacti and would love to have a copy of your article to print and refer to. Thanks again!

  17. Thank you for the Thanksgiving and Christmas info! I also have an Easter cactus. What are the instructions for those? The same? May – September? Thanks!

    1. Hi Lynn! Working on some Easter cactus articles now! So these plants bloom in the spring and you do not need to fertilize when they are blooming, which is typically March through May. You can wait about a month after it’s stopped blooming (let it rest for a bit), then start fertilizing after it’s done!

  18. My Christmas cactus has wrinkled leaves on it, it boomed at Christmas but now looks Iike it is dying. I repotted it in new potting soil in a larger pot. It is about 3 years old. Any thing I can do to help I revive?

    1. Hi Penny, make sure you are giving your plant a nice deep drink when watering, then waiting for the top inch or so of soil to dry out before watering again. Repotting it and regular watering, as well as the right humidity level, may revive your plant.

  19. Hi Jamie; may I have a copy of this article too. I’ve had my Christmas cactus for 25+ years and plan to repot it with fresh soil in March. I will look for the fertilizer you recommend to help it thru the shock of transplanting.

  20. This is an amazing article about how to care for Christmas Cacti. My brother passed before Christmas 2015 and we received this plant. My sisters plant did not survive but I still have some of mine. This article would be very helpful and I’d be grateful if you could email it to me so I could print it. What soil do I buy? I have some little leaves sitting in water for the past few months. Thank you!

    1. Hi Carlita! That is so lovely to have a cacti passed on from your brother. Yes, I’m sending you the article now. For soil, you’ll want to create a very well draining Christmas cactus soil like this one. https://greengardencottage.com/best-soil-for-christmas-cactus/ This can work for transplanting as well, I have one growing the soil now. If you can’t find small bark orchid chips, just break up the other ones and use the small pieces. I hope this helps! 🙂

  21. Hi Jamie,
    Thanks so much for the valuable information on growing Christmas cactus. My son has given me two and I love to see them bloom. I would also like to have a copy of your article:

  22. Hi Jamie…Thank you very much for the article on cactus I Loved it! I have a few cactus myself and would love a copy of your article. Actually I would love all you have on them. Do you have any information on how to propagate them? I have never had any luck with that. Hopefully you can point me in the right direction. Again thank you very much for the article. It was very informative. Keep the articles coming. I subscribed to your news letter ❤….Della Rachels
    P.S. my email is [email protected]

    1. Hi Della! Thank you so much, I’m so glad you found the article helpful! Yes, I’ll send you the copy right now. I am actually working on an ebook that will include all the articles on Christmas cactus — as well as some bonuses!

      Here is an article on propagating holiday cactus: https://greengardencottage.com/how-to-propagate-christmas-cactus/ I have found higher humidity can help increase propagation success.

      So happy to have you here and again thank you sweet comments! -Jamie

  23. Hi Jamie,
    Perfect timing to see this article. My cactis has just begun the budding process. It’s the 2nd time it’s budding late but that doesn’t bother me. As long as it’s flowering, we’re all good!!
    I am also requesting this article to be emailed to me!
    Thank you so much!

  24. Thanks so much for the article. I would appreciate a copy of it if you would. [email protected]
    You mentioned diluting the fertilizer by half. How or what is meant by that? I need to save my Thanksgiving Cactus.
    Thanks for your help.

    1. Hi Jean! Yes, I will send you the article! Ok so instead of using full strength, you add HALF the amount of fertilizer to the water mix. Some people even start out with 1/4 strength. I hope this helps! 🙂

  25. I have a 50 year old Thanksgiving cactus that I have never fertilized and I’m nervous about starting now. We are days away from March and she’s still giving me a few blooms. On watering, for the most part, I ignore her and water when I think about it. So, she’s definitely not over watered.
    Thoughts on starting to fertilize after all these years?

    1. Hi Sandy! If your plant is doing well and you don’t feel like you need to fertilize I would go with your gut! Alternatively, if you really want to give it a go but are nervous, just do a lesser frequency to start with. I hope this helps! 🙂

  26. Please send me the right way to change my 30 year old Easter cacti. I got both Easter and Thanksgiving when I graduated from nursing school and they have been through some hard times with me.. But we have both survived gloriously with families to tend to. Thank you in advance.
    Virginia Johnson Sanchez Kaldor
    [email protected]

    1. Hi Virginia! I am so glad you have enjoyed the articles, thank you for visiting my blog! I have not transplanted blackberries, however I know they prefer nutrient dense soil, regular watering and full sun. When given these conditions they grow like weeds! 🙂

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