The Best Method for Propagating Christmas Cactus From Cuttings

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Ready to share the love by propagating Christmas cactus (​Schlumbergera​ x ​buckleyi​, USDA plate hardiness zones 10 through 12)? 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 means this a project for gardeners of all skill levels. Although most plants sold as "Christmas" cactus actually are "Thanksgiving" cactus (​Schlumbergera truncata​, USDA zones 10 through 12), both of these tropical plants require the same care and are propagated the same way.


How to Propagate a Christmas Cactus in 8 Easy Steps

  • Take a Christmas cactus cutting in late spring.
  • Let the cut end dry for a day or two.
  • Add rooting medium to a pot with bottom drainage.
  • Water the medium and let excess water drain.
  • Press the cut end of the cutting into the medium.
  • Firm the medium around the cutting to keep it in place.
  • Water the cutting and place it in bright, indirect light.
  • Watch for growth at the tip of the plant and repot.

What Is a Christmas Cactus?

The Christmas cactus is a beautiful houseplant featuring glossy, jointed, and flat leaflike 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 during the holidays as an alternative to the popular poinsettia or give it as a holiday gift.


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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 placing 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 their pots 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. So when should you propagate Christmas cactus? 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.


Taking Christmas Cactus Cuttings

You can easily obtain cuttings from a mature, healthy Christmas cactus plant to start new plants for yourself or for someone else. An ideal cutting to propagate Christmas cactus plants contains between two and five stem segments, called phylloclades, which are the flattened leaf sections. You can either cut the segment, pinch it at a joint, or twist it until it separates from the plant. Once you remove 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 to mix peat, which is naturally antifungal, with coarse sand or vermiculite. You can also use perlite, vermiculite, or coarse sand by itself as the medium. Here's how to root a cutting:


  1. Water the rooting medium and let the excess water drain from the bottom of the pot before planting the cutting.
  2. Press the bottom, or cut edge, of the cutting into the medium about 1/4 to 1/2 inch. You don't want to press it in too far or it may rot.
  3. Gently press the medium around the planted end of the cutting to keep the cutting in place.
  4. Water the cutting right away.

Caring for the Cuttings

Christmas cactus cuttings typically take four to eight weeks to root, but they may take a little less or a little more time. Monitor the cuttings during that time to make sure they're growing well and look for signs of new growth so you know when to repot. The cuttings grow best in bright spaces but not in direct sunlight, just as mature Christmas cactus plants do.


You'll want to water the cuttings 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 exhibit new growth on the tips, you can plant them in potting soil mixed with sand or a mix designed for cacti.



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