Experts explain how often to water a Christmas cactus and a trick to always get it right

Knowing how often to water a Christmas cactus is vital to its survival and well-being

How often to water a Christmas cactus Small flower buds on a potted Christmas cactus (Schlumbergera)
(Image credit: Alamy)

Knowing how often to water a Christmas cactus is vital to its well-being. Too much or too little water can have serious consequences on the survival of the plant.

Correctly caring for a Christmas cactus will result in a profusion of blooms that will brighten even the darkest winter day. 

How often to water a Christmas cactus

Overwatering is the cause of the majority of Christmas cactus problems, so knowing how often to water a Christmas cactus is essential.

'Despite being a cactus, the Christmas Cactus will need watering far more than you’d expect. Aim to water your plant every 2 to 3 weeks in the cooler months, and every 1-2 weeks in warmer weather. But keep an eye on its soil, if the top two inches feel dry to touch, then it’s time to treat it to a watering,' says Jo Lambell, founder of Beards & Daisies. 'Native to the tropical rainforests of Brazil, this plant is used to humid, warm temperatures – so don’t be afraid to mist it regularly.'

Julian Palphramand, head of plants at British Garden Centres, seconds this: 'we recommend that you should water your Christmas cactus about once every 2 weeks, or when the soil is dry to the touch.'

'One of the tricks to get a Christmas cactus to bloom is to reduce the watering giving them a resting period in late summer,' says experts from the RHS. 'This is not always essential and I would only recommend it to a more experienced grower.'

Schlumberger in a pink pot on a shelf against a white wall

(Image credit: Getty Images)

How to prevent overwatering a Christmas cactus

One of our favourite houseplant ideas, the Christmas cactus is easy to care for, so long as you get the watering schedule right. 

Climate has a massive effect on the frequency with which you should water a Christmas cactus. Even Christmas cacti in different rooms can have different needs.

The best way to prevent overwatering your Christmas cactus is to water based on the feel of the soil rather than the amount of time. To do this, insert a finger a few inches into the soil. If it feels wet or moist, then hold off watering and test again in a few days. If it feels dry, you can water it.

Christmas cactus Schlumbergera on the window sill

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Does a Christmas cactus need humidity?

A favourite living room houseplant idea for Christmas decorating, Christmas cacti rely on high levels of humidity.'As tropical plants, Christmas cacti prefer higher humidity levels, which can be challenging to maintain during the dry winter months,' says Elizabeth Marshall, Buyer at Hillier Garden Centres.  

'Indoor heating systems can make the air quite arid, making it difficult for the plant to thrive. To maintain the right humidity, you can mist your plant regularly or place it on a tray of damp pebbles. For even better results, consider placing your Christmas cactus in a kitchen or bathroom, as these rooms tend to have higher humidity compared to other areas in your home.'

Christmas window with succulents

(Image credit: Future PLC/Catherine Gratwicke)

How do you feed a Christmas cactus

Cacti benefit from regular feeding. 'A cacti and succulent feed is perfect for the spring and summer months,' says Evie Brownlee, plant expert at Grow Urban

'Further to this, a grower can feed with a high potassium feed when flower buds are forming (in the winter months) to encourage longer-lasting blooms,' adds experts from the RHS


Do you water a Christmas cactus from the top or bottom?

You can water a Christmas cactus from either the top or the bottom. 

When watering from the top, use a watering can to thoroughly soak the soil. Then allow the excess water to drain away through a drainage hole. Do not let the Christmas cactus stand in the water.

If you want to water from the bottom, stand your Christmas cactus in a plastic saucer or dish and fill with water. Leave your Christmas cactus to stand in the water for around half an hour, where it can absorb the water into the roots. Then remove from the dish and return to its usual spot. Don't let the plant stand in the water for too long otherwise you run the risk oof severe overwatering and root rot.

How often to water a Christmas cactus?

Aim to water your cactus every 10 to 21 days – the exact frequency will depend on the size of the cactus; the climate and the time of year. 

'We can’t stress enough how important it is to test your plants soil before you water it,' warns Jo. Never water a Christmas cactus who's soil feels wet to the touch – even if 21 days have passed since its last watering. 

If you're careful with watering your Christmas cactus it should reward you with vibrant blooms throughout the winter.

Holly Reaney
Content Editor

Holly is one of Ideal Home’s content editors. Starting her career in 2018 as a feature writer and sub-editor for Period Living magazine, she has continued this role also adding regular features for Country Homes & Interiors and the Ideal Home website to her roster.  Holly has a passion for traditional and country-inspired interiors – especially kitchen design – and is happiest when exploring the countryside and hills of the Lake District. A keen gardener, she is a strong believer that you can never have too many houseplants.