What’s the Best Potting Mix For Christmas Cactus?

Are you seeking information on the right kind of potting mix for your Christmas cactus? These succulents need well-draining soil to keep them healthy and happy. In this article, gardening expert Jill Drago will detail what makes the best potting mix for your Christmas cactus and why.

A vibrant Christmas Cactus blooms in a terracotta pot on a brown table. Its red flowers, in full bloom, add festive charm. The succulent green leaves cascade gracefully, accentuating the cactus's beauty amidst a garden's lush green backdrop.

Contents

With the holiday season in full swing, holiday cacti are given to hosts and hostesses everywhere. These plants make great gifts for two reasons: they bloom in the stark winter months and are easy to care for. No matter how low-maintenance they can be, the health and happiness of your plant start with its growing conditions: first and foremost, its soil. 

Generally, Christmas cacti are easy plants. Place them in bright but indirect light, and you can mostly forget about them as they can take a little neglect. However, some problems can materialize. The most common reason for plant loss with succulents is overwatering.

This is where the importance of potting mix comes into play. While regular potting soil will work just fine if you are a forgetful gardener, this type of mix may cause root rot issues if you tend to be heavy-handed with your watering. 

If you are a new parent to a holiday cactus and you want to give it the best chance at surviving and thriving for years to come, let’s find the best soil mix for its needs!

The Short Answer

The best potting mix for Christmas cactus is a premade succulent mix or well-draining homemade potting mix. The most important factor is that it needs to be well-draining. Keeping in mind that Christmas cacti are succulents, you want to search for soil properties that can provide some moisture and nutrients to your plant, but that will not drown its roots.

The Long Answer

On a table sits a white container filled with soil, ready for transplanting. A hand, adorned in black gloves, carefully blends the substrate. Nearby, various bowls and cups hold mixes for creative use, while a green plant thrives in a planted pot.
You have several options when picking the ideal succulent mix.

You have several options if you’re repotting your Christmas cactus this year. You may have more time to spend making your own custom mix or might prefer to make a quick trip to the garden center to grab a bag. Whatever works for you is best, just as long as you keep the plant’s needs in mind. 

What Do Christmas Cacti Need?

A close-up of a potted cactus featuring spiky emerald leaves. Within the pot, alongside the cactus, smaller plants with rich maroon leaves add contrast. A hand precisely administers fertilizer, nurturing the diverse flora in the sizable pot.
Christmas cacti thrive in well-draining soil due to their preference for coarser mixes.

In their native habitat, Christmas cacti are epiphytes. These plants root into tree trunks or other plant surfaces. If you are familiar with the ever-popular air plant, this is also an epiphyte. It’s hard to imagine that the plant that has been in your family for the last 20 years growing in some ornate ceramic pot could survive on the trunk of a tropical tree!  

The way this translates to potting mix is through the coarseness of the mix. Many standard potting soils are made up of fine particles that retain water for long periods. This is a recipe for disaster when it comes to Christmas cacti. These succulent epiphytes near well-draining soil 

Christmas cacti do not require much when it comes to fertilization. You may opt for a succulent fertilizer or a standard balanced fertilizer shortly before blooming time. Many premixed potting soils have fertilizer mixed in, which is unnecessary and could push growth at the wrong time, resulting in weakened plants.

Ready to Use Succulent Mix

A close-up of a dark, nutrient-rich soil mixed with mineral fertilizer. It's contained within a spacious green pot. In the background, lush greenery frames the scene, hinting at a flourishing garden setting.
These pre-packed mixes are perfect, especially if you lack many succulents at home.

Your local garden center likely has a wide variety of succulent mixes. These bagged mixes are great options if you are short on time or aren’t up for blending your mix.

The downside to these mixes is that they tend to be very fine in texture. This texture will work just fine for this holiday plant. 

Succulent Mix Components

So, what makes up a succulent mix? These components may differ a bit but are especially important if you are preparing to make your own custom blend.

Potting Soil

Gray pots filled with fertile potting soil rest on cemented ground, basking in direct sunlight. The soil is rich, loamy, and teeming with nutrients, providing an ideal environment for plants to thrive and grow vigorously.
Potting soil contains abundant organic matter that benefits your plant’s health.

This may seem silly since we are talking about making your mix, but selecting high-quality potting soil for the base of your succulent mix is important. Potting soil alone is often too moisture-retentive for Christmas cacti. On the other hand, it is full of lots of organic material that can be beneficial to the overall health of your plant. 

Sand

A close-up of coarse, fine-grained brown sand. The sun-kissed particles form a warm, fine-grained landscape, blending shades of tan and cocoa in intricate patterns.
Coarse sand grains are bigger than beach or play sand, aiding in better drainage.

When you are looking for sand for your succulent mix, be sure to use coarse sand. Coarse sand granules are larger than that of beach or play sand. This is helpful when it comes to drainage. Sand cannot hold on to a lot of water, which will help keep those roots nice and healthy. 

Perlite

A close-up of perlite, small white granules with a porous texture ideal for cactus potting. The perlite exhibits a lightweight, airy quality, creating a contrast against the green shovel resting upon it. Its composition suggests excellent drainage capabilities for plant cultivation.
When mixing perlite, wearing a mask is recommended as it tends to create dust.

If you have ever bought a bag of potting soil, you have come into contact with perlite. Perlite particles are small and white and are made of expanded volcanic glass. Like sand, perlite helps with drainage and helps to maintain healthy root systems. This material can get dusty, so you may want to wear a mask while handling it. 

How to DIY Your Succulent Mix

On a brown table, a sizable transparent plastic container holds distinct layers of soil—black, white, and brown—arranged for a custom potting mix. The surroundings feature various potted houseplants, accompanied by an assortment of gardening tools, including a small shovel, rake, scissors, and a golden watering can.
You can easily find all the necessary ingredients at your local garden center or online.

Making your succulent mix is very simple. Everything you need is easy to find either at your garden center or online

The three main ingredients are:

  • Potting soil (two to three parts)
  • Coarse sand (two parts)
  • Perlite (one part)

Other optional additives:

  • Compost
  • Peat
  • Gravel

The beauty of mixing your potting mix is that you completely control the final product. If you prefer a more coarse version, only use two parts of potting soil vs. three parts. 

  • Depending on how much mix you plan on making, you will want to choose a size-appropriate container. A storage time or five-gallon bucket will do the trick. 
  • Mix your ingredients. 
  • Once the ingredients are combined thoroughly, you can decide if you want to add more sand or soil. 
  • Continue mixing until you have found the perfect consistency.

Final Thoughts

Whether you make your own or use a prebagged mix from a garden center, remember to plant Christmas cacti in a pot with drainage holes. Without drainage holes, you are setting yourself up for issues in the future. 

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View of a Christmas cactus isn't flowering in a large pot. Christmas cactus is characterized by flattened, segmented stems of green color. These segmented stems are glossy with scalloped edges.

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