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Propagating Christmas Cactus: Easy Holiday Gifts

7 min read

Festive and full, Christmas cactus is a pleasure to have any time of year. It’s popular for its unique stem design and brightly colored flowers. We’ve already covered that in our extensive Schlumbergera care guide in the past. The fun doesn’t stop there, though. Propagating Christmas cactus is incredibly easy to do!

Propagation is my favorite way to expand my garden. It’s such a great way to learn about and observe plant growth. You also get free plants out of it, which is perfect for frugal gardening.

In this article, we’ll teach you everything you need to know about Christmas Cactus propagation. Then, the rest is up to you!

Helpful Products For Christmas Cactus Propagation:

What is Propagation?

Propagating Christmas cactus
Propagating Christmas cactus isn’t difficult to do! Source: nstohlma

Propagation is essentially the process of turning one plant into two or more. Its complexity depends on the plant. Christmas cactus is one of the best propagators, so it’s the perfect choice for first-timers.

There are many methods of propagation out there – leaf cuttings, stem cuttings, offsets, division, or by seed. Most of these aren’t viable options for this plant. It doesn’t produce offsets or viable seeds, and can’t be divided.

But the method that’s easiest is also perfect for propagating Christmas cactus. It grows wonderfully from stem cuttings, so that’s the method we’ll be using.

Necessary Materials

Before beginning, make sure you have the right supplies:

  • A mature and vigorous Christmas cactus
  • A clean container with drainage holes
  • Well-draining soil
  • A spray bottle
  • An adventurous spirit!

Optional but useful:

The Propagation Method

Christmas cactus in bud
This huge Christmas cactus is in bud. The larger pads can be propagated singly. Source: Starr

When it comes to propagating Christmas cactus, the process is simple: prep, cut, dry, plant, repot. Let’s go over each step in detail.

Step 1: Prep

Preparing for propagation starts with choosing the right time. You’ll have the most success in late spring. This is when the growing season is just getting started, so your Christmas cactus is ready for some action.

Choose the stems you want to take cuttings from. They need to be mature and healthy. You can select a stem that’s growing crooked and doesn’t fit in with the rest of the plant. Or, if your Christmas cactus is showing its age, choose the stems that are unaffected by rot or disease. As long as your selection is healthy, it should grow.

Step 2: Cut

You’ll be taking your cuttings by pads. If you have a long enough segment, remove 2-4 pads for your cutting. If your plant is younger, you can propagate single pads. These should all be removed from the top of the stem.

Separate your cuttings at a node on the stem where two pads meet. You can cut them apart, but most gardeners just remove it by hand. Gently twist the pads and they’ll snap off. If they don’t break easily, give the node a snip with sterilized pruning shears.

The most important part of this step – and the whole process – is to make sure the entire base of the bottom pad remains intact. This section contains the apical meristem cells, which are responsible for growing roots. Without it, your cutting won’t grow!

Step 3: Dry

The wound on your cutting needs to dry out before planting. This can take anywhere from a few hours to a couple days. When the cut is scabbed over, it’s ready to plant.

Step 4: Plant

Fill your cutting’s new home with moistened, well-draining cactus mix. Stick the cutting upright in the soil so that it stands on its own (about an inch deep). Be sure not to plant it upside down! The cut end should be underground. Gently tamp down the soil, just enough to provide some support. It may be tempting to give your cutting some fertilizer, but hold off on that for now.

Place your cutting in bright yet indirect sunlight. The temperature needs to be warm, but not too hot – 65-75 is a good range. You’ll need to keep the soil damp the whole time your cutting is taking root. For best results, mist it with a plant mister, which will prevent overwatering.

Your Christmas cactus cutting will grow best if you pump up the humidity. Fill a dish with pebbles or gravel and water. Then, place your cutting’s container on top and let evaporation do its magic. Replenish the water as needed.

Step 5: Repot

It may be a while before your succulent is ready to be transplanted. It takes about 6-8 weeks to grow roots and another 2-3 for stem growth. New growth will appear at the tip of the stem. 

When you see that your new Christmas cactus is actively growing, you can repot it if you want. Select a pot which suits the size of your young plant and offers what support it needs. As it gets older and larger, you can repot it to a larger pot later.

After repotting, your plant may wilt. This is common as the plant settles in. It should perk back up after adjusting to its new home. Whether you repot or not, you’ll need to start a normal watering schedule once your Christmas cactus is actively growing. Instead of keeping the soil moist, water your plant deeply only when the soil dries out.

An Alternative Method: Water Propagation

Stem and flower of Christmas cactus
In this photo, you can see the nodes between pads extremely well. Source: Hans J E

Want to skip the soil? Propagating Christmas cactus in water is easier than you think. It’s also a fun visual since you’ll be able to see the roots growing.

When learning how to propagate Christmas cactus in water, you only need to modify Step 4: Plant. Before getting started, you’ll need the following supplies:

Prepare your jar by filling the base with pebbles. Fill it with water just to the top of the pebble line. Place your Christmas cactus cutting in the jar so the cut end is sitting on the rocks. It should barely be touching the water. If too much is submerged, your cutting may begin to rot. Monitor the water level and replenish as needed.

If your cutting has a hard time staying in place on its own, provide some support. Take some bamboo barbecue skewers and push them down into the pebbles on either side of the cutting. This should support the cactus cutting and keep it from tipping over. Don’t push them through the cutting itself, just into the pebbles!

Once the roots have sprouted, continue to Step 5 and plant your cutting in moistened soil. Be careful not to damage the young root system.

Now that you’re the proud owner of multiple Christmas cacti, you can give them away or add them to your garden. Christmas cactus propagation’s really pretty easy!

Regardless of what you do, your new plants will need proper care. Check out our article on Christmas cactus care to learn all about what your plant needs!

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