Christmas cacti are one of the most popular festive houseplants and if you decide to purchase one you might wonder how long it will take to grow – so, are Christmas Cacti slow growing?
Christmas Cacti grow at a moderate pace, reaching around 2 to 3 feet (60-90cm) within 4 to 5 years. They are unique because they will never stop growing and live for a very long time, so they can reach large sizes if cared for properly.
Once mature Christmas cacti will grow steadily for a very long time.
What Factors Affect Christmas Cactus Growth Rate?
Christmas cacti thrive when they are grown in optimal conditions. They are native to the rainforests of Brazil, so it can be tricky to replicate similar conditions in the home.
These conditions, listed below, are the main factors that will determine how fast a Christmas cactus will grow.
Christmas cacti are epiphytes, similar to other houseplants like anthuriums. In simple terms, this means that they grow on other plants in the wild.
This has a direct impact on the type of soil that they require. When choosing soil for Christmas cacti, opt for well-draining soil with lots of small pockets of air within the soil to suit the epiphytic roots.
Light soils used for succulents tend to be good options, or you can add things like perlite or peat to well-draining potting mixes.
It can drop below this temperature during the flowering season, but when the warmer months come around it’s crucial to maintain a relatively high temperature for growth.
Fertilizer is crucial for encouraging growth, and I personally use a 20-20-20 fertilizer on my Christmas cactus.
Fertilizers provide nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium which all support the healthy growth of the plant. It’s something that a lot of houseplant owners avoid, but it really does make a difference.
Humidity needs to be relatively high as well – roughly between 50% and 60%, but it can be higher.
To encourage higher humidity place your Christmas cactus close to another humidity-loving plant, or consider using a pebble tray or purchasing a humidifier.
Christmas cacti need to be watered when the top few inches of soil have dried out.
It’s better to underwater than overwater, as overwatering can damage the roots and stunt growth massively, but you should aim to keep the soil moist.
This is also the reason why drainage holes are so important, as they will allow excess water to flow out of the pot rather than causing damage to the roots.
Size Of Container (Root Bound)
Christmas cacti are more suited for slightly root-bound conditions, meaning you’ll want to pot them in a container than is only slightly larger than the root ball (around 1 inch or so).
If you choose a container that is too large the roots won’t grow as quickly, which will slow down the overall growth rate of the plant.
How Long Does It Take For A Christmas Cactus To Mature?
It takes around 2 to 3 years on average for Christmas cacti to mature.
I received a Christmas cactus as a gift a few years ago, and it has only started to flower this year. When Christmas cacti start to flower it’s a sign that they have reached maturity, which makes sense for my plant as it was tiny when I first got it, so it must be roughly 3 years old by now.
What Is The Lifespan Of A Christmas Cactus?
Christmas cacti can live for a very, very long time – sometimes over 100 years old. This is a unique feature for a houseplant, as most tend to live much less than this.
Take the anthurium, for example, that lives 3 to 6 years on average. It’s one of the reasons why you should look after your Christmas cactus properly, as it will continue to thrive for your whole lifetime.
During this time they will continue to grow, less so after reaching maturity but still at a moderate rate. This is why some Christmas cacti can be so small and others can be very large.
How Fast Do Christmas Cacti Grow Once Mature?
Once a Christmas cactus has matured it will start to grow at a lower rate, which is usually around 2 to 3 inches per year in total.
This is, of course, assuming that you continue to provide the right conditions for growth and repot when necessary.
How To Make A Christmas Cactus Grow Faster
Getting your Christmas cactus to grow faster is really just a result of providing the right growing conditions that were outlined previously.
Make sure you water often during the warmer months and provide fertilizer about twice per month to encourage growth during this time. Most of the growth will occur between April and September, so it’s crucial that we make the most of this time.
Choose a container that is only an inch or so wider than the plant itself to promote growth as well. Christmas cacti will do better with restricted space for root growth rather than having lots of excess soil on either side.
Aside from that, make sure the temperature is in the correct range, as well as the humidity. Between September and November remember to provide at least 14 hours per day of darkness to encourage buds to form.