How to Repot a Christmas Cactus for Flourishing Festive Foliage Year After Year

This bright bloomer should be thriving this time of year, but you'll need to make sure it's not outgrowing its container

Close up of a Christmas cactus with pink blooms on a windowsill
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Houseplants might not be top of your agenda this time of year, but there's more to festive foliage than holly, mistletoe, and poinsettias. The Christmas cactus is one of the best ways to introduce a burst of color to your space this season thanks to its bright pink, red, orange, and white blooms and, unlike other plants, this plant should be thriving this time of year - so much so that you might be wondering if it needs repotting. 

If you're an experienced green thumb, you'll know that cacti and succulents need repotting less frequently than most faster growing greenery, making them one of the best houseplant for beginners thanks to them being so low maintenance. That being said, it doesn't mean they don't need repotting at all. If you're Christmas cactus looks as though it's outgrowing its container, it might appreciate being repotted, although you might want to hold off the task for a while longer. Here's what experts have to say on when and how to transfer your Christmas cactus into a larger pot. 

What are the signs that your Christmas cactus needs repotting?

Two Christmas cactus plants on windowsill, one big, on small

(Image credit: Getty Images)

If you're not a confident plant parent yet, you'll be pleased to learn that the Christmas cactus is a super low maintenance plant, but chances are it will still need repotting during its lifetime. And, if you want it to look spectacular year after year, you'll need to ensure it has space to grow so it can produce it's beautiful bright blooms. 

As with most houseplants, there are some tell-tale signs that your cactus needs repotting. 'Signs that your Christmas cactus needs repotting include roots growing through the drainage holes, the plant becoming unstable, or the soil drying out much more quickly than usual,' explains Richa Kedia, plant expert at Simplify Plants. 'Keep an eye out for these indicators to ensure your Christmas cactus remains healthy and thriving.' 

The best way to be certain it's time to repot your cactus is by gently prizing it away from it's current container to take a look at the roots. 'When the roots have become pot-bound that is a sign you should repot your Christmas cactus, unless it’s already starting to bud then you can safely hold off,' explains Paris Lalicata, plant expert at The Sill. 'Normally, if it’s been pot bound for a while stunted growth may happen and leaf drop can even occur.' 

When should a Christmas cactus be repotted?

In order to make your Christmas cactus bloom, you'lll need to repot at the right time.The rest of your houseplants are probably dormant right now so they certainly wouldn't appreciate being repotted this time of year. Instead, most plants should be repotted when they first show signs of new growth. With that in mind, you might be tempted to repot your Christmas cactus now because it's currently within its growing season, but the Christmas cactus is unusual since should ideally be repotted after blooming ends and the flowers have wilted. 

'If you received a Christmas cactus in a grow pot for the holiday you’ll definitely want to hold off on repotting it until after the blooming cycle ends,' notes Paris. 'Once the last flower falls you can inspect the root system. If the plant has become pot-bound it’ll be safe to repot it, but you can leave it for a few more months or until spring if the roots still have space to grow.'

In the case that you’ve had the plant for a while, however, Paris says there really isn’t a strict timeline to repot since it’s completely dependent on how fast it grows, something which is dependent on the environment you provide for your indoor garden. There are still a few things to bare in mind, though. 'You should avoid repotting the plant though once buds start to develop and throughout the blooming cycle,' she notes. 'Only repot the Christmas cactus once the root system has become pot bound and since they have shallow roots at times it can take a bit for this to happen. I would at least check on the plant's root after each blooming cycle which should happen at least once a year.' 

How do you repot a Christmas cactus?

Small Christmas Cactus plants and a string of pearls succulents in pots on a shelf

(Image credit: Getty Images)

The Christmas cactus makes one of the best Christmas plants but only when you've provided adequate care. While you'll probably want to hold off from repotting right now, you'll want some instructions for early spring and, although it might sound simple, there are some important notes to keep in mind before you undertake the task. 

First, ensure you've chosen a suitable potting mix.'You can use any standard indoor potting mix that is well-draining,' explains Paris. 'Since it’s a jungle cactus and not a desert cactus it’ll want more moisture and nutrients which a traditional cactus mix doesn’t provide.' 

You'll also need to choose a pot that's the right size - not too small, not too large.
According to Paris, you should only repot the plant into a planter that's an extra 1-2 inches maximum in diameter size. 'Depending on how deep the root system is you can choose a spot that is a bit more shallow than deep, but it still needs to be large enough to house the roots and additional soil for the roots to continue to grow into,' she adds. 

Richa also points out that your new pot should have good drainage. 'Be mindful of its delicate stems when gently removing it from its current pot,' she says. 'Place the Christmas cactus in the new pot, ensuring the soil level remains the same, and water lightly. Allow the plant a few days to adjust to its new environment and resume normal care.' 

Last but not least, Richa says you may notice a few leaves drop after repotting, but that is natural. 'However, if you notice anything unusual, look for potential problems like damage to the roots, overwatering, or incorrect soil mix,' she adds. Once your Christmas cactus has adapted to its new home it will be ready to serve your beautiful festive foliage for many more Christmasses to come!

Color & Trends Editor

Lilith Hudson is the Color & Trends Editor at Livingetc. Writing news, features, and explainers for our digital platform, she's the go-to person for all the latest micro-trends, interior hacks, and color inspiration you need in your home. Lilith discovered a love for lifestyle journalism during her BA in English and Philosophy at the University of Nottingham where she spent more time writing for her student magazine than she did studying. After graduating, she decided to take things a step further and now holds an MA in Magazine Journalism from City, University of London, with previous experience at the Saturday Times Magazine, Evening Standard, DJ Mag, and The Simple Things Magazine. At weekends you'll find her renovating a tiny one-up, one-down annex next to her Dad's holiday cottage in the Derbyshire dales where she applies all the latest design ideas she's picked up through the week.