Thanksgiving cactus, Schlumbergera truncata, is a magnificent fall blooming cactus that has blossoms in shades of red, salmon, and white. Find facts and information on growing Thanksgiving cactus as an houseplant or greenhouse plant.
General Facts on Thanksgiving Cactus
Thanksgiving cactus should be given a cool period outdoors in fall to set flower buds. Schlumbergera truncata grows 8-12”h x 12-18” w. It originated as a type of forest cactus in Brazil and is a great houseplant. Growth is usually rather slow.
The cactus should be placed in a spot that is not visible when it is resting. Thanksgiving cactus can be brought center stage when it is bloom as with other types of cactus. It does best in medium light during active growth. Give the cactus bright, indirect light in winter.
Ideal temperatures during active growth and blooming are 70-80 degrees F. Give it no less than 60 degrees during the blooming season. It is tolerant of low humidity (less than 30%).
Care of Schlumbergera truncata
Thanksgiving cactus is a super bloomer, but it needs a cool resting time and long nights to form its flower buds. This plant usually blooms in November, during which time it should be watered regularly, allowing it to dry slightly between waterings. Be careful not to overwater as this will cause root rot. These facts also apply to other types of holiday cactus.
In June, July, and August, put it outdoors in a shady spot protected from pests. Around mid-September, or after outdoor temps habe fallen to 45 degrees at night, bring it indoors into a cool spot (around 55 degrees) and reduce watering for its resting phase. Keep the soil only slightly moist. Continue to keep the plant somewhat dry and cool as it forms flower buds. It may drop its buds if the growing conditions are changed once buds are set. Around the beginning of November, bring into warmth and begin watering.
Commercial growers give Thanksgiving cactus 20-25 days of short days to ensure bud set and bloom in time for Thanksgiving. Fertilize monthly with half-strength blooming plant food starting in April and continuing until the plant comes indoors in fall.
Repot only every 3 years; the plant does better if pot-bound. Potting mix must be well drained but not as coarse as regular cactus mix as the cactus grows in moist conditions in the wild.
Propagation of Thanksgiving Cactus
Propagate from leaf cuttings. Pinch off leaf segments and allow them to dry for a couple of days before inserting into sterile soil mix. When propagating by seed, allow the fruits to ripen, then extract the seeds. Clean the seeds and dry them for a few days, then sow the seeds onto sterile soil mix.
Pests and Diseases
Treat scale with a cotton swab dipped in alcohol; wash off spider mites and aphids.
There are literally hundreds of cultivars of Thanksgiving cactus, with all colors of flowers, bicolors, and doubles.