Blog Cactus What Soil Is Best For A Christmas Cactus

What Soil is Best for a Christmas Cactus?

Wondering what soil is best for a Christmas Cactus? Keep reading to learn what soil is best suited for this type of cactus.

Kiersten avatar
Kiersten Rankel
Jan 05, 2022
Summary

Christmas Cacti are beautiful houseplants that are popular during the colder months of the year because of their lovely blooms, so named because of their flowering season. 

They only bloom in the winter, often producing pretty flowers ranging in color from pink, to red, to orange. These different types of cacti are actually quite hardy and could likely grow outdoors just fine. 

However, they are most often grown indoors, largely because of their festive vibes. Who needs a Poinsettia for Christmas when you can have a Christmas Cactus instead?

However, since they are grown indoors, regular repotting is often required. Ensuring you repot your Christmas Cactus regularly and using an appropriate potting soil to nourish it, helps keep it strong, healthy, and thriving.

Photo by Jeremy

What Kind of Potting Soil is Best for a Christmas Cactus?

To determine the right kind of Christmas Cactus repotting soil to use, it pays to first understand this particular plant. It is native to a rainforest-like environment, specifically originating in Brazil, and it’s actually considered to be an Epiphyte. 

Epiphytes are essentially small plants that grow on top of other plants, and they don’t really require soil in order to survive. 

They gather moisture and nutrition from their surroundings instead, drawing from the air, from rain and water, and from tree debris and decomposing leaves. 

Therefore, when a Christmas Cactus is potted, it’s important to keep these considerations in mind if you want them to truly thrive. They won’t do nearly as well in a heavy potting soil as the extra weight and moisture can be suffocating to them.

Choose Well-Draining Soil

Since Christmas Cacti often hang high up in the air, their roots rarely ever become overwatered or damaged by root rot. So, for this plant, always be sure to select a soil that’s very well draining, yet still able to absorb some moisture for the plant to use. 

One of the best mixtures for these purposes is one of perlite and peat moss. Additionally, some people like to add fish tank gravel and even sand to a potting soil mixture to help increase its drainage factor. 

Choose Soil with an Acidic pH Level

Additionally, the soil for a Christmas Cactus should be balanced in every way, including whether it’s acidic or alkaline in nature. 

For healthy growth, Christmas Cacti require slightly acidic soil, with pH levels of more than 5 but less than 7. If your new repotting mixture contains limestone, chances are it’s already acidic enough for your cactus plant. If it’s not though, you can add coffee grounds to the soil to help adjust the pH levels.

Choose Soil High in Organic Matter 

Though it might look like just a bunch of dirt, potting soil mixture is actually a combination of organic and inorganic material. A Christmas Cactus in a Brazilian rainforest grows in an environment composed of a high level of organic content, since it’s mostly made up of decomposing leaves and other tree debris. To mimic this, any repotting mixture you select should also be high in organic matter. 

Create Your Own Potting Soil

Sometimes it’s best to simply create your own potting soil, if you can’t find one suitable for your Christmas Cactus. When you opt for the DIY version, be sure to use sterilized ingredients to keep pests and diseases at bay. A good, sterile compost works well, mixed with milled peat and perlite in equal measures.

Remember, what soil is best for a Christmas Cactus may be very different from the soil required from another type of cactus. Always research your plant’s needs ahead of time, and consult our app if you need a little extra support and guidance! 

When to Repot a Christmas Cactus

Most plants are repotted when they start growing and it’s evident they could soon outgrow their current pot. However, when repotting a Christmas Cactus, you should only repot it after its blooming season is over. 

This is because plants take some time to adjust to their new environment. Not unlike us humans, when trying to adjust to a new home. However, if their adjustment period falls during their blooming season, they won’t bloom as much and that would be a shame! 

Additionally, Christmas Cacti are very hardy, even stubborn plants. It’s best not to rush on any repotting. They do best when their roots are densely packed in the soil, and repotting can have the opposite effect.

As a general rule of thumb, it should be enough to repot a Christmas Cactus every three to four years. However, always make the decision to repot based on the appearance of the plant.

For instance, if you notice it’s started to wilt, or that there’s an overgrowth of roots to the point where they have taken over the drainage holes, then it’s definitely time to repot. Remember that the less repotting the better for these little beauties!

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How to Repot a Christmas Cactus

Find the Right Pot 

A second key step is to find the right kind of pot for your Christmas Cactus. This is crucial because if the pot isn’t the right size, it can have a negative affect on the well-being of the succulent plant. 

For instance, if your pot is too big, there will be too much extra space left, leaving potential for spare water to stand in the pot. However, if the pot isn’t large enough, the whole point of repotting is kind of moot. 

Additionally, the material and design of your chosen pot is also important. A good pot needs to efficiently support airflow and water drainage. 

Prepare Your New Pot 

Once you’ve gathered the things you need to repot your Christmas Cactus, its time to assemble them and get started. Prep your new pot by adding in a layer of potting mixture and allowing it to set. Keep some water within easy reach, as you may need it to help with this setting process.

Photo by Nerskine

Remove the Christmas Cacti from its Current Pot

Now it’s time to remove your Christmas Cactus from its current home and soil. Loosen along the sides of the plant by gently tapping on the sides of the pot and carefully pulling the plant outward. 

You’ll be removing the plant along with its root ball. Be sure to remove as much of the potting mixture from the roots as possible and ensure the roots are clean and dry. You can also use water to gently remove any excess soil mix from the roots. 

Wash, Clean, and Inspect the Roots 

Washing and cleaning the roots is important to remove any debris. It’s also an excellent time to check the roots for any signs of damage or root rot. Additionally, by cleaning the roots, if there was any sort of disease contained in the previous soil, you help to ensure it won’t be transferred to the new soil. 

Repot Your Christmas Cactus

Once everything is clean and ready to go, it’s time to repot the Christmas Cactus. Gently place it on the settled layer of soil so that the roots are placed at least an inch from the bottom of the pot. Fill in around the roots using your potting mixture and pat the soil gently. This helps to make there is just enough space for airflow, but no gaps. 

Nourish Your Christmas Cactus

Once your cactus plant is repotted, you should water it. However, be careful not to overwater the soil, as you don’t want to inadvertently cause any damage or cause it to turn yellow. Refer to our guide on “why is my cactus turning yellow,” and to our app if you aren’t sure, we offer lot of tips on watering and how to take care of cactus plants appropriately. 

Do cacti need sun? For this type of cactus, indirect sunlight will be enough.So, be sure to keep the plant under partial shade to allow it some time to adjust to its new environment. 

Sources:

  1. https://www.gardeningknowhow.com/ornamental/cacti-succulents/christmas-cactus/repotting-christmas-cactus.htm
  2. https://succulentcareguide.com/christmas-cactus/best-soil-for-christmas-cactus/
  3. https://aces.nmsu.edu/ces/yard/2002/012602.html