Ready to share the love by propagating Christmas cactus? This bloom-heavy succulent can grow from a small section of a healthy plant, making it easy to start new plants. Christmas cactus plants typically take well to new roots, which makes this a project for gardeners of all skill levels.
Christmas Cactus Basics
The Christmas cactus is a beautiful houseplant featuring glossy, jointed and flat leaf-like sections. When cared for properly, the plant produces lots of colorful blooms in the winter right around Christmas, as the name suggests. Fuchsia is a common color for the flowers, but they can also be other shades of pink, red or white. You can display the Christmas cactus as an alternative to the popular poinsettia or give it as a holiday gift.
In nature, Christmas cacti grow attached to trees in jungle environments, so they do best in brightly lit rooms without being in direct sunlight. They also like humid environments, which you can create by adding saucers filled with gravel and water under your plants. While planting Christmas cactus outdoors isn't an option in most areas because of frost, the plants can go outdoors in the pot during the summer months.
When to Propagate Christmas Cactus
Timing of propagation can have an impact on how successful you are at getting a new Christmas cactus to grow. The ideal propagation time for Christmas cacti is during late spring. The plant is coming out of winter rest mode and is already primed for new growth, which can help your cuttings take off when you root them.
Getting Christmas Cactus Cuttings
You can easily get a cutting from a mature, healthy Christmas cactus plant to start a new plant for yourself or for someone else. An ideal cutting to propagate Christmas cactus plants contains between two and five stem segments, which are the flattened leaf sections. You can either cut the segment or pinch it at a joint. Once you cut a section, leave it out for a day or two to let the cut edge heal to minimize stem rot.
Rooting the Cuttings
You have a few options for the rooting medium for Christmas cactus cuttings. One option is a mix of peat, which is naturally anti-fungal to prevent diseases, and coarse sand. You can also use perlite or coarse sand by itself as the medium. Whatever you choose, water the medium before you add the cutting and let the excess water drain out of the pot before planting.
Press the cutting into the medium with the cut edge going down into it. It should go into the medium about 1 inch or roughly a quarter of the length of the cutting. You don't want to press it in too far, or it might rot. Gently press the medium around the cutting to keep it in place and water it right away.
Caring for the Cuttings
Christmas cactus cuttings typically take six to eight weeks to root, but they may take a little less or a little more time. Monitor the cutting during that time to make sure it's growing well and look for signs of new growth so you know when to repot. The cuttings grow best in bright spaces without being in direct sunlight, just like mature Christmas cactus plants.
You'll want to water the cutting sparingly only when the rooting medium dries out, being careful not to give the cuttings too much water. Excess water can cause the succulent to get mushy and rot. When the cuttings start new growth on the tips, you can plant them in potting soil mixed with sand or a mix designed for cacti.
Shelley Frost combines her love of DIY and writing in her freelance career. She has first-hand experience with tiling, painting, refinishing hardwood floors, installing lighting, roofing and many other home improvement projects. She keeps her DIY skills fresh with regular projects around the house and extensive writing work on the topic.