Christmas cactus is famously known as the thanksgiving plant. They will brighten your space with segmented stems and will bloom in winter.
Every plant has different needs and grows at different speeds. Do you know how fast your Christmas cactus grow? Let’s find out.
Under appropriate conditions, the Christmas cactus can grow 1 foot high and 2 feet wide. The average growth rate is 5-10cm every year, depending on the care provided to the plant. Christmas cacti will grow fast if provided with sufficient bright light, high temperature, and medium humidity.
The Christmas cactus will fill your space with stems and flowers if you pay little attention to them.
You can experiment by keeping them in their favorable environment and see how healthy and happy they will grow.
Further, you will know about their growth rate and what affects their growth.
The factors affecting their growth are very important if you are serious about growing a bushier Christmas cactus.
Christmas cactus size
Christmas cactus can grow up to 1 foot high and 2 feet wide and may grow bigger if the conditions are favorable.
If you properly take care of your Christmas cactus, you can have a bigger plant for decades.
Christmas cactus have stems that look like leaf pads, joined with one another, giving an unusual look.
The shapes of the stems differ from species to species. The size of all their species falls around 1 foot high and 2 feet wide which may vary depending on the growing conditions.
9 Factors that affect the growth rate of the Christmas cactus
Christmas cactus parents are advised to keep some factors in mind to stimulate and support their plant’s growth.
Following are the nine factors that affect the growth of Christmas cactus:
- Type of potting soil
- Overfertilization of the Christmas cactus
- Season for growth
- Watering regime
- Temperature and humidity
- The size of the pot
Adaptability means the time someone takes to adapt to a new environment.
Whether human beings or plants, everyone takes time to adapt to new conditions.
One can take more time than the other but will surely take some time to acclimate.
For example, A person traveling from a hot region to a cold region will take time to adapt to the cool climate.
Same way, when you move your plant, they also need some time and process to acclimate to the new environment.
If you have bought a plant online, they will travel and go through some stages before reaching you, and they need some time to adapt to your environment.
The plant is already stressed, and if you do not take proper care, they will suffer from several problems such as yellowing, browning, wilting, etc. this is why such plants do not survive in most cases.
They need time and favorable conditions to adapt to the new environment and good air circulation.
If you stress them with direct sun, repotting, or fertilizing, it will add to the stress and may cause loss of the plant.
Observe the plant’s state and let it be for some time. Water as per the requirement and provide indirect light.
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Type of potting soil
Soil mix is the growing medium for any plant, which must be right for the plant. Christmas cactus indoors need proper soil mix to grow and develop.
Soil fulfills the nutrient and water needs of the plant. The soil must be suitable for the Christmas cactus, and also, it is required so that it can support Christmas cactus blooming.
Christmas cactus prime requirement in their soil mix is well-draining. If the soil is heavy, the water, air, and nutrients will not flow properly, and it will suffocate the soil and roots due to waterlogging.
Let us see what happens when the soil mix is incorrect for your Christmas cactus:
- The soil and roots will suffocate
- Water and airflow will stop
- Excess water will also not drain out completely
- Root decay
- Bacterial growth in the soil
This condition is ignored for a long period, then the entire plant will struggle to breathe and will start wilting.
The stems cannot stay healthy due to a lack of nutrients, and oxygen, hence losing their vigor.
All the functions will slow down and lead to discoloration, yellowing, drooping, etc.
You can make the following mix for your Christmas cactus:
- 1 part potting mix
- 1 part perlite
This mix is well-draining, nutrient-rich, and organically rich, serving all needs of your Christmas cactus.
You can also buy readily available soil mix for your Christmas cactus.
Overfertilization of the Christmas cactus
Fertilizing plants is like eating food for humans required for their growth and development.
If a person eats too much, he might suffer from gastric problems. Similarly, plants may also face some problems if over-fertilized.
Christmas cactus in their native environment grows without fertilizers, but indoors they need food due to limited conditions.
They need food to grow, but overfeeding can cause more damage than good.
The plant may suffer from yellowing, browning, root burn, excess salt buildup, stunted growth, etc. if the condition doesn’t change, the plant may even die.
Generally, when they grow in nutrient-rich soil, they do not need fertilizer for their nutrient needs.
But if you wish to fertilize, then you need to keep three things in mind:
- Right food
- Right dosage
- Right time
So, if you take care of the above three points, you will never go wrong with fertilizing your Christmas cactus.
Let us see what fulfills all these 3 points.
- The right food for your Christmas cactus would be balanced houseplant food.
- The right dosage is by diluting the recommended dosage to half the strength.
- The right time is once every two months throughout the growing season.
How to fix an over-fertilized Christmas cactus?
Take your Christmas cactus that you have overfed, and run a stream of water in the soil to flush the extra salt from the soil.
Do this 2-3 times to flush all the salt buildup. Do this in the morning so that the soil dries out easily and does not stay wet.
After flushing out the excess salt, avoid fertilizing them for at least a month.
Check the plant condition for a few days; if the condition is the same, you might have to go a step further to save your plant.
Repotting is the next step you need to take if your plant is still suffering.
It will renew and replenish the soil and boost its nutrient level. Discard the old soil and take proper care after repotting the plant.
Season for growth
Christmas cactus grows at moderate speed, and they need proper care to thrive and bloom during winter.
The growing season is the best season to experiment with your Christmas cactus while also ensuring they are not facing any extremities.
If you provide them with sufficient light, adequate watering, and the right dose of fertilizer in the growing season, then you will see your Christmas cactus growing for decades.
If you want Christmas cacti to grow tall and bigger, then prune them in the spring. You can also propagate the cuttings to have more plants.
In the dormant months of the year, they cool temperature levels to bloom.
They will not grow much in foliage and need less of everything but a little more attention.
If you keep them near windows, they may damage due to cold drafts, the plant already has less energy, and if stressed with such conditions, they may stop growing.
The watering cycle also decreases, so check the soil of your Christmas cactus before watering them.
Watering Christmas cactus is an important part of their growth and development. If you do not water them when the soil dries, the entire plant will suffer.
Watering and drowning differ, so watering Christmas cactus is good, but drowning them in water is harmful.
If you are one of those planters who blindly follow a watering regime, then it is guaranteed that your plan will suffer over-watering one day or another.
Watering needs to change with the season, and you need to water them, keeping in mind the time of the year.
Overwatering will affect all the plant’s functions and needs, leading to several issues such as yellowing, wilting, leaf drops, etc.
Also, check the drainage system to ensure the excess water is draining out. Water the plant when the soil is dry irrespective of the season.
It is the best way to save your plant from both underwatering and overwatering.
How can we get the watering right?
To get the watering right for your Christmas cactus, follow the steps below:
- Plant your Christmas cactus in the right soil mix.
- Touch the soil to feel the soil moistness before watering the plant.
- The soil should be dry to touch.
- You can dig deeper up to 2 inches to ensure that the soil is dry from within.
- Doing this for a month will help you make a watering regime for the plant.
- Check the soil again if the season changes or if you feel something kosher.
- Make sure the drainage system is proper.
- Christmas cacti need water to keep them evenly moist but not soggy. It is okay to keep them dry rather than overwatering them.
- Also, check the soil, especially during winter, and water only when the soil is dry from within.
Pruning plays an important part in making plants taller and bigger. As the plant overgrows branches, they become heavy and may break off.
If the pot is small, it cannot take the weight of the plant and may break or cannot support the plant’s growth further.
Pruning helps plants to grow better and also helps reduce the pressure on the roots and pot to support heavy items.
Pruning will help but only when done at the right time of the year.
Christmas cactus bloom in the winter and should be pruned a month after the flowerings have ended, i.e., in the early spring.
If you prune after that, the plant will stress out and can even stop growing.
Prune the plant by cutting stem segment joints from the top as much as possible. You can use the cuttings to grow more such plants.
Suppose you find slow or no growth in your plant, then your plant might be root bound, which means the roots do not have enough space to grow any further.
Things to consider for pruning
Let us see what are the points to consider before pruning Christmas cactus:
- Prune the Christmas cactus after a month of blooming.
- Pruning during cold months can shock the plant and also affect its blooming.
- Prune the joint sections from the top using scissors.
- Use sterilized scissors to clip the stems.
- Also, disinfect the tools after pruning to avoid any infection spreading to other plants.
- If there are any damaged parts, dispose of them completely.
- Repot the healthy parts of the plant.
Temperature and humidity
Christmas cacti are hardy cactuses that can survive various conditions, which can be variations in temperature levels or less humidity.
But this does not mean you can expose them or keep them in consistent unfavorable conditions.
If you keep your Christmas cactus at freezing temperature levels for a long period, the plant can go into a permanent shock.
If you keep them under indirect light, the leaves will burn, and due to low humidity, the leaves and other parts will dehydrate.
Keeping them away from vents and fireplaces in winters is very important. Also, make sure they are not exposed to cold or hot drafts.
They like average temperature levels and high humidity. If the condition is beyond their ideal conditions for too long, then the plant will suffer from several problems.
Due to low light, they might suffer from yellow leaves and sunburn or wilting due to direct light.
Keep them at a temperature level between 75°F to 85°F. Move them to a safe spot when the conditions go beyond control.
Christmas cactus is a hardy plant and will fight diseases, but sometimes due to unfavorable conditions, they may fall prey to the irritating pests.
Pests such as spider mites, aphids, and mealybugs may infest your Christmas cactus, which will give a hard time to your plant.
This situation is usually due to overwatering the plant for a consistent period, high humid conditions attracting pests, the newly bought plant being already infested, or any other plant being contaminated with pests and diseases.
The plant will suffer from problems like yellow leaves, drooping, brown spots, holes in the leaves, vigor loss, etc.
If you follow the plant condition, you may notice the signs in the initial stages.
This will help you identify and treat the pest infestation faster while saving the plant from danger.
Isolate the infested plant, and use neem oil spray on the plant for several days to eliminate the pests.
You can use chemical insecticides too for treating the plant.
If you use chemical pesticides, then follow the instructions and use only the right ones for your plant. Repeat using them till the problem persists.
It will take some time to recover, and with the right care, they will become healthier again.
Do not fertilize or over the water till the plant is completely healthy.
The size of the pot
The size of the pot is the most ignored factor when growing a plant.
You should know about your plant’s needs and preferences. The size of the pot should be right to promote your plant’s health.
Christmas cactus like to stay root-bound, due to which they like small containers compared to other plants.
They can stay in root-bound conditions for 2-3 years, and That is why you should repot them in 4-5 years.
Repot the plant when the roots have outgrown the pot and the pot is almost breaking. Also, make sure to repot them only during the growing season.
Use a pot 1 inch bigger than before and not more than that. The pot should be 1 “bigger than the diameter of the plant’s root ball.
Make sure the pot has a proper drainage system and is porous.
Christmas cactus blooms, unlike other cactuses, and have slightly different requirements. Let us read below to learn about their needs:
Christmas cactus is an easy-going plant and will bloom if proper care is provided. The above-discussed factors will help you know how to treat your plant.
Provide them with indirect bright light for 5-6 hours a day.
Maintain high humidity and a medium temperature around them to keep them thriving.
Keep them away from cold and hot drafts in a safe spot.
Keep monitoring your plant every few days to check everything is okay with them. You will also know your plant better when you observe them closely.
Reference: NC State University, Nebraska Extension in Lancaster County, Researchgate, Texas A&M University, Chicago Botanic Garden.