How To Get Christmas Cactus To Bloom

With their vibrant blooms in neon shades of pink, red, and white, Christmas cacti bring joy to the holiday season.  

And though considered easy to grow, getting a holiday cactus to bloom can sometimes be challenging. 

There’s a lot of conflicting info on the web on how to get a Christmas or Thanksgiving cacti to bloom.

I’m here to set the record straight, giving you the details on how to get your holiday cactus to bloom and the common mistakes to avoid!

How To Get A Holiday Cactus To Bloom

Like any plant, Christmas and Thanksgiving cacti have specific water, light, and soil needs. When these conditions are met, the plants happily thrive and produce abundant blooms. 

However, when a critical need is missing from their environment, a Christmas or Thanksgiving cacti may fail to set its buds in the fall. 

These plants have specific light and temperature requirements to set their buds in the fall. The correct watering routine, soil, and fertilizer will give these plants the nutrients they need to produce abundant blooms.

Let’s dive into these needs to ensure your plant is set up for successful blooming this winter!

How Light Affects Blooming

Key point: As short-day plants, holiday cacti need 12-14 hours of uninterrupted darkness along with 8-10 hours of daytime light for 3-6 weeks to set their buds. 

Christmas cactus and Thanksgiving cactus are known as short-day plants. Unlike many plants that love to bloom when the days are long and full of light, these houseplants need shorter hours of sunlight in the fall to set their buds.

They will need reduced daylight hours in the fall to stimulate bud production. 

Now, there are all kinds of tips in forums and blogs on how to induce shorter daylight time, which I have seen lead to confusion on caring for these plants in the fall. 

Let’s set the record straight: you do NOT want to place a dark bag over your plant and leave it in darkness all day and night for week on end.

You can, however, gently cover your plant in the evening with a dark bag to encourage bud production, then remove the bag during the day to ensure the plant gets the daytime light it craves. 

Your plant may already receive the optimal lighting conditions depending on where you live and the room in which your cacti live!

If you live in an environment that provides 12-14 hours of darkness in the fall, place your plant in a location to receive this evening darkness. An example may be a sunroom or next to a window in a room that does not have artificial lighting at night. 

If your plant does not receive at least 12 hours of darkness daily, gently cover it with a dark pillowcase or plastic bag in the evenings, starting in early fall.

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In addition to longer hours of light, Christmas cacti need cooler temperatures to set their buds. 

The temperature should be between 60 and 65 degrees during the day and between 50 and 55 degrees at night.

To mimic the plant’s natural environment, set the temperature between 50 and 55 degrees at night for 3-6 weeks before bloom time.

Shorter days and decreased nighttime temperatures are key to getting your plant to set blooms. 

Fertilizer + Soil

In addition to getting the correct ratio of darkness to light, Christmas cacti can benefit from a quality fertilizer. 

Fertilizing in summer will support the plant’s root system and leaves. It can also increase the amount of blooms that the plant produces!

The best time to fertilize is during the active growing season, which starts mid-spring.  

I use Jack’s all-purpose fertilizer, which has a balanced NPK ratio. Get my complete guide to fertilizing Christmas cactus here.

Soil can also affect a plant’s ability to bloom. Give your holiday cactus loose, well-draining soil. Soggy, waterlogged soil can cause buds to drop.

Watering Routine

A proper watering routine will support your holiday cactus as it develops its buds in the fall. 

Water hydrates your plants and delivers essential minerals and vitamins from the soil into the roots. 

Overwatering, however, can cause many problems for a Christmas cactus, including bud drop! Bud drop is when the flowers develop on the plant, but the buds fall off instead of blooming. 

Watering a Christmas cactus can be tricky. The specific temperature, light, and soil in your plant’s growing environment affect how often you should water it. Get my best tips for watering holiday cacti here


In summary, your holiday cactus will burst with blooms when you give it the right growing conditions in the fall: decreased light and cooler temperatures. 

You can support plant growth and encourage abundant blooms by feeding it the right fertilizer, soil, and water. 

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