If you are looking for how to grow thanksgiving cactus, then you are at the right place. The weather is turning colder outside, but gardening is far from over. Continue reading to learn how to grow Thanksgiving cactus and enjoy blossoms indoors, even when snow is on the ground!
We often associate Christmas with many flowering plants in the home, but there is one named Thanksgiving!
The Thanksgiving cactus is not the only holiday cactus that blooms. There are a few more.
Easter cactus, Christmas cactus, and Thanksgiving cactus all bloom during their respective seasons.
Each year around the holidays, these attractive holiday plants can be found in all big box stores and are frequently given as gifts to gardeners.
What exactly is a Thanksgiving cactus?
Most people envision a stubby plant with spines all over it when they hear the word cactus. Thanksgiving cactus is completely inappropriate for this look.
This is because Schlumbergera truncate is not a true cactus! It is, instead, an epiphyte.
Thanksgiving Cactus Information
Thanksgiving cactus is native to Brazil’s mountains, where it grows in subtropical or tropical moist forests.
- Schlumbergera truncata (scientific name)
- Schlumbergera is a type of epiphyte in the Cactaceae family.
- Common names include false Christmas cactus, turkey cactus, crab cactus, holiday cactus, and winter cactus.
The plant’s population is declining, and it is considered vulnerable. The genus Schlumbergera was named after Frédéric Schlumberger, a famous 19th-century cactus collector.
How to Grow Thanksgiving Cactus: A Step-By-Step Guide
Thanksgiving cactus grows rapidly from stem cuttings. Propagation is most effective in the spring and summer when the cactus is actively growing. Avoid propagating the Thanksgiving cactus in the winter after it has gone dormant.
Thanksgiving cactus propagation is not only a great way to repurpose pruning cuttings, but it can also help you fill out an existing plant or create new plants! In a few simple steps, here’s how to propagate by stem cuttings:
1. Take several leaf/stem cuttings with sterilized pruning shears or scissors (about 2-3 leaf segments long each).
2. Place the cuttings in a cool, dry place for 24 hours to allow the cut ends to be callous.
3. Fill a small plastic pot halfway with pre-moistened potting soil to make the potting container.
4. Place the callused cuttings in the potting soil upright. Ensure the cuttings face the same way they were growing before (do not plant them “upside down”).
How Do I Identify a Blooming Cactus?
When purchasing a Thanksgiving cactus for the first time, look for a plant with many green segmented stems rather than just a few. Flowers only bud on the tips, so choose one full of buds and compact rather than gangly for maximum color. Check that the stems are healthy and unblemished and that there are no white flies or other pests on or around the plant.
Gently bag and transport it in a warm car, taking care not to bump the buds. Extreme temperature swings or overwatering may cause the buds to drop before flowering.
How Do I Re-Bloom My Thanksgiving Cactus?
Beginning in mid-September, the plants require nighttime temperatures of 50 to 65 degrees Fahrenheit and at least 12 hours of darkness to determine when to set flower buds. This is typical of the fall season, with shorter days and cooler temperatures. It may be beneficial to keep the cactus in a cooler room with plenty of sunlight and dark nights. Flowers should bloom just in time for Thanksgiving dinners.
Most Thanksgiving cactus require a short rest after blooming season, which necessitates less watering. They have their busiest growing season from April to September. During this time, it’s critical to provide them with plenty of sunlight, an all-purpose houseplant fertiliser, and weekly watering. It’s also the best time of year to start a new plant from a cutting.
How to Grow Thanksgiving Cactus: Common Issues
Thanksgiving cacti are generally trouble-free and simple to grow indoors. Common issues arise from improper watering or blooming issues.
1. Flower Buds Dropping
Thanksgiving cacti are sensitive to temperature and environmental changes, and it is not uncommon for plants to begin dropping buds and flowers if they are subjected to drastic changes during flowering. To avoid this, ensure a stable, consistent environment during blooming.
2. Yellowing of the Leaves
Yellowing leaves can indicate two distinct problems. Overwatering is most likely the cause of yellow and mushy leaves. Make sure you have proper drainage and that the roots are not sitting in water. Yellowing leaves can also indicate an excess of sunlight. Keep your Thanksgiving cactus out of direct sunlight.
3. There are no blooms
Growers frequently force Thanksgiving cacti to bloom before selling them during the holiday season, and the plants rarely bloom in their second year. You may have to wait a year or two before seeing blooms again. Furthermore, in order to induce blooming indoors, you will need to provide your Thanksgiving cactus with the proper conditions; otherwise, they are unlikely to bloom naturally.
Thanksgiving Cactus vs. Christmas Cactus
Before it was marketed around Thanksgiving, the Thanksgiving cactus (Schlumbergera truncata) was known as the “crab claw cactus” or “crab cactus.” It’s also known as zygocactus ($9 at Walmart). It is distinguished by the pointy “teeth” on the sides of each stem segment. These teeth are soft and not sharp, and their size varies, but they are almost always visible to some extent.
A Christmas cactus ($16, Etsy) is made from a species called Schlumbergera Russellian, some S. truncata, and possibly a couple of other species. Schlumbergera x buckleyi is the resulting hybrid, which can be difficult to find for sale. Its stem segments have scalloped or rounded edges rather than pointed teeth.
Another way to tell what kind of cactus you have is to examine the flowers, which can bloom anytime during the fall or early winter. A cluster of long, thin anthers tipped with pollen will protrude from each blossom. If the pollen is yellow, you most likely have a Thanksgiving cactus; if it’s pink, you have a Christmas cactus.
How to Grow Thanksgiving Cactus: Pest Control
Thanksgiving cacti are generally pest-free, but they can become infested with mealybugs or spider mites on occasion.
A homemade spray with 1 teaspoon of mild liquid soap per liter of water is an extremely effective treatment. You can also buy pre-made insecticidal soap.
To get a head start, brush the bugs off with a cotton swab soaked in rubbing alcohol. Neem oil is also effective.
FAQs (How to Grow Thanksgiving Cactus)
Q1. How Fast Does a Thanksgiving Cactus Grow?
A Thanksgiving cactus grows quickly. They can reach their full size of 24″ in just a few years if properly cared for. If yours grows slowly, it may be time to repot it or try fertilizing it in the spring and summer.
Q2. How Long Do Thanksgiving Cacti Live?
Because of their extremely long lifespan, holiday cacti are frequently passed down through generations. With proper care, a Thanksgiving cactus can live for up to 100 years.
Q3. How Often Does a Thanksgiving Cactus Bloom?
A Thanksgiving cactus will bloom once a year in late fall if the right conditions are met.