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Pruning Your Christmas Cactus: When and How to Do It Right (& Why You Need To)

Christmas cacti are a favorite of mine, and I’m sure many of you share this love. All schlumbergera kinds, regardless of when they bloom (Christmas, Thanksgiving, or Easter), are considered Christmas cactuses.

Many individuals have the misconception that these plants are difficult to maintain. In my perspective, the opposite is true.

It’s simple to maintain a healthy Christmas cactus if you learn their preferences. If you want to know how to develop a beautiful Christmas cactus that blooms year after year, keep reading!

Is It Necessary to Prune Your Christmas Cactus?

Is It Necessary to Prune Your Christmas Cactus?

Let’s say you have a beautiful holiday cactus in your living room that has been passed down through the family and you have never pruned it. If that’s the case, you’re probably questioning if it’s really necessary.

And to you, I say, nope, you may keep doing what you’re doing. But…

Even though you don’t have to prune a Christmas cactus to make it grow well, there are some good reasons to do so.

Even if your cactus has been around for a long time, we’ll explain why a haircut can be just the right thing for your plant. But first, a quick anatomy lesson on the Christmas cactus.

Cactus cladodes, rather than leaves, are what we refer to as a plant’s foliage in the context of Christmas cacti. A new plant can be started from any one of these cladodes.

It’s possible to redirect energy by pruning a Christmas cactus rather than allowing it to develop new segments year after year and produce blossoms.

The Benefits of Pruning an Older, Larger Plant

The cladodes in the soil from which the main plant grows become harsh and woody as Christmas cactuses grow larger. Allowing the plant to support itself while becoming larger is a wonderful thing. Woody stems can fracture and split as the plant ages, making your cactus vulnerable to disease, particularly root rot.

Root rot is a serious problem for Christmas cacti. As an epiphyte, they have adapted to grow on another plant.

A brief overview of epiphytes

A brief overview of epiphytes

Through the development of a well-developed root system, plants absorb nutrients and water. Even while many plants rely on their root systems for food and water, epiphytes do not. Epiphytes, on the other hand, rely mostly on their roots to attach themselves to their host plants.

The cladodes of Christmas cacti receive nutrients and water through their roots, as well. Typically, in the wild, plants have shallow root systems that hold onto whatever detritus has accumulated in the crook of a tree or a fissure in the rock as their only source of support.

Then we wonder why the roots of our lovely Christmas cactus are rotting after we’ve planted it in potting soil and treated it like any other plant.

Reasons to Prune Your Big Gorgeous Christmas Cactus

Reasons to Prune Your Big Gorgeous Christmas Cactus

Your older Christmas cactus needs just as much air and healthy circulation as it does water.

So, pruning a larger Christmas cactus is a smart move to let the plant’s interior breathe better. In this way, the plant is able to absorb more water and nutrients through its segments.

In addition, you’ll improve lighting penetration. To increase the number of flowers, you might prune back an overgrown plant. In the end, more flowers will be produced as a result of making it easier for the plant to access light, water and nutrients.

Pruning back a huge plant reduces the weight on older, woody stems, making it less likely that they will break.

In addition to reinvigorating the plant, pruning a well-established Christmas cactus may be necessary to keep it healthy. New growth can be sparked by pruning an older plant. Wherever you clip the plant, additional segments will come out. With this method, you’ll get a fuller and bushier Christmas cactus out of an otherwise lanky plant.

Just think how much better you’ll feel about yourself with a new fresh haircut and style! It’s the same for your plant.

But, I don’t have a big old Christmas cactus—mine is only a few years old.

Great! That one needs trimming, too.

Pruning during the Holiday Season: General Pruning

Two to 10 years old are the plants included in this post that I photographed. Both of them aren’t exceptionally enormous. I’ll use them to explain why you should prune your Christmas cactus each year.

Prune A Scraggly Plant to Become Fuller

A Christmas cactus with only legs can benefit from being pruned in order to encourage it to fill out rather than grow larger in stature. Make sure the plant grows outward instead of adding extra length by pinching back the lanky stems.

When the plant is young, this is considerably easier to perform. Pruning can then be limited to general upkeep once the plant has grown to your desired level of bushiness. When the plant is still young, you can influence its growth in any direction or location you like.

Shape your Christmas Cactus with Pruning

For all we know, you could have the perfect Christmas cactus. In order to keep that shape, it’s a good idea to clip off any excess growth each year. If you have a limited amount of space, this is extremely critical. Remove any extra-long strands that are beginning to encroach on the rest of the braid.

Pruning, like a haircut, is an essential part of maintaining a healthy plant. As a result, you’ll have more flowers, since the plant won’t have to expend as much energy developing new stems.

Pruning Your Christmas Cactus at the Right Season

Pruning schlumbergera should be done as soon as possible after the flowers have faded.

After they’ve finished blooming, Christmas cacti go through a growth spurt, so you’ll want to prune them before they start producing new growth. As a result of pruning, the plant can redistribute resources to produce new growth in those areas where it has been cut down.

If you miss this one-month window, you can still trim the plant, but it may have an impact on the plant’s growth and flowers throughout the year.

How to Perfectly Prune a Christmas Cactus

Even if it’s not a necessity, it’s a good idea to clean the dust off of your plant at this point. I like to wipe these plants down from time to time to eliminate the dust that accumulates on their cladodes and make it simpler for them to absorb water.

Gently clean the segments with a slightly damp piece of cloth.

You don’t even need special equipment to prune these segmented plants; unless you’re cutting into older stems, that is.

To begin, wash your hands thoroughly before removing the cladode from the plant. To separate the segments, carefully twist the ones closest to the joint until they separate.

firmly grasp near the joint…

…and then twist it till it breaks apart.

Ta-dah! Your Christmas cactus has just been pruned.

When the segment is removed, it will leave the bottom node intact.

Using a sanitized knife or scissors when trimming older or thicker stems is recommended. The joints where this would be necessary can be seen in the image below. This is basically any area where the cladode has begun to thicken.

“All of the arrows point to joints that would require scissors or a knife.”

Attempting to twist the thicker cladodes could result in ripping the plant apart or yanking the entire section out of the ground.

There is no right or wrong answer when it comes to how many and where you cut off segments.

It all depends on your pruning objectives. For the most part, it’s safe to cut the plant back by a third of its original size without harming it.

Hmm, it looks pretty crowded in there.”

“Much better! »

The interior was crammed, as evidenced by my real Christmas cactus. For the sake of improving airflow in the soil, I decided to remove some of this plant’s foliage. I had to remove quite a few small pieces.

Epiphytes, right?

Everything down to the first joint was buried beneath the surface of the ground.

One of the cuttings I put two years ago was even taken out of the pot.. Roots are unkempt, yet there are a lot of new cladodes. Epiphytes, on the other hand, don’t often require extensive root systems to grow.

“Overachievers get to stay, slackers are being pruned!”

As there was plenty of airflow at the base of my Thanksgiving cactus, I decided to focus on the canopy. In order to get a bushier crown, I began scouting out the places where segments split off into other directions.

Segments with multiple new branches were not pruned, but the leggier segments that were not branching out were. When the plant enters the growth phase, this should encourage it to produce new cladodes on those places.

Pruning Aftercare

After you’ve pruned the plant, wait a few days before giving it a good misting. Using this method, the plant will be able to scar over the regions where you cut them. Your plant will feel revitalized with a little moisture.

As a bonus, you’ll be left with cuttings to grow new Christmas cacti after you prune your current one.

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