Thanksgiving Cactus Care

How To Care For A Thanksgiving Cactus

Thanksgiving Cactus plants are easy to care for, but there are a few things to keep in mind …

First of all, the term “cactus” might lead you into thinking your plant prefers hot, dry conditions and continuous full sunlight … but actually the care requirements are quite different.

Thanksgiving Cactus are jungle cactus … meaning they typically grow on trunks and branches of trees in nature. But they do make excellent potted plants!

Thanksgiving Cactus

“Prickly” The Thanksgiving Cactus

Let’s look at the specifics of their care, starting with their watering requirements …

Watering A Thanksgiving Cactus

Assuming you’re keeping your Thanksgiving Cactus as a house plant, here are some general watering instructions …

  • Water your plant about once a week …

    Make sure the top two inches of soil are dried out before watering again. This is important! Over watering is the most common cause of Thanksgiving Cactus failure. They don’t like “soggy feet”, so be sure the top layer of soil dries out in between waterings …

  • Unless your indoor environment is really dry, about eight ounces of water is plenty …

    You’ll want to get the soil moist but not soggy or muddy. If the stems start to wilt, it typically means your plant isn’t getting enough water. Of course, a young plant needs less water than a larger, more established plant. Within a few weeks you’ll know exactly how much to water …

  • In general, water until you see some water coming out from the bottom of the pot …

    This means water has permeated the soil top to bottom …

  • Try to mist your Thanksgiving Cactus every couple of days …

    Remember, these plants are from rain forest jungle environments, so they love humidity! Gently mist the plant with tepid water and use the finest setting on the misting bottle …

  • See A Beautiful Collection Of Holiday Cactus Plants – Click Here!

  • In the autumn, buds will start to form at the end of your plant’s branches … slightly increase the amount of water at that time …

    Just a couple more ounces will do. Maintain this watering approach until the plant is finished blooming …

  • Make sure your plant’s soil drains fully …

    There should be drainage holes under the pot and it’s a good idea to line the bottom of the container with small pebbles (directly under the soil). This helps drainage and also helps keep humidity levels up …

  • Lighting Requirements For Thanksgiving Cactus Plants

    Thanksgiving Cactus plants aren’t terribly fussy about light. You’ll want to keep them near a relatively bright window, but it doesn’t have to offer direct sunlight. In fact, you’re better off keeping the plant OUT of direct sunlight, although an hour or two per day is just fine.

    As an example, we keep “Prickly” (pictured above) next to a west facing window and adjacent to a north window. He’ll get direct sunlight in the afternoon, but it’s filtered with a horizontal blind. So, he gets ample light, but not much direct sunlight.

    You can open the window(s) on nice days for additional air flow.

    In the autumn, when buds start to forum, your plant will appreciate lower light levels. A good rule of thumb is to close the blinds at say, 6 p.m. and reopen them at 6 a.m. This give your Thanksgiving Cactus twelve hours of darkness, which helps in bud and ultimately flower bloom.

    Thanksgiving Cactus also like shorter days and cooler nights when they’re ready to bloom. You may have heard or read that the best way to get your plant to bloom is by placing them in complete darkness for a few months, like a closet. Don’t do this! It isn’t necessary at all, and it can be harmful to your plant …

    Fertilizing A Thanksgiving Cactus

    While it isn’t absolutely necessary to fertilize Thanksgiving Cactus, we recommend it. These plants really seem to respond well to light doses of fertilizer that has been diluted in water …

    If you do choose to fertilize, do it monthly, but not all year around. Start from the time new growth starts in early spring (we begin in March), and throughout the summer and fall (we stop fertilizing in October). We use a one-half strength soluble fertilizer, such as Miracle Gro For Houseplants (8-7-6) or Schultz Cactus Plus (2-7-7). We’ve had great results doing it this way for several years now!

    Fertilizing Tip: If fertilizer residue or hard water spots form on the stem segments of your cacti, just use a cotton ball soaked with distilled white vinegar to gently rub off the spots. We do this twice a year for cosmetic purposes (it’s not something you have to do).

    Thanksgiving Cactus Blooming

    Your plant will start to form buds in the middle of fall, typically October. The buds will form at the ends of the leaf segments (also known as phylloclades). It’s at this point in time that you should stop fertilizing …

    ThanksgivingCactus.com

    “Prickly” Pictured On Thanksgiving Day

    The buds will typically take a few weeks to open. They won’t open at the same time … you’ll be treated to a wonderful display of beautiful blooms for a month or more!

    Notice in Prickly’s picture from Thanksgiving Day that he’s in the midst of blooming. We notice that his blooms nearest the window have already reached their peak and are starting to shed, while those on the right side are just beginning to open. Also, he has multiple buds formed, which means he’ll bloom for at least another month!

    During this time, you’ll want to pay special attention to lighting requirements. Thanksgiving Cactus likes a certain amount of “darkness” and cooler temperatures. Luckily, autumn features shorter days, so by 6 p.m. or so it’s dark near windows and remains dark for 12 hours or so.

    Try to avoid having an indoor light shine directly on your plant during the blooming period (other than their normal daytime light exposure). But don’t worry too much if your plant is located in a room where you need to have the lights on in the evening. Just be mindful that during the blooming phase, a Thanksgiving Cactus likes cool and somewhat dark lighting conditions …

    Key Tip: When you plant is getting ready to bloom, don’t move it. This can cause the buds to drop; try to avoid even turning the pot around, i.e. when watering, dusting, etc. This causes stress, so leave the plant where it is and maybe even place a “Do Not Disturb” sign on it!!

    Other Helpful Hints: Soil and Container

    There are two other considerations for Thanksgiving Cactus … the soil you use and the type of pot your plant calls home.

    The type of potting soil you use for a Thanksgiving Cactus need not be anything special. We use a standard well draining potting soil … you can add a little sand to the mix which will help it drain better. Mix in one part sand to four parts potting soil (if you wish). Any garden center will carry appropriate potting soil. Ask for a mix that drains well because these plants, like most plants, don’t like sitting in a pool of water …

    The other option for soil is to use a mix 50/50 of standard potting soil and a potting soil made for cactus. That way you don’t have to worry about mixing sand into standard potting soil because the cactus soil mix contains sand.

    As for a container or pot, it really doesn’t make much difference. For starters, try to match the depth of the pot to the height of your cactus plant. They like to be a little pot bound but not too much … a good rule of thumb is when the roots start poking through the drainage holes at the bottom of the plant, it’s time to transplant the plant into a new container.

    We use a ceramic pot, as you can probably tell from looking at the pictures of Prickly. Ceramic containers breathe better than plastic … meaning, they retain a bit less moisture. This can be beneficial to holiday cactus because they don’t like sitting in water. But really, plastic vs. ceramic containers aren’t a make or break issue …

    If your plant comes in a very small square plastic container, it’s a good idea to transplant it after a year. Always wait until it is done blooming before you transplant. For a Thanksgiving Cactus, a good time to do this is in March … the plant will have rested from blooming and it is before the prime growing season.

    With a larger holiday cactus, transplanting every 2-3 years is fine. Keep an eye on how quickly the plant grows – obviously the faster it grows, the more frequently you should transplant. But in general, every 2-3 years is sufficient.

    We also talk about propagation in a separate article, located in the right hand menu. The procedure is the same for any holiday cactus, whether it’s Thanksgiving, Christmas, or Easter varieties.

    Enjoy your plant, and let us know if you have any questions …

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    Category: Thanksgiving Cactus

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