The thought of bringing Christmas cactus outside may seem easy, but before you make the move, there are a few factors to consider.
Christmas cactus also named Schlumbergera, are native to the tropical rainforests of Brazil, where they grow as epiphytes on trees.
Can you plant a Christmas cactus plant outside?
Yes, you can plant a Christmas cactus outside, but it needs the right care with climate, temperature, and light conditions for its successful growth.
In their natural habitat, they enjoy filtered sunlight, warm temperatures, and high humidity levels. These conditions are quite different from the average outdoor environment in many regions. However, with proper care and attention, it is possible to successfully adjust a Christmas cactus to an outdoor setting.
Growing Requirements of Christmas Cactus
Firstly, these lovely plants enjoy a temperature of 60°F to 65°F during the day and 45°F to 55° F. They prefer a cosy environment, so keep them away from chilly drafts or extreme temperature fluctuations.
When it comes to lighting, Christmas cactus loves bright, indirect light. They don’t like direct sunlight, which can be too harsh for their delicate leaves. If you’re thinking about moving your Christmas cactus outdoors, choose a location where it can still receive the gentle, indirect light it prefers.
These plants appreciate moist but well-draining soil. Overwatering can lead to root rot, so make sure the soil has a chance to dry out slightly when you water it again. During the growing season in spring and summer, you can water it a bit more often, but be careful not to overdo it.
Humidity is another factor to keep in mind. You can sometimes mist the leaves with water or place a tray filled with water near the plant to increase its humidity levels.
Another thing is fertilizing. Christmas cactus prefers a balanced houseplant fertilizer during the growing season. Apply the fertilizer according to the instructions on the package, typically once a month. During the resting period (late fall to early winter), it’s best to avoid fertilizing it. This can help the plant to rest and prepare for its beautiful holiday blooms.
(Also Read: Why Is My Christmas Cactus Turning Yellow?)
Ideal temperature to grow Christmas cactus outside
The ideal temperature of Christmas cactus is 60°F to 65°F in day whereas at night they prefer 45°F to 55° F. They like a relaxing and mild environment, so keep them away from too hot or too cold temperatures.
Also avoid exposing it to direct heat sources like fireplaces or air conditioning vents, as they can cause stress and affect its growth.
During the evening and nighttime, it’s best to keep slightly cooler temperatures for your Christmas cactus.
If you live in an area where winters can be frosty, protect your Christmas cactus from freezing temperatures. These plants are not frost-tolerant, and exposure to frost can lead to damage or even death.
How to Plant Christmas Cactus Outside?
If you’re considering keeping your Christmas cactus outdoors, it’s best to place it in a pot, container or hanging basket. This way, you can move your plant easily to a protected spot when the weather turns cooler or hotter.
- Choose the right time – The best time to plant your Christmas cactus outside is during the warmer months, preferably in spring or early summer. This allows the plant to adjust to its new surroundings before the colder temperatures of winter arrive.
- Select a suitable location – Look for a spot that has filtered or partial shade. Christmas cactus prefer bright, indirect light, so avoid areas with intense sunlight. If you live in a region with hot summers, providing some afternoon shade can be beneficial.
- Prepare the soil – Christmas cactus thrive in well-draining soil. Make sure the soil in your chosen location is loose and enriched with organic matter. If your soil has a heavy or clay-like texture, you can enhance its drainage by adding compost or sand. This will help create a more favourable growing environment for your plant.
- Make a hole – With your fingers, create a small hole in the centre of the soil and carefully push the roots into the hole. Cover the roots with soil and lightly press it down to ensure the cutting remains upright. It may take around 8 weeks for the Christmas cactus cutting to develop roots.
- Water – Give the newly planted cactus a thorough watering to settle the soil and help the roots establish. Afterwards, water the cactus regularly.
- Care – Keep an eye on your Christmas cactus as it adjusts to its new outdoor environment. Check the moisture level of the soil regularly and ensure it’s not staying overly wet or dry.
How to Take Care of Christmas Cactus Outside?
Taking care of your Christmas cactus outside can be an enjoyable experience. Follow these simple tips to care for your Christmas cactus outside –
Check the soil moisture regularly when you have planted your plant outside. Water your Christmas cactus when the top inch of the soil seems slightly dry. Avoid overwatering your plants. Excess moisture can harm roots, so it’s best to maintain a balanced watering routine. Keep the right balance by keeping the soil slightly moist but not overly saturated.
Christmas cactus don’t like sunlight. Avoid direct sunlight, which can burn their pretty leaves. Filtered or partial shade is ideal, especially during the hottest part of the day. And when planting it outside, you have to be extra careful of sunlight especially when the climate changes from too hot to too cold.
Christmas cactus enjoy mild temperatures. Ensure they are protected from frost during winter months, as they are not frost-tolerant. If freezing temperatures are expected, bring the cactus indoors or you can move it to a sheltered area.
Prune your Christmas cactus to maintain the desired shape and promote bushier growth. Pruning can be done after the blooming period, typically in late winter or early spring.
Feed your Christmas cactus with a balanced, water-soluble fertilizer only in the growing season, which is generally from spring to summer. For the right dosage, follow the instruction on the package of fertilizer. During the resting period in the fall, it’s best to withhold fertilization.
6. Pest control
When you move your plants outdoors, they are exposed to a greater risk of pests and diseases compared to when they are kept indoors. Indoor plants usually have more protection, making it easier to overlook these potential risks. If you notice any signs of infestation, gently wipe the affected areas with a cloth dipped in soapy water or use an organic insecticide specifically designed for houseplants.
7. Check the growth
Regularly observe your Christmas cactus for signs of growth and overall health. Look out for new leaf growth and flower buds. Adjust your care routine accordingly based on the plant’s needs.
(Read this: Do Christmas Cactus like Coffee Grounds?)
Can you plant a Christmas cactus outside in summer?
Summer can be a suitable time to plant your Christmas cactus outdoors, as the warmer temperatures provide favourable conditions for growth.
Christmas cactus prefer temperatures between 60°F and 65°F, so if you live in an area where the temperature goes beyond that, consider taking the plant indoors.
When planting in the summer, ensure that your Christmas cactus has enough time to adjust to its new environment before cold weather comes. It needs time to establish its roots and adjust to outdoor conditions.
Before planting, choose a suitable location that provides filtered or partial shade. The soil should be well-draining, allowing excess water to flow away from the roots.
Can a Christmas cactus be outside in the winter?
In general, Christmas cactus are not frost-tolerant, which means they can’t withstand freezing temperatures. In winter, when the cold temperature is not too low, you can place it outside. But in freezing temperatures, it is better to take the plant inside as this plant can’t tolerate too cold temperatures.
Cold temperatures can harm the cactus, causing damage to its delicate leaves and stems. Frost can even lead to the death of the plant. To protect your Christmas cactus, it’s best to bring it indoors before the first frost of the season.
The Christmas cactus can bring a touch of beauty and festive charm to both indoor and outdoor spaces. While it is possible to plant a Christmas cactus outside during the warmer months, consider the plant’s specific requirements and provide the right care to ensure its well-being.
Understanding the ideal temperature, planting techniques, and maintenance guidelines will help you create a nurturing environment for your Christmas cactus to thrive. Whether you choose to enjoy its vibrant blooms indoors, or the adventure of planting it outside, with proper attention and care, your Christmas cactus can bring joy throughout the year.