L&L Project :: Rooting a Holiday Cactus

Rooting a Holiday Cactus

I’ve never had luck with a holiday cactus. I’ve been gifted a Christmas cactus a couple of times, and have failed miserably at keeping them alive.

Rooting a Holiday Cactus

Last summer, I was gifted an orchid cactus (different species BTW) and I was able to make it thrive, so last November when I was at a friend’s house and she offered me a few pieces of her holiday cactus to try to root, I accepted with cautious optimism. (I mean, I’ve got other green-thumb skills.) Here I am nearly a year later, and I’m thrilled with the results.

So, if you’re like me and want to try to root and grow a holiday cactus, here’s what I did that helped me turn the corner. And, using these tips, it really has been quite easy.

Step One – Taking holiday cactus from the mother

Break off a few pieces (2-4 segments long) from the mother plant and then let them rest for about a week. I know this step seems counterintuitive to all things green and growing, but you want the ends to harden over. Put the pieces in a dark, cool spot for about a week.

Step Two – Rooting holiday cactus in a “greenhouse”

Green house for helping holiday cactus to root

Create a greenhouse with two clear or semi-transparent Solo cups. Fill the bottom with cacti soil, insert the pieces (cut end down) into the dirt about 3/4 inch, and add water to fully soak the dirt (but don’t make it soggy). Top with the second cup and tape it securely in place. Put your greenhouse in a south-facing window. (The key here is bright but indirect light.)

You don’t have to do anything for the next month or so. You’ll notice the sun helping to bring evaporated water to the top of the top cup. You’ll also notice roots and additional sprouts coming up.

Step Three – Opening up your holiday cactus

Time to take the top off

Remove the top when your holiday cactus outgrows its home. For me and at this point, I had a couple of blooms emerging and a few weeks later had a single beautiful bloom. When you remove the top, you then need to make sure you’re watering regularly – about every 7-10 days.

Final Step – Re-potting and regular maintenance

In about 6 weeks, I already had a beautiful bloom.

Re-pot your holiday cactus when it looks like the roots are really taking over. These plants don’t mind being a little “root-bound” so you don’t have to rush this step. I re-potted in just a slightly larger pot with more of the same potting soil for cacti. Leave it in the south-facing window; water and feed regularly. For food, I used a standard all-purpose houseplant food that is 24-8-16. My goal was to feed once a month, but I wasn’t 100% consistent on this front.

I started seeing this year’s buds emerge in early October. A few weeks later, I had really beautiful blooms.

Post Script

There are several types of holiday cacti – Thanksgiving (mine), Christmas and Easter. There are other sites that describe the differences, and what I have is a Thanksgiving cactus.


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