Growing Thanksgiving Cactus enjoyable, rewarding

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There are numerous types of holiday cacti. They bloom around the season for which they are named. So, it’s not a surprise that the Thanksgiving cactus blooms around November.

This cactus, like its other holiday cousins, is an easy to grow indoor plant.

Both the Christmas and the Thanksgiving cacti are in the plant genus Schlumbergera and are native to tropical rainforests. Schlumbergera truncata is the Thanksgiving cactus.

You can tell the difference between the two holiday cacti by looking at the leaves. On the Thanksgiving cactus, leaves are broad and flat with serrations on the edges; versus the Christmas cactus which has smoother edges on the leaves.

With the proper care, your Thanksgiving cactus will keep on growing for a lifetime.

Quick facts

This plant is an epiphyte, meaning it’s a leaf cactus versus a true cactus. In the rainforests, it lives on other plants and has exposed roots. It gathers moisture through humidity in the air. This need for high humidity, bright but filtered light, and moist soil sets these plants apart from other cacti and succulents grown as houseplants.

People often complain about holiday cacti’s lack of flowering. Therefore, it’s important to know how light, temperature, and overall plant health impact blooming.

Water, soil and fertilizer

The crucial aspect of Thanksgiving cactus plant care is water. These tropical plants should not be allowed to dry out; however, excess water can cause rotting or fungal problems. You don’t want your Thanksgiving cactus sitting on a plant saucer with water in it. Water thoroughly and then allow the top third of the soil to dry out before watering again.

Potted plants need well-drained potting soil along with good drainage and aeration for healthy root growth.

These plants flower best when kept a little pot bound. Repotting is only necessary about once every 3 to 4 years and is best done in the spring. Fertilize monthly, June through August, with a houseplant fertilizer at half-strength.

Light and temperature

Thanksgiving cactus is a “short day” plant: to produce flower buds, they need shorter days (or fewer hours of light) and cool night temperatures. Shorter days and cooler nights signal to the plant to produce buds, resulting in abundant blooms.

You can initiate the flower bud production process on an existing plant by leaving the plants outside in a protected spot until just before frost hits. Once indoors, place the plant in a cool, bright location where daytime temperatures are 65 to 70 degrees and evening temperatures 55 to 65 degrees. Keeping the plants in cooler indoor temperatures is best. Avoid exposure to direct, bright sunlight which can make plants look faded. Avoid exposure to heating vents or drafts which can cause buds or flowers to fall off.

Propagation

Thanksgiving cactus is easy to propagate by taking leaf cuttings in May or June. Pinch off sections of stems with 3 to 5 stem segments each. Let the cut end dry for a day or two.

Choose a well-drained potting soil and a clean container and place the cutting about one-inch-deep into the soil. Water well and cover the pots with a clear plastic bag; this will act as a miniature greenhouse to keep in humidity to enhance rooting. Place the container in bright, indirect light until roots form in 3 to 8 weeks. Remove the plastic and take care of the plant as normal.

Thanksgiving cactus, along with other holiday cacti, make for a stunning flower display. This plant can make a great gift or just buy one for yourself to enjoy. With a little TLC, you’ll have this plant for many years and many holidays to come.

Find more gardening information on our website, cceoneida.com, clicking on Home & Garden on the menu or call us at 315-736-3394, ext 100. Be sure to like us on Facebook (www.facebook.com/cceoneida) and check out our YouTube channel (www.youtube.com/user/cceoneida) for great gardening talks.

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