The Easter cactus is a perfect choice if you want to add a little color to your home or garden, especially around the Easter holiday when this tropical cactus is known for its gorgeous and prolific star-shaped blooms. This native to Brazilian rainforests has flowers that range from white to red to purple. Known as a long-lived, easy-to-grow plant, the Easter cactus is a popular choice among beginners and experienced houseplant lovers alike.
|Common Name||Easter cactus, spring cactus|
|Botanical Name||Rhipsalideae gaertneri|
|Mature Size||2 ft. wide, 2 ft. tall|
|Sun Exposure||Partial sun|
|Soil Type||Loamy, well-drained|
|Soil pH||Acidic (6.0 to 6.5)|
|Bloom Time||Winter, spring|
|Flower Color||Red, pink, orange, purple, white|
|Hardiness Zones||10, 11, USA|
|Native Area||South America|
Easter Cactus Care
Although they are a part of the Cactaceae family, an Easter cactus needs care that differs from a typical desert cactus. It thrives in cooler temperatures, can’t tolerate direct sun, and requires nutrient-rich soil. Easter cacti are epiphytic cacti native to the rainforests of Brazil. As an epiphyte, an Easter cactus does not grow in soil in its natural habitat but instead grows on rocks, trees, and other plants. While an Easter cactus is typically grown in soil as a houseplant, it cannot survive in dense, compacted soil and requires loose potting mixes that provide adequate aeration to its roots.
As a natural forest understory plant, the Easter cactus is accustomed to growing in locations that are partly sheltered from the sun. Indirect sunlight is best to help this plant thrive.
As an epiphyte, Easter cacti do best in porous soil mixes that provide good airflow to their roots and are rich in organic matter. A mix of coco coir, peat moss, perlite, and orchid bark is ideal. Regularly amending the soil with compost or other organic fertilizers will help to keep the soil rich in nutrients.
Allow the soil to dry out between waterings, then water thoroughly until the water begins to drain out of the bottom. The Easter cactus does not tolerate having its roots waterlogged so ensuring that the pot has proper drainage is important. Do not let any water sit in the saucer after watering. Cut back on watering during the late fall to early winter to help encourage blooming.
Temperature and Humidity
Unlike other plants in the Cactaceae family, the Easter cactus thrives in cooler temperatures. In fact, they require cold temperatures in order to bloom. The Easter cactus will bloom in nighttime temperatures between 55 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit.
While Easter cacti enjoy humid environments, they do well in typical household humidity levels. However, if your home is especially dry it's a good idea to provide extra humidity with a humidifier or a pebble tray.
Easter cacti are considered high feeders and do well with regular fertilization. About two months after the plant has completely finished blooming, apply a balanced fertilizer, such as a 10-10-10, once a month until you need to prepare it for its bloom phase. Amending the soil with compost or other organic fertilizers on a yearly basis will also help to keep the soil nutrient-rich.
Pruning an Easter cactus is optional, but it will help with reblooming for the next year. The one rule is to prune right after the plant flowers in the spring and while it's still in its active growth phase. Don't wait to prune an Easter cactus in the fall or winter.
To prune, focus on breaking off the top leaf pad from the stem at the joint. Use your fingers or a disinfected garden scissor. If you create an uneven break, be sure to trim that off. Pruning will encourage the growth of new stems for a bushier plant with more blooms.
Propagating Easter Cactus
You can grow Easter cactus from seeds or cuttings. Harvesting seeds can be challenging because you have to pollinate the plant, harvest seeds, and keep your patience while waiting to see if the seeds thrive. For this reason, it's more popular, and much easier, to propagate Easter cactus with cuttings. Propagating is best done two to three months after the blooming period. Take these simple steps:
- Gently twist a leaf off at the leaf terminal, being careful not to break the base.
- Once separated, stick the bottom of the leaves back into a small cup or pot of soil making sure at least half of the leaf is in the dirt.
- Lightly mist the leaves.
- Place plastic bags over the cuttings to keep in the moisture.
- Wait to water the leaves until roots begin to sprout in a few weeks and then repot.
- Water as you would with a mature Easter cactus.
Potting and Repotting Easter Cactus
Easter cacti enjoy being snug and pot-bound and only need to be repotted every two years to refresh the soil. If there is still room in the current pot, don’t increase the pot size and just plant it back in the same container. However, if you need to size up a pot, choosing a pot that is 2 to 3 inches wider than the previous pot is ideal. Clay pots are best to help with aeration and drainage. Repotting is best done in the spring after the blooming period.
Common Pests & Plant Diseases
Common indoor plant pests such as mealybugs, scale, spider mites, and fungus gnats can be a problem for Easter cacti. Root rot can also be an issue but is usually a result of overwatering or improper soil mixes being used.
How to Get Easter Cactus to Bloom
Easter cacti are known for their stunning flowers and healthy plants will bloom profusely if given the right conditions. Typically Easter cacti flowers in the late winter to early spring, and they require long nights and cool temperatures before blooming.
About two months before the blooming period in the spring, you can stop fertilizing the plant and give it equal amounts of darkness and indirect light. Keep the cactus cool at about 50 degrees Fahrenheit at night and warm during the day in the light, but don't put the plant near a heater or other heating source. The warmth will speed up the start of the blooming period.
After the blooming period, prepare for next year's flowering. After the plant has bloomed and it is not in its active growth phase you can cut back on watering until mid-winter when you will begin the dark and light process all over again. These stress conditions will encourage prolific blooming come next year's early spring.
Common Problems With Easter Cactus
The Easter cactus is a relatively easy-going plant but sometimes, you'll spot a problem. Usually, the problem is from overwatering (check for root rot, cut away any affected roots with sterile scissors, and repot), underwatering (begin with small sips of water if it's been neglected), or it's getting too much light (move the plant).
Your cactus may look like it's falling apart if the pads fall off. The cause may be that the plant is stressed from either overwatering or underwatering. You can always take the pads that fall off and root them in potting soil for new plants.
A wilting Easter cactus can mean it's stressed from being overwatered, underwatered, or, it is getting too much direct sunlight.
Leaves Turning Yellow
Your cactus may need to be repotted. When the leaves turn yellow, it may mean the plant is in soil that is unable to properly drain. Check for root rot and repot.
Is an Easter cactus the same as a Christmas or Thanksgiving cactus?
While the Easter cactus (Rhipsalideae gaertneri) is related to the well-known Christmas cactus and Thanksgiving cactus, it is distinct in that it is a part of the Rhipsalideae family versus the Schlumbergera family. These three holiday cacti can be hard to differentiate as they all have similar growth habits, leaf shapes, and blooms; however, Easter cacti have smoother leaves with fewer ridges than Christmas or Thanksgiving cacti, which is a distinguishing characteristic. Often, you'll see the terms Easter cactus and Christmas cactus used interchangeably.
How long can an Easter cactus live?
It's common for an Easter cactus to live and bloom for 10 years or even longer with the right care.
Where should I place my Easter cactus in my house?
Place your Easter cactus in a location that receives bright, indirect sunlight. Avoid direct sunlight as the fleshy leaves are susceptible to sunburn. Choose a room with lots of natural light streaming in. But place the plant in a space that is further away from the windows so that it benefits from the light without getting scorched by the sunlight.