The Christmas cactus (Schlumbergera bridgesii) is a common houseplant available in nurseries and garden centers around the holiday season. The cactus produces colorful blooms in shades of red, orange, purple, pink or white on the end of its succulent, spineless stems. Christmas cactus uses its stems for reproduction through photosynthesis and does not produce leaves. The stems grow in an arching, pendulous form, which makes the plant suitable for hanging baskets. Christmas cactus makes an excellent low-maintenance houseplant and requires minimal care to continue thriving after the holidays.
Keep Christmas cactus in a location that receives bright, indirect sunlight throughout the day. Maintain a consistent temperature of 60 to 70 degrees F during the day and 55 to 65 degrees F at night for the best results.
Water the plant when the top half of the soil feels dry to the touch, about once every two weeks. Soak the soil thoroughly until moisture begins to exit the drainage holes. Pour off any excess water to prevent rotting.
Force flowering by placing Christmas cactus in complete darkness for 14 to 16 hours a day at a temperature of 50 to 75 degrees F beginning in mid-September. Continue this process every day for about eight weeks to give the buds a chance to form. The plant should flower by Christmas.
Feed the cactus once every two weeks during winter with an all-purpose houseplant fertilizer diluted to ¼ the strength recommended by the manufacturer. Water lightly before and after fertilizing to release the nutrients from the fertilizer into the soil.
Prune Christmas cactus immediately after blooming to encourage the plant to branch out and form denser growth. Remove two to three sections from each stem. New growth will appear shortly after.