There are many misconceptions when it comes to holiday cacti. Many people don’t realize there are actually three distinct holiday cacti species: Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter. Since Easter is around the corner, I will be discussing care of Easter cacti (Hatiora Gaertneri). They can often be viewed as hard to care for, and require the right conditions to bloom. My hope is by the time you finish reading this post, you will have the knowledge and confidence to buy and care for your very own Easter cactus.
The first thing that many people think when they have an Easter cactus is that cacti are found in the dessert, so they don’t need much water. In fact, holiday cacti fall into a different category than those found in the dessert. Holiday cacti are epiphytic, meaning they grow on other plants. They are native to the rain forests of Brazil and exist naturally in a humid climate, a far cry from the dry desert like climate that most people envision. Because of this, Easter cacti prefer humid environment wherever you plan to keep them. If you are in the South like me, that most likely won’t be an issue, but keep them away from air conditioners or heaters that can dry out the air around them. You can also help aid in their health by placing their pot on a saucer of pebbles that has water in it. As the water evaporates and rises, it creates more moisture in the air around the plant.
Another less commonly know fact about Easter cacti is that they don’t really need a lot of room for their roots to spread out. Compared to the actual size of your plant, the root system can be somewhat tighter and much more compact and still be very healthy. In order to bloom, they prefer to be root bound. This means that their root system is tightly packed into the pot without much free space. If you do want to move your Easter cactus to another pot or hanging basket, do so after it’s blooms are spent. Giving the Easter cactus too much room could mean having to wait a few years before it blooms again, so be prepared.
I already discussed a little about how the Easter cactus is different from desert cacti in terms of humidity. It is also somewhat different in watering requirements as well. Easter cacti like other holiday cacti like to be thoroughly watered about once a week. Like traditional cacti though, they do not like wet feet (roots). This can be avoided by making sure your Easter cactus is planted in a well draining succulent and cactus soil. I like to add in some extra perlite to improve the drainage. When I water, I use distilled or collected rainwater and thoroughly drench my Easter cactus, ensuring that plenty of the water is able to drain off. You only want to water if the soil if dry to the touch, so once a week is my general rule of thumb, but may differ depending on your climate.
The timing of temperature is one of the most important factors in the Easter cacti blooming. I leave my Easter cacti outside in hanging baskets under a magnolia tree for most of the year. I can do that because I am in a zone 8a and our temperatures don’t drop below freezing very often. DO NOT leave your holiday cactus outside in freezing temperatures. It will turn into a big, mushy mess and die. When my temperatures are approaching freezing, I always bring them into my sunroom. What triggers an Easter cactus to form blooms is a period of less light (winter) and colder temperatures (usually around 50 degrees). When the days begin to get longer and the temperature slowly starts to rise (Spring), that’s when the Easter cactus shows her glorious display of blooms.
Taking all four of these factors into account, you are well on your way to successfully caring for your very own Easter cactus. Let me know if you have any questions or comment with any other topics you would like to read about. Good luck gardening!