How to Grow and Care for Easter Cactus

Easter cactus (Rhipsalideae gaertneri) with pink blooms.

jessicahyde / Getty Images

In This Article

Looking to add a little color to your home? The Easter cactus is a perfect choice! With blooms that range from white to red to purple, this long-lived, easy to grow plant is a popular choice amongst beginners and experienced houseplant lovers alike. 

Native to the rainforests of Brazil, this tropical cactus is known for its gorgeous and prolific blooms that occur around the Easter holiday. 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 tell apart 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. 

 Botanical Name Rhipsalideae gaertneri
 Common Name Easter cactus, spring cactus
 Plant Type Cactus
 Mature Size 2 ft. wide, 2 ft. tall
 Sun Exposure Partial
 Soil Type Loamy, Well-drained
 Soil pH Acid
 Bloom Time Winter, Spring
 Flower Color Red, Pink, Orange, Purple, White
 Hardiness Zones 10-11, USA
 Native Area South America
Toxicity Non-toxic
Easter cactus (Rhipsalideae gaertneri) with pink blooms.

jessicahyde / Getty Images

Easter Cactus Care

Although they are a part of the Cactaceae family, Easter cacti need very different care from a typical desert cactus. They thrive in cooler temperatures, can’t tolerate direct sun, and require nutrient-rich soil. Easter cacti are epiphytic cacti native to the rainforests of Brazil. As an epiphyte, Easter cacti do not grow in soil in their natural habitat but instead grow on rocks, trees, and other plants. While Easter cacti are typically grown in soil as a houseplant, they cannot survive in dense, compacted soil and require loose potting mixes that provide adequate aeration to their roots.

Easter cacti are known for their stunning blooms and healthy plants will bloom profusely if given the right conditions. Typically Easter cacti bloom in the late winter to early spring, and they require long nights and cool temperatures prior to blooming. You should also stop fertilizing your Easter cactus in the late summer, and cut back on watering until the mid-winter. These stress conditions will encourage prolific blooming come the early spring.

Light

As a natural forest understory plant, the Easter cactus is accustomed to growing in locations that are partly sheltered from the sun. Place your Easter cactus in a location that receives bright, indirect sunlight. Avoid direct sunlight as the fleshy leaves are susceptible to sunburn.

Soil

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.

Water

Allow the soil to dry out between waterings, then water thoroughly. The Easter cactus does not tolerate having its roots waterlogged so ensuring that the pot has proper drainage is important. 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 55-60 degrees Fahrenheit (13-16 degrees Celsius). 

While Easter cacti enjoy humid environments, they do well in typical household humidity levels. However, if your home is especially dry, providing extra humidity with a humidifier or a pebble tray is a good idea.

Fertilizer

Easter cacti are considered high feeders and do well with regular fertilization. Apply a balanced fertilizer, such as a 10-10-10, once a month after the blooming period is over. Amending the soil with compost or other organic fertilizers on a yearly basis will also help to keep the soil nutrient-rich.

Is Easter Cactus Toxic?

Easter cacti are non-toxic to cats and dogs. However, they are not edible so discourage curious pets from nibbling on the leaves as it may result in mild stomach upset.

Propagating Easter Cactus

The Easter cactus can be easily propagated through leaf cuttings. Gently twist a leaf off at the leaf terminal, being careful not to break the base. Once separated the leaves can simply be stuck back in the soil. Wait to water the leaves until roots begin to sprout and then water as you would with a mature Easter cactus. Propagating is best done 2-3 months after the blooming period.

Potting and Repotting Easter Cactus

Easter cacti enjoy being 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 2-3 inches wider than the previous pot is ideal. Repotting is best done in the spring after the blooming period.

Common Pests/Diseases

Common indoor plant pests such as mealybugs, scale, 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.