Thanksgiving cactus (Schlumbergera truncata) or zygocactus is a beautiful and easy-to-care-for plant that can brighten up your home during the winter. It is commonly called the false Christmas cactus because it blooms around the same time as the true Christmas cactus.
Typically, are just a few differences between the zygocactus and the Christmas cactus which is their blooming time and the shape of their leaves. Christmas cactus blooms from mid of the winter season around Christmas and it has smooth and more scalloped leaves.
The Thanksgiving cactus also has segmented stems commonly referred to as leaves with pointy claw-like projections on the edges. Similar to the Christmas cactus, it produces pink, red, white, or purple flowers that last six to nine days. Both cacti can remain in bloom for 4 to 6 weeks.
Thanksgiving cactus bloom care
The Thanksgiving cactus blooming is triggered by the shorter days and cooler nights of the fall. To stimulate flower bud formation, give the cactus 12 to 14 hours of darkness daily starting in early September. Additionally, move the plant to a place where temperatures are cooler such as a garage or basement.
The darkness process should go for six to eight weeks until when you want your cactus to bloom. Be sure to keep the plant in complete darkness as any light interference will restart or completely stop the process. You may use a closet or a totally dark room in your home.
Once the buds start to form, move the plant back to a brighter location and the flowers will start opening within a few days. In the meantime, you may increase watering to keep the soil moist but not waterlogged. Mist the plant regularly or place it on a pebble tray half-filled with water to boost humidity.
With good care, Thanksgiving blooming should last between four to six weeks. In the meantime, you should also be stimulating your Christmas cactus to bloom, if you want to keep enjoying color throughout the winter holiday. I have both holiday cacti in my home and they truly complement one another.
Once your Thanksgiving cactus has stopped flowering, it is not the end of everything. With good care, this plant can keep flowering year in and year out around the fall or early winter. Care and maintenance of this plant is pretty easy and here is what you need to provide.
Bright indirect light
The Thanksgiving cactus is an epiphytic plant native to the tropical rainforests of Brazil. It is adapted to cool weather conditions provided by the forest canopy. It, therefore, prefers bright indirect light. Indoors grow it near the east-facing window or under artificial grow lights.
Although classified as a cactus, Schlumbergera truncate prefers relatively moist soil but is not waterlogged. Watering should be regular but without overwatering. Like other cacti, Thanksgiving cactus is prone to root rot when there is excess moisture in the soil.
Thanksgiving cactus is not a heavy feeder but it can benefit from regular fertilization during the growth period. Fertilize monthly with a well-balanced houseplant fertilizer in spring and summer. This will help stimulate growth and more blooms in the future.
You don’t need to heavily prune the Thanksgiving cactus but just remove a few old stems. Pruning is best done in spring or early summer and you can use the cuttings to propagate the Thanksgiving cactus for more plants that you can gift friends who love the plant.
Like many potted plants, the Thanksgiving cactus may outgrow its pot over time. This can crowd the roots and become unable to absorb water and nutrients as needed. You should repot the cactus every two to three years in a pot size bigger with good drainage. Make sure to use cactus mix.
Thanksgiving cactus is prone to root rot when overwatered. This is a common problem in cacti and succulents where roots rot when they fail to get enough oxygen. Root rot fungi also thrive in damp soil conditions. Root rot is a very difficult condition to treat and most affected plants end up dying.
To prevent root rot and other fungal problems, water the cactus only when the top inch of the soil feels dry. While treating root rot is impossible, you can save the plant by removing the damaged roots and repotting it in a fresh soil mix.
Insect pests can also be a problem if you don’t inspect your plant regularly. Pests can enter your home through open spaces like windows or from a newly purchased plant. Inspecting your plants regularly can help control the problem of pests.
You can use neem oil or insecticidal soap to kill pests such as mealybugs, scale insects, aphids, and fungus gnats. For best results, it’s important to use as directed on the product label. Isolating new plants and inspecting them thoroughly can help prevent the problem of pests.
Thanksgiving cactus commonly blooms in late November or early December, typically around the Thanksgiving holiday. When provided good care, this plant rewards with colorful blooms which can brighten up your home during the winter.
Holiday Cactus: A Case of Mistaken Identity – Integrated Pest Management University of Missouri.
Commercial Production of Holiday Cacti – University of Massachusetts Amherst
Holiday cactus – Wisconsin Horticulture Division of Extension
My name is Diane M Lewik, and I am the founder of this website. I am a degree holder in plant biology from the University of California – Berkeley. Over years, I have cultivated a vast collection of succulents and I have learned a great deal about how to grow and care for these unique plants.