Christmas cactus (Thanksgiving, Holiday) are attractive succulents and last longer. In this article, you’ll find what you need to know about repotting Christmas cactus including how & when to do it, and the best soil mix to use.
Additionally, Christmas cactus are not only for the holidays, although they look lovely when blooming. They’re long-lasting and very attractive succulent houseplants. The weeping and the foliage form they grow into overtime is wonderful.
Thanksgiving cactus? and Christmas cactus? What’s The Difference?
As a start, let’s get a bit technical for those of you who geek out on all things plant like me. The Christmas Cacti that you see above is actually Thanksgiving (or Crab) Cactus. Moreover, they are labeled as a CC and that’s how they’re popularly sold in the market. However, these days you may see them labeled as Holiday Cactus. Doesn’t matter which one you have, you can repot these epiphytic cacti in the same way.
The Christmas and Thanksgiving cactus both fall under the genus Schlumbergera which years ago was named Schlumbergia.
In fact, the leaves of the Christmas cactus are smoother, whereas, just like a crab claw, hence that common name, the Thanksgiving cactus has little spine-like notches coming off its leaves.
The Christmas cactus is timed to flower in December/January, whereas it is November/December for the Thanksgiving cactus.
Best Time for Repotting Christmas cactus
The best time for repotting Christmas Cactus when it blooms. However, some may stop blooming at the end of December if the repotting was done at the end of March when the weather is warm.
In September or early October, they start to set their buds so you want to transplant yours by early August. That’s being so, the plant is settled in before that process starts.
Soil Mix for Repotting Christmas Cactus
Undoubtedly, these succulents are epiphytic cacti and differ from the desert cacti. In their natural rainforest habits, Christmas Cacti do not grow in the soil but rather on other plants and rocks.
Not only that, but they are sheltered by the canopies of trees and shrubs and thrive when protected from direct, full sun. Also, they get their alimentation from leaf and organic matter & debris coming down from the plants growing above them. Which means that they require a very porous mix that has a lot of richness to it just like their fellow orchids & epiphytes bromeliads.
This blend is preferable because it drains well and is rich. These are all organic ingredients that you need to have on hand if you have a collection of plants that is always growing. Also, you’ll find some alternative mixes in the paragraphs below.
1/3 Succulent & Cactus Mix
Avoid buying a mix from a local source and start making your own. Follow along for DIY succulent & cactus mix recipes in case you want to make your own:
Succulent & Cactus Soil Mix for Pots
Some online options for succulent & cactus mix: Hoffman’s (this is more cost effective if you have a lot of succulents but you might have to add pumice or perlite), Bonsai Jack (this one is very gritty; great for those prone to overwatering!), or Superfly Bonsai (another fast draining one like Bonsai Jack which is great for indoors succulents).
1/3 Potting Soil
You can use a part of Ocean Forest because of its high-quality ingredients, and since it’s a soilless mix & is enriched with lots of good stuff, but also drains well.
1/3 Fiber & Coco Coir Chips
A few handfuls of worm compost, a few handfuls of compost, is our favorite modulation, which you can use sparingly because it’s really rich.
Additionally, a few handfuls of Charcoal improves the drainage & absorbs impurities and odors. Like the composts, this is optional, but you can always have them on hand.
- 1/2 orchid bark & 1/2 potting soil
- all cymbidium orchid mix
- 1/2 cymbidium orchid mix & 1/2 succulent & cactus mix
- 1/2 orchid bark & 1/2 potting soil
- 1/2 coco coir chips & 1/2 potting soil
How to Repot Your Christmas cactus
When slightly pot bound, Christmas cactus bloom best. However, older Christmas Cacti planted can relatively be in small pots and can do just fine. Always make sure the pot has at least 1 drain hole.
The following is a detailed repotting process that you need to follow if your Christmas cactus got harmed.
First, remove the plant by squeezing the pot and/or cutting around the sides with a dull knife. Second, you can loosen the root ball a bit if it’s tight with a gentle massaging.
Then, you need to place the desired mix in the bottom of the pot, so that the root ball is even with the top. After that, just fill in around the sides with the mix adding in compost if you have it.
You can even top it with succulent & cactus mix, compost & worm compost.
Care for Christmas Cactus
If you have a side patio, you better move your cactus there where it can get indirect yet bright light. The following step would be to let it cool down for a few days & make sure the mix is moist by giving it a couple of thorough waterings. You can water it for 5 to 7 days if it’s warm where you live.
What you should also know is that these are epiphytic cacti & differ from the desert cacti. They grow on other plants & rocks in their natural rainforest habitats, and not in soil. Clearly their roots need to breathe.
Make sure to give it a good drink of water, let it all thoroughly drain out of the pot, and let it go dry before you water it again. Obviously, you don’t want to keep the roots constantly moist or they will eventually rot out.
How and When Should You Water Your Christmas Cactus?
Like it is mentioned before, how often you water your cactus depends on your temps, the pot size & the exposure it’s in, you can consider Houseplant watering 101, as it gives you a general idea.
However, if you’re growing your Christmas cactus outdoors, you can water it every week, and of course, depending on the weather, (yes, they do grow outdoors year-round in temperate climates) in the warmer weather and sometimes you needn’t at all in the winter, depending on if you have rain or not. If put indoors in the cooler months, water it every 2 to 4 weeks.
All in all, repotting Christmas cactus (Thanksgiving, Holiday) is easy to do and surely yours will appreciate some fresh mix. I hope this article was beneficial for you, and take good care of your Christmas cactus!