By Janelle Rietz-Kamenar
Thanksgiving cactus (Schlumbergera truncata) and Christmas cactus (Schlumbergera bridgesii) are two beautiful flowering holiday plants. They are often given as gifts during the festivities. Believe it or not, these plants are native to Brazil, but have been a favorite indoor plant in the United States for many years. They can live a very long time (100+ years).
Some people have trouble getting them to bloom and there are a few tricks one needs to be aware of to produce healthy, vibrant blooms. First, holiday cacti like high humidity and bright, filtered light. They need relatively moist soil with 1 part potting soil, 2 parts peat moss and 1 part sand. They do not tolerate standing in water or extreme cold air drafts. Holiday cacti, however, do need shorter days and cooler nights in order to produce blooms. Placing plants in a cool, bright location where daytime temperatures are 65-70 degrees and evening temperatures are 55-65 degrees will encourage bud development after approximately 5-6 weeks. Once the plants have bloomed, reduce the frequency of watering until spring when there is more active growth.
These plants are relatively easy to take care of if you follow these instructions. If you are having trouble with your plants blooming there are usually 3 possible causes (assuming the plant is healthy):
- Indoor air is too warm: lower the room temperature to 55-65 degrees at night, 60-65 degrees during the day.
- Plant days are too long: this is usually not an issue in Minnesota if near a window but one can put the plant in total darkness for a minimum of 12 hours.
- Plant does not have enough nutrients to produce buds. Fertilize the plant at half strength with a fertilizer that is lower in nitrogen and higher in phosphorus and potassium (0-15-10).
Note – the photos in this article are of a holiday cactus that I have had for 40 + years!
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For a more comprehensive article about these plants, check out this website: https://extension.umn.edu/houseplants/holiday-cacti#common-issues-1431367.