Fantastic Houseplant: Holiday-Blooming Cactus

Simply because this plant loves the spotlight around the holidays, don’t forget to enjoy it year-round — its striking form and foliage are tough to find in any other plant. You might be wondering why I am writing about Thanksgiving cactus. The solution is: as what most people think of as Christmas cactus, and also exactly what most nurseries promote as Christmas cactus, is really Thanksgiving cactus. True Christmas cactus (Schlumbergera bridgesii) is quite difficult to discover, so the more easily accessible Thanksgiving cactus (Schlumbergera truncata) was dubbed Christmas cactus.

Now our semantics are cleared up, here’s what you need to understand about this omnipresent holiday plant.

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Botanical name: Schlumbergera truncata
Common title: Thanksgiving cactus
Water requirement: Typical
Light requirement: Vibrant light until early autumn
Mature size: 12 to 18 inches tall; cascades over the edge of a pot
Benefits and tolerances: Normally pest and disease free
Seasonal attention: Profuse blooms from late autumn through January

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Planting notes. Here is where this holiday-flowering cactus becomes tricky. There’s a secret to obtaining these crops to rebloom every year, and I share this trick with one consideration: I know lots of folks, myself included, who do nothing special to their Thanksgiving cactus and are still treated to annual flowering.

That said, traditional guidance for these crops is to give them bright, indirect light (on a covered terrace or through a glowing window) until September or October. At that point, it’s suggested to decrease the light to about 10 hours a day for 20 to 25 days.

Put a box or bag carefully over the plant from 6 to 8 pm or place it into a darkened garage throughout those hours. This imitates the short day cycle that’s necessary for all these crops to set buds for vacation flowering.

Once the buds begin to set, improve watering and bring out the container to a brightly lit place for holiday display, but not allow the plant sit in soggy soil.

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Distinguishing traits. Thanksgiving cactus and Christmas cactus are both flat-leaf cacti native to the tropical forests of Brazil, but they’re different in subtle ways. Thanksgiving cactus has pointed or claw-like stem endings, while some of the Christmas cactus are rounded.

Thanksgiving cactus also begins to bloom earlier, putting buds out in mid to late autumn with blossoms in white, fuchsia, pink, red and salmon. Most plants bloom profusely from about one month before Christmas until later in January or even into February.

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The best way to utilize it. Plant this vacation bloomer in containers of festive colors (green, red, silver) and show it with different houseplants or other seasonal blossoms, like poinsettias or cyclamens.

If you reside in a really mild place (zones 9 to 11), you may have the ability to depart this plant outside on your patio throughout the season. The rest of the zones should aim to exhibit this plant indoors during the colder months.

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