7 Unusual Tricks to Grow a Big, Bold, and Blooming Christmas Cactus

Raul Cornelius is a Senior Editor at BalconyGardenWeb and an expert in flower and herb cultivation based in Phoenix, Arizona. A frequent speaker at horticultural events, he is also an active contributor to Facebook flower groups. Holding an MBA and a BCom, Raul blends his gardening skills with strong leadership and analytical abilities. Passionate about writing and photography, he enjoys early mornings with coffee and books, and nature bike rides during weekends.
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A thriving and lush Christmas Cactus so full of flowers almost all year is a dream of many! If you are ready to try these unusual but science-backed tricks–it can be possible!

Big, Bold, and Bushier Christmas Cactus 1

While Christmas Cactus (Schlumbergera) is typically a low-maintenance houseplant, gardeners who wish to push the envelope can explore unconventional methods for a thriving and flowering Christmas Cactus. Below are some unusual techniques that are backed by scientific reasoning!

In this article, we are not sharing the general Christmas cactus care tips or something that is known but something different!

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Making It Bigger in Size


1. CO2 Enrichment

Introduce a controlled release of carbon dioxide (CO2) near your Christmas Cactus.

How to Use

  • Purchase Equipment: Obtain a CO2 regulator and a CO2 cylinder. Make sure you also have a CO2 meter to monitor levels.
  • Calibration: Calibrate your CO2 meter according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Set Up: Connect the CO2 cylinder to the regulator and then to a CO2 distribution system like a diffuser or a hose with holes.
  • Area Preparation: Seal the growing area to prevent CO2 leakage.
  • CO2 Levels: Adjust the CO2 regulator to maintain a concentration of 800-1500 ppm. Monitor with your CO2 meter.
  • Timing: Operate the system during the daylight hours when the plant is photosynthesizing.

Learn all about making Christmas Cactus bloom around Christmas here

When to Use

  • Use CO2 enrichment during the vegetative growth stage for maximum benefits.

Products To Go For

  • Titan Controls CO2 Regulator
  • Autopilot APCEM2 Desktop CO2 Monitor
  • Exhale Homegrown CO2 Bag

Science Behind It

Plants use CO2 for photosynthesis. In a typical home environment, they might not get as much CO2 as they could utilize for maximal growth. Supplementing with CO2 can increase the rate of photosynthesis, thereby potentially increasing growth.

Supporting Researches

  • Study about the effects of CO2 enrichment on plant leaf ultrastructure found that elevated CO2 increased the number and size of starch grains in the chloroplast, as well as leaf ultrastructure analysis.
  • Study by Oklahoma State University also states that doubling ambient CO2 level (i.e. 700 to 800 parts per million) can make a significant and visible difference in plant yield.

2. Hydroponic System

Instead of growing your Christmas Cactus in soil, consider using a hydroponic system, where the plant’s roots are suspended in a nutrient-rich water solution.

Science Behind It

Hydroponic systems provide constant access to water and nutrients, directly leading to accelerated growth. This is because nutrient uptake is more efficient, eliminating the energy the plant would usually expend searching for nutrients in the soil.

Making It Bold

Big, Bold, and Bushier Christmas Cactus 3

3. Color Spectrum Manipulation

Use LED lights that are programmable to different color spectrums to influence various growth stages.

How to Use

  • Choose Light Source: Buy a programmable LED grow light that allows you to adjust the color spectrum.
  • Vegetative Stage: Use a blue-heavy spectrum (400-500 nm) during the vegetative stage to encourage bushy growth.
  • Flowering Stage: Switch to a red-heavy spectrum (600-700 nm) during the flowering stage to encourage blooms.
  • Timing: Use the light for 12-16 hours per day, depending on the growth stage and specific needs of your Christmas Cactus.

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When to Use

  • Use blue light during the vegetative stage and red light during the flowering stage.

Products To Go For

  • Spider Farmer SF-1000 LED Grow Light
  • VIPARSPECTRA Pro Series P1500 LED Grow Light

Science Behind It

Different wavelengths of light are known to affect plant growth in various ways. For instance, blue light generally encourages vegetative growth, while red light stimulates flowering. By controlling the light spectrum, you can encourage specific types of growth at different times.

Supporting Researches

  • Research states that Photoperiod, light intensity, and light quality influence plant growth and development – from seed germination to flowering.
  • This study also highlights the importance of importance of selecting light wavelength that influences leaves, flowers, and fruit production in plants.

4. Using the Science of Photoperiodism for Flowering

The flowering of this plant is significantly influenced by photoperiodism, which is the biological response of an organism to changes in light duration. Do it for 6 weeks minimum till you see the formation of buds on the plant.

The Science Behind Light Manipulation

  • What: Christmas cacti are short-day plants, meaning they require long periods of darkness to initiate flowering.
  • Why: In their natural habitat, these plants bloom when the days are shorter and nights are longer.

Timing: When to Start

  • Time of Year: Late September to early October is generally recommended.
  • Duration: Continue for at least 6 weeks or until buds appear.

Darkness Duration

  • How Long: 12-14 hours of complete darkness per day.

Light Duration

  • How Long: 10-12 hours of bright, indirect light.

Steps to Implement Light Restriction

  • Isolate the Plant: Place the Christmas cactus in a room where it can be in total darkness for 12-14 hours.
  • Cover the Plant: Alternatively, you can cover the plant with a dark cloth or place it in a dark box.
  • Set a Timer: Use a timer for both light and dark periods to regulate them accurately.

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Exposure to Morning Light

  • When: Expose the plant to bright, indirect morning light.
  • Duration: 3-4 hours.

Afternoon Shade

  • When: Move the plant to a shaded area in the afternoon.
  • Why: Avoid hot, direct afternoon sun that can cause leaf scorching.

Science Behind It

During periods of darkness, the inactive form of phytochrome accumulates in the plant cells. When the plant is exposed to light, the phytochrome converts back to its active form. For short-day plants like the Christmas cactus, a certain threshold level of inactive phytochrome must be reached to initiate flowering.

Supporting Researches

Making It Bushier

Big, Bold, and Bushier Christmas Cactus 4

5. Electrostimulation

Exposing your Christmas Cactus to mild electrical currents.

How to Use

  • Equipment: Purchase a plant electrostimulator specifically designed for horticultural use.
  • Safety Measures: Always wear rubber gloves to protect yourself from any electrical currents.
  • Application: Attach the electrodes to the base of the plant according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Settings: Use low current settings initially (around 50-100 μA) and gradually increase based on plant response.
  • Duration: Keep each electrostimulation session between 15 to 30 minutes.
  • Frequency: Perform once a week initially and adjust based on the plant’s response.

When to Use

  • Best used during the vegetative growth stage for encouraging bushiness.

Product To Go For

  • ILSAGRO Plant Electrostimulator (specifically designed for agricultural and horticultural use)

Science Behind It

Electrostimulation is believed to encourage cell division and growth by mimicking natural electrical signals that plants use for intracellular communication. The technique is experimental but has shown potential in enhancing nutrient absorption and overall growth in some crops.

Supporting Researches

  • This study by Frontiers proves that electrostimulation is an innovative and efficient way to increase plant growth.
  • This research paper also discusses the importance of it.
  • This research by School of Life Sciences, Yunnan Normal University, China, also proves that electrical stimulation could boost seed germination, seedling growth, and thermotolerance improvement in plants.

6. Sequential Pruning

Instead of the usual one-time pruning, how about you try a sequential pruning? In this, you have to prune a few stems at a time over an extended period.

How to Do It

  • Tools Required: Get a pair of sharp, sterilized pruning shears to ensure clean cuts and reduce the risk of disease.
  • Preparation: Water the plant a day before pruning to ensure that it is well-hydrated.
  • Initial Cut: Start by pruning 5-8% of the oldest parts. Make the cut just above a segment joint.
  • Rest Period: Allow the plant a 8-10 days rest period to recover and redistribute its growth energy to the remaining stems.
  • Second Cut: After the rest period, prune another set of stems, focusing on those that look weak or leggy. Avoid cutting parts that are near the sections that were pruned initially.
  • Repeat: Continue this pattern every two weeks until you’ve pruned the majority of stems that you intended to cut back.
  • Monitor: Keep an eye on the new growth and overall health of the plant, adjusting your technique as needed.

When to Do It

  • Sequential pruning can be done about a month after the plant stops flowering. This allows it to focus its energy on new growth during the next active growth season.

Science Behind It

The idea behind sequential pruning is to allow the plant to redirect its energy toward fewer stems at a time. In a typical pruning scenario, the plant might be stressed by a sudden loss of a large portion of its growth, but sequential pruning minimizes this stress.

This allows the plant to focus its energy more effectively, leading to a bushier growth pattern with thicker stems and potentially more blooms.

You also reduce the risk of the plant becoming susceptible to diseases, as there are fewer open wounds at any given time. This can result in a healthier, more robust plant over the long term.

Supporting Researches

  • A great study showing the importance of it.
  • Research by the Hunan Agricultural University, College of Horticulture, China, also states that light and heavy cutting could both obtain a larger number of flowers along with enhanced plant growth.

7. (And Our Favorite 😌) Propagating Cuttings in the Same Pot for Fullness

Propagating cuttings in the same pot is an efficient way to achieve a fuller, bushier appearance for Christmas cactus!

Increased Density

  • Planting multiple cuttings in the same pot increases the number of growing points.
  • More growing points lead to more branches and a fuller appearance.

Quicker Canopy Formation

  • Multiple cuttings can cover the soil surface more quickly.
  • A faster-growing canopy keeps the soil moist, benefiting the overall health of the cactus.

Collective Strength

  • A pot with multiple cuttings can pool resources for healthier growth.
  • Stronger, healthier plants tend to have a bushier, fuller appearance.

How to Do It

  • Even Spacing: Space the cuttings evenly to allow adequate room for growth and prevent overcrowding.
  • Cluster Strategy: For an exceptionally bushy look, consider clustering 3-4 cuttings together at different points in the pot.
  • Pruning: Once the cuttings are established, strategic pruning can encourage even bushier growth.

How Big Do Christmas Cactus Get?

1. Indoor Growth


  • Typical Range: 8-12 inches
  • Maximum: Up to 2-3 feet
  • Factors: Pot size, pruning, and general care

Width and Spread

  • Typical Range: 12-18 inches
  • Factors: Pruning, age, and space available for outward growth

2. Outdoor Growth


  • Typical Range: 1-3 feet
  • Factors: Climate, soil quality, and natural elements like rain and sun exposure

Width and Spread

  • Typical Range: Up to 2-4 feet
  • Factors: Available space, soil quality, and natural elements

7 Quick Tips on Taking Care of Your Christmas Cactus

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