Maybe you’ve thought to take your Christmas cactus outside, but you worry that the weather might kill it. Especially if you grew it from seed, you may feel attached and don’t want to risk harm to your Christmas cactus. Can Christmas cactus survive outside?
Christmas cacti can survive outside, but you must think about climate and soil conditions if you will plant them. In colder regions, you may want to put them in a planter to take them outside and bring them back in during cold weather. Frost will kill a Christmas cactus.
In truth, whether a Christmas cactus will survive outside depends on where you live because some areas will be better suited to the outdoors than others. If you’d like to learn more about whether you should put it outside, keep reading. This is a deep and tricky question that may require more depth.
What to Know About the Outside Christmas Cactus
Christmas cacti originate from shady tropical and subtropical forests, and they do well in regions with that same type of weather. However, anywhere where there’s frost, they can’t tolerate it and will die fast. Christmas cacti even require colder temperatures to create blooms (60 – 65 degrees Fahrenheit), but it must not be too cold, or it will kill your cactus.
This plant can’t tolerate temperatures below 50 degrees Fahrenheit for long periods. It will suffer permanent damage.
If you’d like to bring your Christmas cactus outside, they will only do well in the USDA zones 10 to 12. You can only do this in a frost-free region.
The following states fall into the USDA zones from 10 to 12 and may be able to have the Christmas cactus planted into the ground:
|South Florida||Zone 10|
|Southeast California||Zone 10|
|Southernmost Tip of Texas||Zone 10|
|Most of Hawaii||Zone 10|
|Some Parts of Hawaii||Zone 11|
|Southernmost Florida||Zone 11|
|Puerto Rico||Zone 12|
|Parts of Hawaii||Zone 12|
Hopefully, that gives you an idea. Zone 10 sees some of the hottest temperatures in the United States, and it tends to be the more tropical areas like southern California and South Florida. This is good because it most closely mimicks the same climates as in its native habitat. Zone 11 is generally the most tropical zone in the US.
Finally, Zone 12 is characterized as a hot tropical climate, and the lowest temperatures are usually 50 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit. This is, in fact, the perfect temperatures for the Christmas cactus to be planted outside and survive there, but there are few places in the US that are Zone 12.
What if you don’t live any one of those USDA zones? Don’t worry because we’re going to cover that.
How to Take Your Christmas Cactus Outside Even in Colder Climates
Just because you can’t plant the Christmas cactus outside in the soil doesn’t mean that you can’t bring it outdoors. My mom will often have me move her Christmas cactus outside over the summer season in Minnesota (a cold state if ever there was one), and she’ll have me move it back in before the first frost from the fall season arrives.
You need to get the Christmas cactus inside before the first frost, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t take it outside. Just leave it in the planter and pay close attention to when the first frost of the year will arrive and bring it in.
When is the First Frost Coming?
One of the ways that you can tell when that first frost is coming is to pay attention to the nights because clear and cool nights are often a sign of a cold front moving in. They’re signs of an impending frost.
Here’s the general rule: If you think one might be moving in, bring your Christmas cactus indoors. Even if you’re wrong, you won’t lose your Christmas cactus, which is the point.
Another way to tell is to pay attention to the night-time temperatures. You usually get a light frost at 32 degrees Fahrenheit. Anything below 28 degrees Fahrenheit brings you a hard freeze. Many plants can survive a brief period of a light frost—the Christmas cactus isn’t one of them. Even a light frost will kill it. It’d be best to bring it in at any temperature below 60 degrees Fahrenheit anything much lower than this can damage the Christmas cactus. Hard freezes will kill most plants, including your Christmas cactus.
Still, the Christmas cactus loves to be outside, and it can be rewarding to bring it outside for a period of time. Just get it back indoors before that first frost. Think of it like that first date as a kid when you had a curfew.
How to Put Your Christmas Cactus Outside
Now, I’ve said that you can put your Christmas cactus outside but that doesn’t mean that you can put it just anywhere. Even if you can put it outside, you should still pay close attention to where you put it because putting it in the wrong area could cause damage to it.
If you will plant it outside, you want to plant it in humus-rich soil with a sharp and gritty texture. The soil needs good drainage or it can cause root rot. I wrote about that here.
The soil should be slightly acidic between 5.5 to 6.2 pH. You want to put the Christmas cactus in an area with light shade to where it still receives sunlight, but it won’t receive so much that it will burn the leaves. Keep it away from intense sun or direct sunlight for the best results.
What to Beware of with Your Christmas Cactus and the Outdoors
Putting your Christmas cactus outside may expose it to more potentially damaging insects and pests looking to take up residence. Grab a spray bottle because in most cases, you can remove them with a gentle spray of water.
Especially when you bring it outdoors, you need to watch out for mealybugs. These are small pests that will appear as sapsuckers on your Christmas cactus as fluffy white bits of cotton. You can get rid of them with a cotton swab that you dipped in rubbing alcohol.
For other pests like scales, mites and aphids, you will want to use neem oil or insecticidal soap. Many times, the pests will be more attracted to your Christmas cactus if it doesn’t have good draining soil. This is because it creates a more favorable condition for them.
The one advantage of an outside Christmas cactus is that if your plant does get pests on it, you can eliminate them with stronger outdoor insecticides. With some insecticides, they’re too strong to use indoors, but with an outdoor Christmas cactus, it never becomes a problem.
Related article: Cactus Root System: 6 Things That Will Surprise You
Even in colder climates, the Christmas cactus can survive outside—you just need to be mindful of when the first frost will come. It especially matters with this plant. In general, anything under 60 degrees Fahrenheit, and it would be best if you would bring your Christmas cactus indoors to prevent damage to the plant. Christmas cacti like to be outside, but you just need to create the right conditions for them.