what soil to use for Christmas cactus (kind of potting soil)

On cold winter days, the blossoming Christmas Cactus delight their owners with bright lights of flowers. This is probably why zygocactus (Christmas Cactus, Thanksgiving cactus, Schlumbergera truncata syn. Zygocactus truncata)) is one of the most popular plants among flower growers, and also due to its unpretentious care.

However, few people know that  Christmas Cactus is quite demanding on the composition of the soil in which it grows. If the florist approaches the issue of preparing the substrate irresponsibly, then the zygocactus is unlikely to please him with lush and long flowering.

what soil to use for christmas cactus

what kind of potting soil for Christmas cactus is needed? How to make it? This article will try to answer these questions.

what soil does a Christmas cactus grow in nature?

The Christmas Cactus is an epiphytic cactus native to the tropical forests of South America. Its habitats are snags, stumps, tree trunks, and places near them. Zygocactus takes all the nutrients necessary for its full development from trees and a number of growing plants. The tropical soil is quite loose and light due to the constant rotting leaves and grasses.

christmas cactus soil mix recipe: composition of potting soil

The substrate for the Christmas Cactus should be as close to natural as possible. It should be loose, light, easily permeable to water and air, nutritious, and well-drained. Its components can be moss, rotted leaves, and bark. The soil for the Christmas Cactus should also have an acidic reaction (pH 5.5 -6).

There are many options for mixtures in which a Christmas Cactus can be planted, but a prerequisite is the presence of four components:

  • Basis: turf, garden, leafy soil.
  • Baking powder: peat, coarse river sand, perlite, vermiculite, sphagnum moss, pieces of tree bark, fresh sawdust.
  • Fertilizers: humus, turf, compost, biohumus, mineral fertilizers (potassium-phosphorus).
  • Drainage: expanded clay, gravel, pebbles, brick chips, crushed stone, foam chips, etc. The drainage layer is placed at the bottom of the container in which the plant is planted; it is allowed to add a small amount to the substrate.

Here check out What To Feed Christmas Cactus?

what soil does a christmas cactus need: make substrate yourself or buy it in the store?

Both types of substrate for planting zygocactus are quite suitable. The only question is whether the grower has the extra money to buy the substrate or enough free time to prepare the potting mix.

The advantages of purchased soil include, first of all, its full readiness for use, while the self-mixed substrate still needs to be treated thermally or with fungicides.

But when the mixture is prepared directly for a specific plant, you can choose a ratio of components that will fully satisfy all the needs of a particular flower. Experienced growers are of the opinion that it is better to prepare the substrate at home.

What ready-made potting soil for christmas cactus are suitable?

In a specialized store for planting a Christmas Cactus, sellers will offer a substrate intended for cacti, or universal.

Despite the fact that the Christmas tree is a cactus, a nutrient-poor substrate for succulents, it will not work, unlike the universal one. But still, the soil for cacti has a number of characteristics that are important for the full development of Schlumberger:

  • looseness;
  • air and moisture permeability;
  • the required level of acidity.

Therefore, professionals recommend mixing in a 1:1 ratio the two above types of purchased substrate.

When choosing soil, it is necessary to pay attention to the shelf life of the substrate, its composition, physical characteristics: normal moisture level, fibrous content, the presence of loosening components.

Check also Can You Propagate Christmas Cactus.

How to prepare Christmas cactus Potting soil yourself?

For adult Christmas cactus

  1. Prepare all the necessary components, which should be in different containers: 6 parts of leafy soil, 1 part of sod land, 4 parts of humus soil, 2 parts of peat, 2 parts of sand, a little perlite or other baking powder (no more than 10% of the total).
  2. Prepare a large container in which all the ingredients will be mixed.
  3. Prepare a measuring container, spatula, and gloves.
  4. Wearing gloves on your hands, you should measure the required volumes of all constituents of the substrate.
  5. After pouring all the ingredients into a large container, mix them thoroughly with a spatula.
  6. Pour the soil onto a baking sheet up to 5 cm thick and moisten.
  7. The baking sheet should be placed in an oven preheated to + 70C – + 90C. The duration of the calcination is at least 30 minutes.

For a young Christmas cactus

For young plants, the soil should be lighter and looser, so the percentage of leavening agents should be higher than for mature plants with a strong root system.

  1. Prepare everything you need to prepare the mixture: a large container, a spatula, gloves, a measuring container.
  2. After pre-drying all the ingredients, place them in different containers.
  3. Put gloves on your hands.
  4. Pour into a large container 2 parts of compost soil, 1 part of river sand, 2 parts of peat, 3% each of fresh sawdust, bark, perlite, vermiculite, sphagnum. Mix everything well.
  5. Pour the resulting substrate into a fine-mesh colander and spill with a fungicide solution or a bright pink solution of potassium permanganate.

What kind of pot does a Christmas Cactus need?

When buying a pot for a Christmas Cactus, you must be guided by the main criterion: it should be shallow, but wide. This requirement is due to the fact that the root system of the zygocactus is located in the upper layers of the soil.

When choosing a container, you should not chase voluminous and deep pots: as a rule, the plant begins to try to fill the existing volume with its roots, and there is not enough strength for flowering.

If we talk about the material from which the pot should be made, then there are no restrictions. Fans of everything environmentally friendly are inclined to choose clay containers: the material is natural, no toxic substances are used in the production, clay absorbs moisture well, allows air to pass through.

Today in specialized stores there is a fairly wide range of plastic pots. This material allows you to maintain an optimal temperature regime since it absolutely does not allow air to pass through.

But with any choice, it is better if the color of the container intended for the Christmas Cactus is light: the soil poured into it will heat up less. Another important condition is that there must be drainage holes at the bottom of the pot to drain excess moisture.

When is it necessary to change soil of christmas cactus?

In order for the Schlumberger to actively grow, develop and delight with abundant flowering, it is periodically necessary to change the soil in which it grows. Young plants are usually transplanted annually, adults – once every 3 years. The Christmas Cactus, which has reached a large size, is transplanted once every 5 years.

Also, the soil must be changed immediately after buying a zygocactus in a flower shop. The substrate in which the plant is placed is intended for transporting the flower, but not for its permanent location. The soil is absolutely devoid of any nutrients, and a plant that is in it for a long time is in danger of death.

Be sure to change the substrate for the Christmas Cactus, who suffers from infectious diseases. Infection with fusarium, phytium, late blight occurs most often through an infected substrate.

In case of detection of signs of damage to the flower by fungal infections, the zygocactus should be urgently transplanted into new soil, and the root system and the entire plant should be treated with special preparations.

christmas cactus planting rules

  1. First of all, it is necessary to pour a drainage layer on the bottom of the pot, the volume of which is equal to 1/3 of the total volume of the pot.
  2. Next, a layer of substrate is poured, the height of which should be at least 1 centimeter.
  3. A Christmas Cactus is placed in the center of the container, more precisely, its roots, which are carefully straightened and covered with soil.
  4. The top layer of soil is lightly crushed to fix the plant.

The plant is not watered for 3 – 4 days, it is placed in a shaded place for 2 weeks. After the adaptation period, the young Schlumberger is cared for as usual.

The soil for the Christmas Cactus plays an important role: a light, loose, nutritious substrate is able to ensure the full development of the plant.

I am an avid plant enthusiast and horticulture aficionado with a deep passion for houseplants. With years of nurturing green companions, my expertise in caring for indoor foliage is well-rooted. Through my journey, I've cultivated insights into optimal plant care, propagation techniques, and creating vibrant indoor ecosystems. Join me as we explore the verdant world of houseplants together. Let's turn your living space into a thriving oasis of botanical beauty. Connect with me on admin@houseplantspro.com and Facebook and explore more at Houseplantspro. 🌿🪴