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Bud Blast – The Reason Your Christmas Cactus Is Dropping Buds & How To Fix It

Woman's hand holding aborted holiday cactus buds.

The most common complaint from Christmas and other holiday cactus owners is they can never get their plants to bloom. But a close second is having a Christmas cactus drop all its buds for no apparent reason.

Fortunately, by remembering the 3 Ws, dropped buds will be a thing of the past.

Bud Blast

Woman's hand holding a bud on a holiday cactus

While the name evokes mental images of a ’90s video game, actual bud blast isn’t nearly so much fun. What is it? It’s when a holiday cactus sets buds and experiences environmental stressors that cause it to abort all of the buds before they bloom.

And let me tell you, it’s infuriating, often eliciting four-letter words.  

It’s one kind of disappointment to check your holiday cactus each day and not find any buds developing. It’s a whole other level of frustration to see buds on your plant and think, “Yeah! I did it! I finally got this silly plant to bloom,” only to find tiny pink buds all over the floor a week later.  

Christmas cactus buds on floor

Tears may be involved.

The good news is bud dropping is preventable.

What Triggers Bud Blast or Bud Drop?

Christmas cactus on top of a car

Your Schlumbergera is a fickle little plant. They like everything just so before putting out a massive display of trumpet-shaped flowers. That’s because making blooms requires quite a bit of energy on the part of the plant, so they will only bloom if they are thriving. What they need most to thrive is the same thing we all need – a stable environment.

If you got your plant to the budding stage, then it’s probably safe to say you know about fertilizing, light and water and the dormancy period needed by Christmas cactus.

(If not, here’s a great refresher.) Christmas Cactus – How to ID & Care for Everyone’s Favorite Holiday Plant

But once everything is “just-so,” it has to stay that way; otherwise, your plant will get stressed and call the whole thing off. You can avoid this last-minute cancelation by paying attention to the three Ws that cause bud drop.

The Three Ws


Christmas cactus on top of an electric fireplace.

Drastic temperature changes are the number one reason a Schlumbergera will drop its buds. While cold temps are usually the culprit, heat can cause the plant to abort buds as well.

This is especially important if you live where the weather gets cold in the winter months. Drafty windows and doors can send sudden blasts of chilly air washing over your holiday cactus. Before you know it, you’ve got buds dropping left and right.

Once a holiday cactus starts to set buds, it needs consistently warm temperatures to keep it going until it blooms. Keep your home comfortable for you, and your Schlumbergera will be happy, too. Somewhere in the neighborhood of 65-75 degrees F is good, with evening temps no lower than 60F.

Christmas cactus in a window near a sink
The kitchen, near your sink, is a good spot for a Christmas cactus, especially in a warm window.

Here are some common temperature scenarios that will cause bud blast:

  • Bringing a newly purchased holiday cactus home on a cold day (below 50F).
  • Purchasing a plant that was kept near the entrance to the store.
  • Placing the plant near drafty windows, especially during windy weather or at night.
  • Putting it near an exterior door.  
  • Keeping your plant next to a register, radiator, fireplace or other heat source.

The best place for a Christmas cactus is near an interior wall, preferably in a room without an exterior door. Choose a spot that receives bright light for most of the day. Depending on your weather, you may have to use a different spot after the plant has set buds than you normally would the remainder of the year.

Here is a handy guide for purchasing holiday cactuses this time of year.

5 Things You Need to Check Before Buying a Christmas Cactus

You might also want to use my advice for purchasing poinsettias when the weather is cold.

Never buy a poinsettia without taking this common household item with you

Christmas cactuses hanging near the doors in a super market.


Goldilocks has nothing on holiday cactuses. When it comes to water, these plants like it just right – both in the soil and the air. Christmas cactuses do not like wet feet, so provide them with a well-draining potting mix for aroid plants.

By the same token, they don’t like to dry out completely, either. The soil should be slightly moist, not water-logged. Water the plant when the first inch to two inches of soil is dry.

Schlumbergera need high humidity to maintain buds as well.

Humidifier among plants

There are numerous ways to achieve this. Maybe you have a sunny bathroom with room on the vanity for a plant. Or you can deploy a cool mist humidifier. This is a great option for dry winter homes that will benefit you and your plants. Finally, you can set the pot in a pebble tray with water. Just be sure the pot isn’t submersed, and remember to top up the tray frequently.

In areas where we heat our homes in the winter, humidity disappears this time of year. Be vigilant in maintaining humidity around your Christmas cactus, and you’ll avoid bud blast.


The plant, not you; as in, don’t wiggle your plant. Too much movement is one of the less likely causes of aborted buds and is usually tied directly in with one of the other W’s. But moving your plant around too much once it has set buds can cause bud blast.

Christmas cactus on an end table next to a sofa

This can pose an issue if you move your plant to a different location in your home for the dormant period. Just remember to be careful when moving your plant back out to its normal spot once it starts setting buds. Be sure the permanent home for your holiday cactus is a low-traffic area.

For instance, the coffee table you constantly smash into with your knee is not a great spot.

Does anyone else have the same bruise on their leg all the time?

Can You Stop Bud Dropping Once It Has Started?

Please don’t shoot the messenger, but it’s unlikely that the plant will stop dropping buds once it has started. Usually, by the time you see buds dropping, the chemical messengers inside the plant that cause it have already got the word out to “Abort, abort, abort!”

Continue to monitor your plant and see if you can pinpoint what caused the bud blast in the first place to prevent it from happening in the future. This might mean adding a pebble tray to boost humidity or moving the plant away from a spot that experiences temperature swings.  

Or not leaving your balcony door open while you put Christmas lights on your railing with your poor Christmas cactus sitting directly in the cold airflow. Not that I’ve ever done this myself. Recently. Yesterday. Stop judging me.

There is a silver lining if your Christmas cactus dropped its buds. You can get it to bloom again before next year. I’ve detailed how to get your holiday cactus to bloom more than once a year, and if you follow the steps, you should be able to get your plant to set buds again.  

Consistency Is Key

Christmas cactus budded out

In the end, consistency is the best thing to remember if you want to avoid bud blast. It’s all about that stable environment: consistent watering and humidity, consistent temperature, and consistent spot = a happy Schlumbergera.

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Tracey Besemer

Hey there, my name is Tracey. I’m the editor-in-chief here at Rural Sprout.

Many of our readers already know me from our popular Sunday newsletters. (You are signed up for our newsletters, right?) Each Sunday, I send a friendly missive from my neck of the woods in Pennsylvania. It’s a bit like sitting on the front porch with a friend, discussing our gardens over a cup of tea.

Originally from upstate NY, I’m now an honorary Pennsylvanian, having lived here for the past 18 years.

I grew up spending weekends on my dad’s off-the-grid homestead, where I spent much of my childhood roaming the woods and getting my hands dirty.

I learned how to do things most little kids haven’t done in over a century.

Whether it was pressing apples in the fall for homemade cider, trudging through the early spring snows of upstate NY to tap trees for maple syrup, or canning everything that grew in the garden in the summer - there were always new adventures with each season.

As an adult, I continue to draw on the skills I learned as a kid. I love my Wi-Fi and knowing pizza is only a phone call away. And I’m okay with never revisiting the adventure that is using an outhouse in the middle of January.

These days, I tend to be almost a homesteader.

I take an eclectic approach to homesteading, utilizing modern convenience where I want and choosing the rustic ways of my childhood as they suit me.

I’m a firm believer in self-sufficiency, no matter where you live, and the power and pride that comes from doing something for yourself.

I’ve always had a garden, even when the only space available was the roof of my apartment building. I’ve been knitting since age seven, and I spin and dye my own wool as well. If you can ferment it, it’s probably in my pantry or on my kitchen counter. And I can’t go more than a few days without a trip into the woods looking for mushrooms, edible plants, or the sound of the wind in the trees.

You can follow my personal (crazy) homesteading adventures on Almost a Homesteader and Instagram as @aahomesteader.

Peace, love, and dirt under your nails,