Everything You Need to Know About Caring for a Thanksgiving Cactus
Thanksgiving cactus falls within the genus Schlumbergera, along with other holiday-themed plants like Christmas and Easter iterations. These low-maintenance plants are known for their flat, segmented deep-green foliage and beautifully layered flowers that seem to appear right as the celebrations they are named for arrive. As you'd expect, the Thanksgiving cactus blooms right around Turkey Day—which makes it a wonderful centerpiece or hostess present. Ahead, how to care for yours, whether you decide to gift or ultimately receive one.
What is a Thanksgiving cactus?
Thanksgiving cacti are semi-tropical, so they're best grown as houseplants outdoors in USDA zones 10 through 12. And if you don't live within those regions and are hoping to grow yours inside? "In the home, plants should be kept between 58 and 72 degrees and exposed to bright light during winter and filtered light in the summer," explains Corwin Graves, the vice president of growing for Green Circle Growers. "Soil should be kept moist to the touch." These plants are classified as epiphytes, which means they commonly grow on other flowers and greens, like orchids, moss, and fern. And, unlike their name implies, Thanksgiving cacti aren't really cacti at all.
What is the difference between all of the varieties of "holiday" cactus?
Also known as Schlumbergera truncata, the Thanksgiving cactus is a fall-blooming variety of the Schlumbergera genius. "Thanksgiving cactus differs from Christmas cactus in that it forms small teeth along the leaf margins, along with the formation of yellow anthers," explains Graves. Unlike Thanksgiving and Christmas cactus (Schlumbergera bridgesti), the Easter cactus (Schlumbergera gaertnerrii) has rounder edges. They can be easily confused for one another, but fortunately, their care remains mostly the same.
How can you trigger and boost their blooms?
Because the Thanksgiving cactus begins its floral show when the cooler temperatures and shorter days of fall approach, you can encourage yours to flower by letting the mercury drop—no need to bring out the heat lamp. "Flowering is triggered by either cool temperatures (50 through 58 degrees) or day length, though day length is the most common flowering trigger inside the home," Graves says. "Plants will initiate flowers when days are 12-and-a-half hours or shorter, and they will remain vegetative at 14 hours and above." The delicate, multilayer flowers appear in various shades of white, yellow, red, and, pink.
Despite the fact that these houseplants produce a gorgeous show of blooms during their growing season—sometimes for two to four months at a time—they require very little in the way of soil amendments. This is why Graves says any commonly available water-soluble fertilizer should be sufficient when applied at the low recommended rate. According to Graves, you can nurture your own Thanksgiving cactus by starting it from cuttings—or purchase one from a nursery. They're a popular houseplant, and should be easy to source through most local retailers or online.