I pruned the Christmas Cactus (then it bloomed!)

I wanted to learn how to prune a Christmas cactus, so I did what we all do and turned to the web. I followed the directions exactly but somehow instead of getting bigger, it got prettier! Let me start at the beginning. 

My husband had a Christmas cactus from when he lived in Florida. He saw it in a Styrofoam cup at a flea market and it amazed him that it 'knew' to bloom at Christmas. So he bought it. Then it moved back with him and sat (in that cup) on his mothers windowsill for several years. It never bloomed. 

pruning Christmas cactus

A few years after we got married, when we moved out to the sticks it moved out here with us. He said "I think it's broken" in that sad crushed dreams way little kids often use. I told him I'd fix it. 

Re-potting, good soil, some food, water and the appropriate amount of dark/light and I had it blooming that fall. He was so impressed! I'm still not quite as talented at these things as I could be. I do always get it to bloom, but about a month early. Close enough, right? (more on that later)

Pruning a Christmas cactus

Since then it's grown well, but in sort of a spindly fashion. I've always liked the big bushy plants and while it has been growing, it's not quite how I want it. This winter I decided to prune it. I did all my research. I must have read 20 sites on how to prune. They all said to prune after it blooms to promote growth. So I pruned. Some I pinched, some I cut...but prune it I did. 

I removed pieces that weren't thriving. I removed extra long branching. I removed all the tiny pieces. I removed at least 2 segments on every branch in order to stimulate growth and make it grow in fuller. I did everything it said to make it grow nice and bushy and full. I only took about 1/3 of the plant off. I moved it to the top of a cabinet, out of direct sunlight. 

christmas cactus pruning

After a few weeks I could see tiny nubs growing out of the cut spots. I assumed it was growing larger, until I looked closer one day and noticed....those are flower buds! I moved it down to the light so we could enjoy this second blooming, but it baffled me as to why it bloomed instead of growing larger? 

Well, it's been a bit more research but I have it figured out. I watered it right after pruning and I fed it just a little before I put it up on it's low light perch. When I was doing my original research, I did see where it said it could be forced to flower again a few months later....but I had totally skipped reading that part since that's not what I wanted to do. I should have read it so I knew what not to do! 

Some would say that maybe I pruned it too soon after blooming and should have waited a month or so. I've even found a site recently that recommend pruning in summer before the plant starts growing again for fall. It's kind of like trees or grapes, you want to prune after they become dormant but before they start to grow again for the new season. Make sense?

Thankfully, the plant is fine. I didn't screw it up, just didn't do what I wanted. I did learn how to prune a Christmas cactus though! *sigh* 

The good part is that I got to see it bloom again and I have all those cuttings rooting nicely in with my lavender which was super simple! I just let them dry out for a day, then planted them in potting soil. I watered them the next day and they're starting to grow. 

Within a few months they will be a nice size and I should have them ready by Christmas to use in my Adorable Christmas garden gifts

So....is this a pruning fail or a win? I'm not sure, but in figuring it out I did learn that I actually have a Thanksgiving cactus! Not only that, but there are actually 3 different varieties: Christmas cactus, Thanksgiving cactus and Easter cactus! If you guessed that they're named differently because of when they bloom...you would be correct! 

If you look at the picture at the beginning of this post, the very top flower has soft looking leaf segments and the cactus in the picture under the words has points. The points indicate a Thanksgiving cactus. Here's a great article on all 3.

Well, that explains the early blooming season and that wraps up my pruning escapade! Who knew houseplants could be so exciting? 😉 Thankfully, getting an Amaryllis to bloom again isn't quite as tricky, since I have a few of them!


(a big thank you to everyone for hanging in here with me through my non-posting times as I recover from my quad accident/concussion. I have the world's best readers! Thanks!)

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  1. I figure if the plant is healthy and thriving, you're still a step ahead of the game! My grandmother could make anything grow, I wish I'd inherited her green thumb.

    1. Yeah, I figure...at least I didn't hurt it! lol I can grow most anything outside, inside I'm not so good!