As a houseplant, the Christmas cactus has a lot going for it. Its bloom season is long and lasts from late spring until late winter.
When it blooms, its tubular flowers dazzle with their pink, lilac, white, and red shades. But sooner or later, the cactus outgrows its pot and the roots become crowded. Should you get concerned?
Does Christmas cactus like to be root bound? A Christmas cactus enjoys the tiny space of a small pot, and the crowded roots can still source moisture and nutrients in the little soil remaining in the pot. However, the plant will struggle and might not bloom if you don’t repot it. On average, you should repot the cactus once every 3 to 4 years.
There’s a fine line between allowing your Christmas cactus to get root-bound and ignoring it as the roots come out of the drainage holes of the pot in search of nutrients and moisture.
Read more to find out how to care for your colorful houseplant.
When To Repot Christmas Cactus
No matter how hardy your Christmas cactus is and how tolerant of many unfavorable growing conditions, you shouldn’t neglect it or allow it to struggle with too-small pots.
This type of stress will reflect on the plant itself as it stunts its growth and prevents it from producing its delightful and visually pleasing blooms.
Do Christmas Cacti Like Tight Pots?
One of the fun facts about Christmas cacti is that they do enjoy a pot one size too small. If you plant the cactus in a large pot, it will not grow as fast as another cactus in a small pot.
When repotting the cactus, always go for the next pot size. That will give the plant about 2 more inches of space, which is enough for its slow-growing habits for the next 3 to 4 years.
Does Christmas Cactus Need To Be Root Bound To Bloom?
The prerequisites for the Christmas cactus to bloom include regular watering, adequate temperature, a dormancy period, the right light, and 12 hours of darkness every night.
However, being root-bound is not one of those requirements. If anything, being root-bound can prohibit the flowering of the plant.
Christmas Cactus Root Bound Symptoms
Like many other potted plants, your Christmas cactus might show signs of being root-bound.
When the roots come out of the drainage holes at the bottom of the pot while the soil becomes hard, that’s a sure sign your cactus is root bound.
Lack of nutrients and moisture causes the stems to turn yellow or brown and wither. The blooms will droop, lose their color, and eventually drop.
Other Times When Repotting Is Needed
Being root bound is not the only reason you’d want to repot your Christmas cactus.
If the succulent has root rot, then you’d need to replace the soil after trimming the damaged and rotten roots. The same applies to other pathogens and fungal spores infecting the soil.
Repotting is also needed when the soil become worn out.
The lack of nutrients and the inability to retain moisture will cause the plant to cease thriving, and your cactus may die if not repotted soon with fresh potting mix.
How To Repot a Christmas Cactus
- Choose a pot one size larger than the old pot. It should be 2 inches larger in diameter with at least one drainage hole at the bottom.
- Prepare a potting mix for the succulent by mixing one part pumice, one part bark, one part fine grit, one part sterilized sand, and four parts compost.
- Extract the Christmas cactus out of its current pot gently. Examine the roots and trim off damaged, entangled, and dead roots.
- Fill the pot with the potting mix halfway up. Make a hole in the middle as wide as the root ball of the cactus.
- Ease the cactus into the hole, and spread the roots to fill the bottom and allow it to stand on its own.
- Fill the rest of the pot with the potting mix until 2 inches from the top.
- Water the cactus immediately to prevent transplanting shock.
How To Grow a Bigger Christmas Cactus
There are two ways to make your Christmas cactus grow bigger. The first is to use small pots.
When you must repot, make sure that the new pot is not more than 2 inches large in diameter than the old one.
The other way is to prune the end of the stems of the cactus 1-2 inches from the top.
Don’t cut back the cactus considerably since that would slow down its growth and keep it from flowering for at least one year.
Christmas Cactus Problems
If your Christmas cactus suffers from diseases, chances are you’re not watering it properly. Most of the infections come from the soil and have to do with too much water.
Here are the top Christmas cactus problems and what you can do about them.
- Root Rot: A common problem with many plants. The fungus that causes it spreads in wet soils and high humidity. Hold off watering until the top inch of the soil is dry. If the plant continues to wilt, repot it in a fresh medium after removing the damaged roots.
- Stem Rot: Another disease that’s caused by damp soil and high humidity. The base of the stem near the soil turns brown, and the disease spreads to the rest of the plant. This disease is fatal, and you should dispose of the plant and the pot and start a new plant.
- Botrytis Blight: The disease covers the stems of the cactus with silver-gray mold. Cut the infected parts, and improve ventilation around the cactus.
Does Christmas Cactus Like Sun?
Your Christmas cactus doesn’t want exposure to the full sun. This could cause the stems to burn as the tips turn red. Instead, provide it with bright indirect light.
Does Christmas Cactus Like Coffee Grounds?
Coffee grounds are packed with potassium and nitrogen that the Christmas cactus needs to grow and develop a healthy root system.
Apply dry coffee grounds as a food supplement, not as a replacement for the succulent fertilizer.
The Christmas cactus can continue to grow and thrive even as the roots become crowded in small pot.
If you want the cactus to grow bigger and bloom, plant it in a small pot. Repot it once every 4 years.