Giving thanks for my Thanksgiving Cactus

Giving thanks for my Thanksgiving Cactus

Four or five years ago, two of my favourite people in the whole world gave me this lovely Thanksgiving Cactus.  I love this plant because I associate it with two people that I love very much but also because this cactus is a fun, easy going, and reliable houseplant that flourishes inside my home, in less than bright conditions.

Here’s a picture I took today of my Thanksgiving cactus in bud.

Thanksgiving Cacti are valuable plants.  They don’t need to be watered every week, every couple of weeks, or longer; as long as these plants receive occasional watering and misting, they’ll be happy.  You don’t need to follow a watering regime or onerous plant care schedule, this cactus won’t mind irregular, haphazard watering; it positively thrives with very little care and attention.  Thanksgiving Cactuses are truly reliable plants; with minimal care these plants will flower again next year, too!

Schlumbergera

Thanksgiving Cactuses are from a genus of plants called Schlumbergera.  Schlumbergera cacti are called Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter Cactuses, as they bloom at these celebratory times of year.

Epiphytes

Schlumbergera are an interesting group of plants that grow in the wild as epiphytes and lithophytes.  Rather than growing in the soil, or in the sand, which is where we think of most cactuses growing, Schlumbergera grow as epiphytes – when they grow upon trees, or as lithophytes – when they grow upon rocks.

These plants hail from Brazil, where they grow high up in the branches of trees in rainforests, where the environment is humid and warm.  Schlumbergera are not parasitic plants, they don’t steal any nutrients or take any sustenance away from their host plant.  However, Schlumbergera plants benefit greatly from this growing arrangement, as their host trees boost the Schlumbergera plants up within the canopy of the jungle, where these cacti gain greater access to moisture, better air circulation, and light.

My Thanksgiving Cactus is in bud at the moment, but here’s a picture I took of the very same plant in flower, back in November 2018. This spring, I re-potted this plant into a slightly larger pot. These cacti are quite happy being grown in a smaller pot than you’d expect for a plant of their size.  There’s no need to re-pot your plant each year; it’s better to under-pot rather than to over-pot your plants.

Finding the right place for your Thanksgiving Cactus to live

My home is rather gloomy inside, it’s not naturally light or bright.  So these days, I don’t grow many cacti, as I’m unable to provide these plants with their ideal growing conditions.  Unlike traditional cacti plants, Thanksgiving Cacti don’t want to be baked in the sunshine, these plants positively thrive in partial shade!

As my home is shaded, I grow my Thanksgiving Cactus positioned on my brightest windowsill, which is East facing and partially shaded by outside plants and fences.  This windowsill is a hotly contested space, as it’s my brightest growing area, so every plant has to perform exceptionally well to earn a place here, or it’s swiftly switched out to give another plant an opportunity of bathing in the sunlight.

I try to keep the radiator below this windowsill turned off, so that the plants growing above aren’t dried out too much and they can sense a change in the temperature through the seasons.  This window is not double glazed, so the temperature drops with the arrival of autumn.

If your home is the opposite to mine and you live in a gloriously sunny, light and bright home, you could grow your plant on a North facing windowsill.  Alternatively, you could position your Thanksgiving Cacti further back from your windowsill, to achieve a better placement for your plant.  Ideally, you’re looking for a location where your plants will enjoy soft, gentle lighting; avoid situations where the sunlight is harsh, intense, or unforgiving.

If you can find a cool spot, perhaps in a cooler room, a porch, or another area, where your plant can enjoy a difference in both temperature and light as the season’s change, your plant will be happiest and it will bloom reliably, every year.  Thanksgiving Cacti aren’t happy in very arid dry conditions, they prefer a more humid environment.  Consequently, if you can place your Thanksgiving Cacti alongside regular houseplants, like Peace Lilies (Spathiphyllum wallisii), Pilea peperomioides, and other houseplants that thrive in similar partially shaded light levels and temperatures, but tend to be watered more frequently, your plant will enjoy increase humidity levels and improved growing conditions.

Schlumbergera cacti flower anytime from October to May. My plant flowers reliably every November, but this plant usually flowers in springtime and occasionally it will produce a few flowers in the summertime, too.

Re-potting Thanksgiving Cactuses

The best time to re-pot your Thanksgiving Cacti is in springtime, as your plant will be actively growing at this time of year.  In the spring, your plant will be ready to grow into its new environment, so as a consequence your plant will enjoy a faster acclimatisation and adjusting period.  If you’ve missed the boat and springtime has been and gone, leave re-potting your plants until next spring.  I’ve found that you don’t have to re-pot these cacti every year.

When you’re choosing a container to grow your Thanksgiving Cacti in, select a pot with holes at the bottom, to allow water to drain away.  Don’t over pot your plant.  You may feel like you’re being kind by offering your plant a greater growing space, but too large a container won’t help your plant at all, in fact it may harm your plant and cause it to abandon flowering or grow poorly.  Choose a pot that’s just one size larger that your plant’s existing container.  When I say one size larger, I mean choose a pot that gives you almost enough room to squeeze your fingers in the gap between the two pots.

If you take your plant out of its pot and find that your plant’s roots have yet to fill its existing pot; then the best thing to do is to re-pot your plant back into its existing container, or into a slightly smaller pot, if you prefer.

Thanksgiving Cacti Compost

Thanksgiving Cacti grow best in a free draining, peat free compost.  You could use a speciality cacti compost or alternatively mix your own compost blend, using grit, sand, loam, peat free compost, and leaf mould.  The ideal compost is one that doesn’t clump together; it can’t be squished or compressed into a shape.  Make sure that the compost you use will remain open and allows the water to run over your plant’s roots, straight through the compost, and out the bottom of the pot.

I’m giving thanks for my Thanksgiving Cactus. This plant makes a great gift.

Watering Thanksgiving Cacti

Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter Cacti, all have a tendency to get rather dusty.  I combat this by giving my plants a quick shower in my bathroom.  I try and make sure that I shower my plants once, while they’re in bud, to wash off any detritus that has accumulated on the plant’s leaves and ensure that my plant looks its best.

In the summertime, pop your plants outside for a shower, on a rainy day.  But in autumn and winter, the chilly rainwater is likely to be rather too cold for your plants, so it’s best to water your plants indoors, using collected rainwater, or deionised water, or reverse osmosis water, that has acclimatised to room temperature.

I find Schlumbergera plants are very tolerant when it comes to watering.  I have a lot of plants to water, mist, and care for; I have to say that my Thanksgiving Cacti is the first plant that I will skip watering when I am rushing and I don’t have the time or energy to water everything.  These plants would prefer to be under-watered than over-watered.  Allow your plant’s compost to almost dry out between waterings.

I never recommend watering houseplants with tap water.  I use rainwater, deionised water, or reverse osmosis water, to water all of my indoor plants.  Thanksgiving Cacti flourish in humid conditions, they will appreciate a mist with a spray of rainwater, deionised water, or reverse osmosis water.

Here’s a closer look at my Thanksgiving Cactus plant’s flowers. The blooms are an intense and vibrant shade of warm pink; they produce cream coloured pollen and the stigma, which is the pink protruding appendage.

Humidity Levels

I grow my Thanksgiving Cactus on a windowsill that is jam-packed with other houseplants.  These plants require more moisture than my Thanksgiving Cacti, so they are watered more often.  In turn, the houseplants on this windowsill increase the humidity level and in turn improve the growing conditions for my Schlumbergera.  My Thanksgiving Cacti wouldn’t be as happy if it was the only plant growing in this area of my home.  These plants flourish in humidity levels of between 55-70%RH.

Fertiliser

In the wild, Schlumbergera plants receive their nutrients from decomposing leaves and anything that has been washed by the rain, or blown by the wind into the branches of their host tree.  Consequently these plants receive low levels of nutrients in their natural environment.  I occasionally spray my plants with some orchid feed, if I am feeling generous, but other than re-potting, I don’t provide my plants with any additional nutrients.

Tips to ensure your Thanksgiving, Christmas, or Easter Cactus flowers again, every year

Schlumbergera plants are triggered to start producing flower buds when the days begin to shorten and the nights become longer.  Thanksgiving Cacti are easy to grow, but these plants will only flower well if they experience a change in light levels and temperature to indicate the arrival of a new season.

My plant is very happy in its position on my windowsill.  I don’t ever move my plant; it lives on the same windowsill, all through the year.  My curtains close in front of my Thanksgiving Cacti; so when I close the curtains, they shield the indoor lighting and provide my plant with darker growing conditions, which helps to maintain the natural lighting and day length my plant needs to flower.  Behind the curtain, on the windowsill it’s slightly cooler than the rest of the room; so the seasonal temperature drop is maintained.

Thanksgiving Cactus appreciate being misted with water every now and then. These plants down’t need to be watered every week, but occasional watering and more frequent misting are both of great benefit to these plants.

I also think that these plants grow best in cooler rooms, as Thanksgiving Cacti’s flowering period lasts so much longer in cooler temperatures than in a warmer room.  If you have a room where the windows are not double glazed, your plant will thrive.

Ideal temperature range

My Thanksgiving Cacti is housed in a room where the temperature ranges from 15C to 19C in autumn and winter and 16C to 27C in spring and summertime.  Don’t forget that these Schlumbergera cactuses are frost tender plants; I’d say the minimum temperature for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter Cactuses, would be about 10C (50F).

Cactus of many colours

If you’re tempted to try growing a Thanksgiving, Christmas, or Easter Cactus, you’ll find varying shades of red, yellow, orange pink, and white flowered Schlumbergera cultivars available, at nurseries, garden centres, and online.  I’ve written this article today, to give you time to find your own Thanksgiving Cacti, as the shops usually only sell these plants while they’re in bud or in bloom.  Thanksgiving Cacti are easy to grow plants, they make fantastic gifts!

Sadly, I don’t manage to keep every plant I’m given alive, but this is one plant that I am so grateful to say is alive and well.  I’m looking forward to watching this Thanksgiving Cactus, as its buds develop and eventually blossom over the coming weeks.

Here’s another photograph I took last year of my Thanksgiving Cactus in bloom. The flowers tend to last longer in cooler rooms, so if you’re growing this plant, move it away from your stove, open fire or radiators, whilst it’s in bud or in bloom.

Other articles that may interest you……………..

For more houseplant ideas, please click here.

For a step-by-step guide to planting a terrarium or bottle garden, please click here.

For information on how to get rid of the irritating flies you often get around houseplants, please click here.

Other articles you might like:

One thought on “Giving thanks for my Thanksgiving Cactus

  1. Anne

    October 25, 2019 at 5:12pm

    Beautiful Thanksgiving cactus. I have not seen the ones with red leaves. I put mine in a pebble tray and they thrive in it. I top up the tray, which is a pot saucer. I have the orange and peach colours. I take care of a donated cactus – red – in the lobby of my building.

    Permalink  ⋅ Reply
    • Author

      Pumpkin Beth

      October 25, 2019 at 6:42pm

      Hello Anne,

      It’s so lovely to hear from you. My plant’s stems turn a bronzed purple, as the plant comes into bud; they’re a slightly greener shade in springtime.

      Your Thanksgiving Cacti sound lovely, I am always very fond of orange and peach coloured flowers. That’s so lovely that you have a donated cactus in your lobby – the perfect place for it. I almost wrote about pebble trays in the article, they work so well for Schlumbergera and other plants that need increased humidity. A great tip.

      I hope you have a lovely weekend lined up.

      Warmest wishes
      Beth

      Permalink  ⋅ Reply

Your email will not be published. Name and Email fields are required