Watering Christmas cactuses isn’t difficult. They’re easier than a lot of other plants, but you do need to understand a little bit about them in order to understand the how and the why of watering Christmas cacti.
Christmas cactuses are different than typical cacti. Their water, soil, and moisture requirements are much different. They do not come from dry deserts; in nature, they live in Brazilian rainforests, and they don’t live in the ground; they live in the crooks and branches of trees. Their “soil” is a combination of composted tree debris, moss, and whatever other soil may have blown in.
How often do you water a Christmas cactus?
When to water your Christmas cactus:
In general, Christmas cactuses only need to be watered every two to three weeks. However, you should let your plant and its soil guide you.
Water your Christmas cactus when the top of the soil in the pot is dry. You shouldn’t water your plant until the top one-third of the soil is dry (in the average-size pot, this would be about the top two inches of soil, though in bigger plants, it will be deeper).
Increase the frequency of watering while the plant is in bloom.
When your Christmas cactus starts budding and blooming, it will have higher water needs. The plant will be up taking more water, so it will dry out and require water more often. You should still do the “soil touch test” to decide when you give it water, though.
Things that can change your Christmas cactus watering schedule.
You know how it goes. Everyone’s home (or office or other plant location) is different. Some are warmer, some are drier, and some have more direct light. The quality and water retention abilities of your plant soil change watering frequency, too.
Where you place your Christmas cactus in your home can also change how quickly or how slowly it dries out. Plants closer to heat sources will dry out faster, while plants that are kept in cooler rooms or further away from heating units may need to be watered less frequently.
Cactus size and pot size can make a difference when it comes to watering. A larger pot might hold more water, but a larger pot is likely to have a larger plant, so it may also drink up that water faster.
The point is you can’t be rigid in your watering schedule. These factors can all make a difference. You may even find that plants in one room of your home need more or less water than plants in another or that larger plants need to be watered more often. The key is, again, to let the plant be the guide.
How Christmas cactuses like their water delivered.
Christmas cactuses need a good, thorough drink when they are watered. They should not be left in standing water, though.
When it is time to water your plant, either take the plant to the sink and water it or water it in place with a saucer under the plant. Water the pot just until water runs out of the bottom drainage holes. Then wait fifteen minutes for the pot to drain the rest of the way.
If you watered your Christmas cactus in the sink, you can now return it to its space. If you watered it in place, dump out any water that is in the bottom saucer under the plant.
Don’t leave pots in standing water.
Do not leave the pot sitting in pooled water. You do not want to leave water in the bottom as you do with other plants, or the soil will continue to soak up the excess water, and that will keep the roots too moist. This will cause buds to fall, blossoms to drop, and roots to rot, causing the plant to die.
Higher humidity helps Christmas cactus stay healthy and hold blossoms better.
If your Christmas cactus develops buds, but they fall off before they open, the problem is almost always a water and moisture issue. The issue can be too much water or not enough water. It can also be that the air in your home is too dry and isn’t humid enough.
Increase humidity around the plant with a humidifier. We have some plant humidifier recommendations here, including recommendations for a non-electric, utility-free option.
Place your Christmas cactus pot on top of a humidifying pebble tray (this project is easy to DIY).
Use a whole-home or whole-room humidifier
Move your cactus to a room with higher humidity, such as a kitchen or bathroom (in fact, Christmas cactuses often do well in bright, humid bathrooms).
Mist your cactus regularly
Christmas cactuses are easy to care for and easy to bring back to bloom. You just need to know the right way to care for and water your Christmas cactus (it’s mostly in the watering). Most of us probably overdo it and overcomplicate it, but once you know what your Christmas cactus needs, you’ll find that it is an easy, low-maintenance plant to care for that will reward you with beautiful bright blooms year after year.