Cut back big Christmas cactus

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"It was just a little bitty thing when I got it," says Barb of her Christmas cactus (Schlubergera variety). "That was oh, seven years ago. I keep it right out here all summer, every year. I give lots of starts to other people and just this year I gave a start back to the gal who gave it to me to begin with!" 

Want to cut a Christmas cactus?

Could be there's no need for scissors, every need for cold

Years ago I got a start of a Christmas cactus. It's become a really big plant. I keep it outside all summer. Just now, I see quite a few of the stalks are brown and wonder if I should cut some out of it? It won't stop it from blooming, will it? Because it blooms so beautifully. The buds are forming now and right about Christmas it's always just loaded with flowers.

I'm bringing it inside now because I'm always so scared to leave it out too long. - Barb -

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All the flower buds that have appeared by mid-October each year on Barb's Christmas cactus will benefit from continued good light. Branches that haven't yet formed buds will be nudged further in that direction by a combination of full sun and lengthening nights.


You can cut out any portions of a Christmas cactus (various Schlumbergera hybrids go by the common names Christmas-, Thanksgiving- and Easter cactus) if they become too old and woody to be attractive, or have been damaged. What you clip now won't be there to contribute to the bloom but your pruning won't affect all the tips you leave in place, which are in bud or priming themselves to develop flower buds.

Rarely need to up-pot this plant that likes a crowd

Don't think you should clip out stems to keep the pot from becoming crowded, however. Schlumbergera isn't a soil dweller, in nature. It makes its home high in the crotches of trees in South American jungles, where it grows to huge size in tiny pockets of organic debris.

They live there on water when it comes -- that's frequently during the rainy season when the plants take advantage to grow with gusto and bloom -- and they rest there doing without during the dry season. They are also very efficient users of nutrients, getting by on the decay of fallen leaves plus chance deposits made by birds and other canopy dwelling animals.

As long as you can keep your from overbalancing its pot, and if you can water it frequently enough during its active growth phase to keep that small root mass from going completely dry, there's no need to make room in the pot or to up-pot.

Encourage more people to leave these plants out in the cold

We hope your example will help a few more people steel themselves to leave a Christmas cactus outdoors just a bit longer in fall. So long as they bring it in overnight to a dark room if there's danger of frost, they can put it right back out again the next day and it will be fine. What makes that effort worthwhile is that the combination of lengthening nights, falling temperatures and unbeatable solar power of full daylight is what triggers and fuels a Christmas cactus to bloom as fully as yours.

 Cut out some woody trunks if you will but this Christmas cactus (Schlumbergera) isn't suffering from being crowded. Its species even likes it that way.