Master Gardeners: Tips for growing Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter Cactus

Published 12:00 am Saturday, November 20, 2021

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Published by Garden Lovers Club.
Edited by John Green

Editor’s note: This is part one of a three-part series

The upcoming holiday is my personal most favorite as a Master Gardener! In just a few days, we will celebrate one of our national holidays-Thanksgiving. The Thanksgiving holiday commemorates harvest and other blessings we have each received throughout the year. It’s a festival begun by the Pilgrims of Plymouth and the Wampanoag people some 400 years ago. I hope each of you has a wonderful holiday and that you share the day with family and friends.

This is a three-part series comparing three types of holiday cactus:

Holiday cactus are not the spiny plants that we have in our cactus garden. These cactus plants are epiphytes that originate from the tropical treetops of the rainforests and the natural forests of Brazil. These cactuses produce beautiful blooms that vary in color from bright orange, red, and purple to more subtle pink and white colorations. There are three varieties of holiday cacti: the Thanksgiving cactus (Schlumbergera truncata), the Christmas cactus (Schlumbergera bridgesii), and the Easter cactus (Rhipsalidopsis gaetneri). These three plants look very similar, and they require similar care, but there are differences which you should note.

Let’s take a more in-depth look at each variety.

The Thanksgiving Cactus (schlumbergera truncata)

The leaves of Thanksgiving cactus plants are broad and flat with small, serrated edges. These plants often bloom in shades of pink, yellow, white, or red, which adds a bright contrast to your traditional fall décor. The blooms of this plant typically last from two to four months, but in order for them to bloom again the following year, you need to trick the plant into entering a dormant stage by providing it with less light and colder temperatures.

One of the most important aspects you need to consider when caring for a Thanksgiving cactus is the amount of water you need to give the plant. It needs to grow in soil that is moist, but it cannot be dripping wet because these plants are used to the tops of the trees where there is less moisture and more sun. These plants do like sun, but direct sunlight is not necessary. Humidity will also help this plant thrive as that is the way that these plants naturally wet their roots in nature.

These plants should be pruned during the summer months and prepared for their Thanksgiving blooming period in September. During this time, the plant needs 12 hours of darkness a day. Propagation of these plants begins with a stem that has a few leaves attached. Allow the stem to callus, and then plant it in soil, adding a plastic tent to keep the humidity level around the plant up. Allow the cutting to have an hour of fresh air each day, and in three weeks, the cutting should take root. It will take a few years for the Thanksgiving cactus to bloom.

As we continue with the series, next week we will discuss the Christmas cactus.

If you would like more information or to have your gardening questions answered please contact us:

Orange County TX Master Gardeners


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Orange County Master Gardner Helpline: (409) 882-7010