This Common Kitchen Ingredient Is The Secret To A Thriving Christmas Cactus

If you incorporate a Christmas cactus into your holiday plans, it can benefit from a little something extra come wintertime to help it bloom. This decorative succulent can thrive with a common kitchen ingredient. Plain old coffee grounds are packed with nutrients that can help give your Christmas cactus a boost.

The Christmas cactus, also known as Schlumbergera bridgesii, is a popular holiday plant known for its vibrant flowers and low-maintenance care. Native to Brazil, this cactus sprouts hot pink flowers just at the right time of year. Its peak bloom time is from November through January. It is relatively easy to care for and is a beautiful addition to your home's holiday atmosphere.

Gardeners have found anecdotal success using leftover coffee grounds to pack their Christmas cactus with extra nutrients. You can also make a coffee tea to achieve the same results. These plants require a balanced diet of nitrogen and potassium to produce healthy growth and vibrant flowers. Used coffee grounds contain these essential nutrients, and though scientific studies don't definitively support the evidence, many gardeners use coffee grounds as a natural fertilizer for Christmas cacti. When enough of these nutrients are added to the soil, they can help promote healthy leaf growth, improve the plant's overall color, and even encourage blooming. It's important to only add used grounds since brewing reduces their high acidity and won't harm your plant. 

How to use coffee grounds on your Christmas cactus

To use coffee grounds on your Christmas cactus, start by collecting your used dregs in a container. Wet grounds can potentially grow mold, so you want to allow them to dry out sufficiently before adding them to the dirt. Once dried, pour a teaspoon or two around your Christmas cactus, and then work it into the dirt. This will help disperse the nutrients evenly in the soil. This is important because the coffee doesn't provide nutrition to the plant, but to the dirt. The amount of potassium and nitrogen it gives is pretty low; for example, it typically contains a maximum of 2% nitrogen, which isn't enough to alter the plant in any noticeable way. However, studies support that it's beneficial for soil microbes, which absorb those nutrients, begin to multiply, and change the soil structure so the plant is able to absorb nutrients easier, thus making it flower and grow faster. Aim to add dregs every two to four weeks. 

You can also make coffee ground tea by steeping 2 cups of coffee grounds in 5 gallons of water for one to three days and then using the liquid as a fertilizer. Use a few cups to water your cactus. In addition to their possible use as a fertilizer, adding coffee grounds to your Christmas cactus may work as pest control — and this theory holds the most scientific backing. Coffee grounds, more specifically the caffeine in them, have been thought to repel common pests like snails and slugs, which can be a nuisance for cacti and other houseplants.

Tips to remember when using coffee grounds

While using coffee grounds on your Christmas cactus can be a great way to promote healthy growth, there are a few things to keep in mind. First, make sure you're using plain coffee grounds with no artificial additives. Flavored grounds can contain chemicals that your plants don't need. Also, you can use caffeinated or decaffeinated grounds or a mix of both.

Additionally, you'll want to fertilize your Christmas cactus only when it's not blooming. Another important thing to note is that too much of a good thing can be a bad thing. While coffee grounds can provide valuable nutrients, too many can throw the soil balance out of whack, which can harm your plant. So, be sure to mix the grounds in sparingly every two to four weeks. Finally, if you opted to add grounds only instead of coffee ground tea, remember to water your plant thoroughly after adding coffee grounds to the soil to help distribute the nutrients evenly.