Skip to Content

The Right Way to Water Your Christmas Cactus (2023 Full Care Guide)

This site is supported by our readers. We may earn a commission, at no cost to you, if you purchase through links.

watering your christmas cactusYou know your Christmas cactus needs water, but how much is enough without overdoing it? Achieving that balance means understanding this plant’s unique needs.

As you’re growing aware, these holiday plants require more hydration than desert cacti, yet soaking their shallow roots drowns them.

Observe signs telling you when to water. Drooping leaves and shriveled stems indicate under-watering fixed with a good soak and drain.

Growing in the right potting mix also provides proper aeration and moisture control.

With some attentive watering, your Christmas cactus will thrive for years and delight you with abundant holiday blooms.

Now let’s explore specifics on ideal watering techniques for your plant’s health and prolific flowering.

Key Takeaways

  • Check soil moisture before watering and water when the top 1-3 inches become dry.
  • Water thoroughly until excess drains from the pot. This ensures the entire root zone is hydrated.
  • Increase watering frequency while the plant is blooming to support bud development.
  • Use a fast-draining cactus/succulent soil mix and pot with drainage holes. This prevents waterlogging and suffocation of the roots.

About the Christmas Cactus

About the Christmas Cactus
You’re caring for a long-lasting flowering holiday plant that prefers more humidity than desert cacti. The Christmas cactus, botanically known as Schlumbergera, hails from the shady understory of tropical forests, not the harsh sun and aridity of deserts.

With its gorgeous pink, purple, or red blooms, this epiphytic cactus will thrive in your home’s warm, humid spots like the bathroom or kitchen. Be sure to pot it in a container with drainage holes using a fast-draining cactus soil mix; this prevents soggy roots susceptible to rot.

Although it loves bright light, direct sun will scorch its sensitive leaves. Careful attention to water, light, and humidity will keep your Christmas cactus healthy and encourage profuse flowering.

How Much Water Does It Need?

How Much Water Does It Need
When it comes to watering your Christmas cactus, careful attention should be paid to both the frequency and amount. To keep the soil lightly moist but not soggy, water only when the top third has dried out; then, soak the entire root zone thoroughly until excess drains from the holes at the bottom.

Allowing the mix to dry too much between waterings can cause buds to shrivel and drop, while overwatering leads to rotted roots unable to uptake nutrients.

Frequency of Watering

Check the soil before you soak your plant; water thoroughly when the top third is dry. The Christmas cactus (Schlumbergera truncata) needs more frequent watering than desert cacti to support its tropical heritage.

Aim to keep the soil consistently moist but not soggy, allowing excess water to drain from the pot after soaking this epiphytic succulent. Growing in cactus soil provides the fast drainage it prefers. Pay special attention while blooming, when higher water needs encourage bud development.

With the right balance of water and humidity, your holiday cactus will reward you with abundant flowers.

Amount of Water

  • Gradually pour water until it drains out the bottom of the pot. The goal is for the soil to be evenly moist, not soaked or dry.
  • Water more frequently while the plant is actively blooming.
  • After soaking, let any excess water drain completely.
  • Before watering again, check the soil by touching it. Soak the plant when the soil is partially dry.

When to Water

When to Water
When it comes to watering your Christmas cactus, you’ll want to pay careful attention to both the time of day and the plant’s growth cycle. We recommend watering in the morning, as this allows the foliage to dry out during the day, preventing issues with rot.

Additionally, while the plant is actively blooming, you should increase watering frequency, aiming to keep the soil consistently moist but not soggy. This extra hydration will support the increased metabolic demands during flowering.

Time of Day

Let the soil dry a bit before you give your plant a good soak in the morning. Schlumbergera truncata, also known as Christmas Cacti, need less frequent watering from late fall to mid-winter when they’re resting in the cooler rooms of your home.

Do the soil touch test to know when it’s time to hydrate those roots again, pal. Underwatering causes bud drop, but overwatering leads to root rot, so pay close attention. Give your precious plant the care it deserves and those holiday blooms will brighten your days like nothing else.

While Blooming

Round the holidays, step up your watering game when that Christmas cactus starts flowering, bud. More blooms need more moisture to keep them from shriveling up quicker than a snowman in July. While your precious holiday cacti are in full flower from November through January, they’ll be needing more frequent drinks.

Them blooms are working overtime to brighten your winter days with festive pinks, reds, and purples. Remember to keep soil moist, not soggy when your long-lasting holiday plant is putting on its show.

Just a few deep drinks a week while it’s cooler will keep those flowers lasting.

Watering Method

Watering Method
Keeping your Christmas cactus properly hydrated is crucial for healthy growth and prolific flowering. When watering, thoroughly soak the soil until water drains freely from the drainage holes. This ensures the entire root zone receives moisture. Christmas cactuses prefer higher humidity than desert cacti.

Misting the leaves or using a pebble tray filled with water can help elevate humidity around your plant. Maintaining ideal watering and humidity conditions will help your holiday cactus thrive.

Soak and Drain

Dip your plant’s pot in a bowl of water, holdin’ it there ’til bubbles stop risin’ to soak the soil completely before tippin’ it on its side to drain.

Give your Christmas cactus a good, thorough drink with this soak n’ drain method, fully saturatin’ the soil.

These tropical plants need more frequent waterin’ than desert cacti, ‘specially when they’re pumpin’ out all those holiday blooms.

Big soaks ensure you meet its moisture requirements without overwaterin’.

Just let excess drain away before puttin’ it back in place so soggy soil don’t lead to root rot.

Proper hydration brings happy holidays.


Here, friend, hang a mistletoe above your cactus, for it craves that added kiss of humidity. See, this Christmas variety thrives on more moisture in the air than its desert cousins do. Find it a home in steamy spots such as the bathroom or kitchen to support healthy growth and colorful blooms.

Still too parched? Add a pebble tray underneath or run a humidifier in the room. Your holiday plant will flourish with the hydrating care it needs. Just be sure it can still drain properly to avoid root rot.

Signs of Underwatering

Signs of Underwatering
You’ll notice buds shrivel and drop when your cactus lacks water. As a horticultural enthusiast, I understand the frustration of seeing those vibrant red, pink, or white blooms wither away. But don’t dismay, my botanically-inclined friend! With some attentive care, you can revive your thirsty Christmas Cactus (Schlumbergera bridgessii) to its former glory.

Unlike regular cacti of the desert, these tropical epiphytes crave moisture. Their origins in rainforests prime them for more generous watering than their prickly counterparts. Scan the soil and leaves for signs of dehydration—shriveling, wrinkling, and excessive loss of blooms.

Give your holiday plant a deep, thirst-quenching drink. As moisture permeates the roots, you’ll watch those buds plump back up! With the right balance of water, your Christmas Cactus will reward you with a vibrant display of holiday cheer.

Signs of Overwatering

Signs of Overwatering
Your poor Christmas cactus gets droopy and yellow when you give it too much water, friend! We’ve all been guilty of overwatering our plants at some point. As gardeners, we want the best for our botanical buddies. But just as plants need the right amount of sunlight, they also need a thoughtful balance of water.

When standing or pooled water remains around the roots too long, oxygen gets cut off. Without proper drainage, soggy soil suffocates the roots. Leaves yellow, stems go limp, and your holiday cactus struggles.

While these tropical plants love moisture more than desert cacti, their water retention abilities still have limits.

Check the soil before daily gardening care. Feel with your finger to gauge moisture levels. Allow the top few inches to dry before thoroughly watering again. A properly hydrated Christmas cactus will reward you with bright green leaves and vivid blooms.

Ideal Potting Mix

Ideal Potting Mix
You gotta use a well-draining cactus soil for your holiday plant. I learned this the hard way when my first Christmas cactus sat soggy in regular potting mix. These tropical cacti thrive in a rich, porous mixture that mimics their humid forest roots.

Though they love moisture more than desert plants, soggy soil still suffocates hungry roots.

Pick a top-quality cactus/succulent soil, or make your own blend with:

  • 1 part potting soil
  • 1 part perlite or pumice
  • 1 part peat moss or coco coir
  • 1 part sand or fine gravel

A loose, lightweight base allows extra water to easily drain away after watering your flowering Christmas cactus. The right potting mix prevents stagnant saturation around those shallow roots. Give your holiday plant a fighting chance with an airy, fast-draining soil.

With the perfect potion, your Christmas cactus will soon reward you with vivid blooms.

Fertilizer Needs

Fertilizer Needs
Give your holiday plant regular feedings of a balanced fertilizer to encourage lush growth and vibrant blooms.

March – August: Feed every 2-3 weeks
September – February: Fertilize monthly

Choose an all-purpose or bloom-boosting fertilizer. Look for equal ratios of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. Dilute to half-strength, and drench the soil until it drains from the pot’s base. With a steady diet of fertilizer, your flowering Christmas cactus will soon erupt in brilliant color.

It craves the extra nutrition to support prolific blooms. Feed more while buds are developing to maximize the floral display. Proper fertilization also prevents yellowing leaves and leggy growth. Give your holiday cactus a nutritional boost, and it’ll reward you with long-lasting color.

Repotting Tips

Repotting Tips
You’ll want to carefully repot your Christmas cactus every 2-3 years to refresh the soil and give the roots some extra room. Use a pot that is only one size larger and replant into a well-draining mix, being careful not to damage the delicate roots.

Water thoroughly after repotting to settle the roots and remove any air pockets in the new soil.

When to Repot

Don’t stress your plant by repotting right before the blooming season starts.

Spring is the ideal time for repotting. Select a pot only 2 inches larger than the current one. Use a well-draining cactus/succulent soil mix. Gently loosen the roots before placing in the new pot.

Repotting in the spring, before buds set, gives your Christmas cactus time to recover from any root disturbances. A modest increase in pot size prevents overwatering but still allows for new growth. Mix in fresh potting soil to replenish nutrients. Handle the fragile roots with care when transferring to prevent damage.

Watering well after repotting removes any air pockets and settles the plant. With this gentle approach, your flowering holiday cactus will continue thriving in its new home.

How to Repot

Soil stirring helps oxygen reach Christmas cactus roots when repotting, doesn’t it?

Gently tease apart roots before repotting to encourage new growth. Use cactus mix for drainage. Repot just before blooms appear. A bigger home means more Christmas cheer. Select a pot 2 inches larger.

Step Why
Loosen roots Prevents tangling
New pot & soil Drainage & nutrients
Settle plant Eliminates air pockets
Water thoroughly Hydrates fresh soil

Nurturing your Christmas cactus ensures the happiest holidays.

Troubleshooting Common Issues

Troubleshooting Common Issues
While repotting helps provide fresh soil and room to grow, your plant can still run into problems.

  • Bud or blossom drop – This is typically caused by stress or overly dry soil. Ensure the plant gets adequate water, especially when actively blooming.
  • Mealybugs – These small white insects enjoy munching on succulents. Treat them with neem oil or insecticidal soap if you spot them.
  • Root rot – Overwatering leads to soggy soil and rotting roots. Allow the soil to partly dry out between waterings and ensure the pot has drainage.

Avoiding environmental stresses like extreme temperatures, dry air, or prolonged direct sun will help prevent issues. Monitor soil moisture, humidity, and light conditions to keep your Christmas cactus happy and healthy.

A little attentive care will help your holiday plant thrive for many seasons to come.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How often should I water my Christmas cactus in the winter when it’s not actively growing?

During the winter rest period, water your Christmas cactus just enough to keep the soil lightly moist. Allow the top inch to dry out between waterings and be careful not to overwater, as overwatering could lead to root rot.

Generally aim to water about every 2-3 weeks unless the plant shows signs of shriveling.

Is it okay if some water collects in the saucer under the pot after watering?

It’s perfectly fine if water collects in the saucer after watering your Christmas cactus. This excess drainage ensures the soil doesn’t become overly soggy. Just dump out any standing water about 30 minutes later so the pot isn’t left soaking.

The key is striking a balance between thoroughly saturating the soil while still allowing excess water to drain away.

What type of water is best – tap water, distilled water, or filtered water?

For watering your Christmas Cactus, use room temperature filtered or distilled water. Tap water contains minerals that can build up in the soil over time. Avoid cold water straight from the tap, as it can shock the roots.

How can I tell if my Christmas cactus needs more humidity?

If the leaf tips of your Christmas cactus turn brown and shrivel up, buds blast or wrinkle before opening, or leaves appear dried out, mist the plant daily or use a pebble tray. Keeping it in the kitchen or bathroom provides extra moisture. A humidifier nearby also helps.

How do I adjust my watering if my plant is in a sunny window that tends to dry out the soil more quickly?

Check the soil frequently, and water thoroughly whenever the top third is dry. Aiming to keep the soil consistently moist but not soaked, you may need to water as often as every few days in a hot, sunny spot.

Furthermore, adding moisture-retaining materials like peat moss to the soil mix can help.


You’ve mastered the fine art of watering your Christmas cactus, haven’t you? After all, who knew such a thirsty plant could be so finicky about its watering habits? With your newfound wisdom on soaking and draining, ideal timing, and perfect humidity levels, those succulent red blooms will burst forth again next season.

Just don’t let that green thumb pride make you overconfident—one sprinkle too many and your cactus may not see Christmas at all. Stay vigilant, my botanist friend, and your flowering friend will thrive under your care.

Avatar for Mutasim Sweileh

Mutasim Sweileh

Mutasim is a published author and software engineer and agriculture expert from the US. To date, he has helped thousands of people make their yards lush and thick.