Forcing Thanksgiving cactus to bloom

In The Garden With Helen Schaal

July 21, 2013 – 06:20 am

The plant typically blooms

I inherited my grandmother's Christmas cactus, which is at least 75 years old. My mother repotted it once in my memory, but now it is beginning to look bad. I'm determined to save it if I can, but I have a black thumb, and certainly no idea how to care for a plant this old. How do I keep it healthy and alive?

These plants are called holiday cactus (Schlumbergera) because their habit is to bloom around the time of one of three holidays - Thanksgiving, Christmas or Easter. You can determine which holiday cactus you have by looking at its leaves. The Christmas cactus has rounded notches on the margins of the stem segments while the Thanksgiving cactus has pointed tooth-like notches on the margins. The Easter cactus has tooth-like marginal notches with tiny spines or hairs on the stem segments. Most holiday cacti that I have seen are Thanksgiving cactus, even those purchased during the Christmas holiday. This is because many plant growers will force their Thanksgiving cacti into bloom for Christmas. Caring for these plants is simple regardless of which type you have.

Soil. Holiday cactus requires well-drained soil. I suggest that using a potting soil designed for cactus and succulents. The best time to repot holiday cactus is in the spring after active growth resumes, but it can be done at any time if the plant appears to be suffering.

Light. When growing holiday cactus indoors, place it in bright but indirect light. Direct light and excessive heat will scorch the leaves and cause the flower buds to drop. If you move your plants outdoors for the summer keep them in full to partial shade.

Water. In spite of its appearance and common name, your Christmas cactus is not really a cactus. When in bloom these plants should be watered about once a week or when the top half of the soil in the container becomes dry. Lack of water will cause the flower buds to drop. After the flowers fade stop watering the plant for about 6 weeks. This will allow the plant to rest. During the spring and summer keep the plant consistently moist. Root rot from over watering is a common problem with these plants.

Fertilizing. When new growth emerges in the spring, begin a fertilizing with an all-purpose houseplant food mixed at half strength. Continue to do this once a month until October.
Pruning. A plant that can potentially live to be more than 75 years old is sure to need an occasional haircut. The best time to do this is in June. Simply snip off the top 2 or 3 segments of each stem. This will make the plant bushier and promote flower development. You can then root these cuttings to make more plants.


Hirt's Hirt's Yellow Christmas Cactus Plant - Zygocactus - 4" Decorative Pot Cover
Lawn & Patio (Hirt's)
  • Homegrown by Hirt s Gardens
  • With proper care will bloom between Thanksgiving and Christmas
  • Prefers some sun, water when dry
  • Makes a great gift. Easy to grow house plant
  • The plant you will receive is growing in a 4 inch pot with decorative pot cover. The color of the pot cover may vary.

You might also like:

christmas cactus update2
christmas cactus update2
Christmas Cactus
Christmas Cactus

Christmas cactus help

I have had Christmas cactus' for over 20 years now. Every May I pinch each stem back. Every one that gets pinched back will form a bloom. I fertilize with a weak solution of miracle grow each week when I water. However, as soon as the blossoms start to form, I water very little or else the blossoms will fall off. Mine bloom for me at Thanksgiving, again at Christmas, and then at easter. These blossom better if they are in a cooler room setting. It sets the blossoms. Last summer we had a few cooler nights and I had my plants outdoors for the summer, well it set the blossoms on them and they bloomed in August! I usually put my plants outdoors on the cooler fall nights just to set the blossoms before bringing them in for the winter

Thanksgiving bloomer.

My christmas cactus is about 8 yrs old and has always bloomed on Thanksgiving.My mom's plant (from which mine came from ) blooms at Christmas. She lives near me.
It always has tons of blooms ...I guess my ignoring it because of being busy has paid off because honestly it often looks dead before I get off my butt to water it.

How about poinsetta plants with gold bows

or gold and ruby bows
I know this picture does not show a pretty bow, but I love poinsetta plants AND right after Thanksgiving Costco and Sams Clubs sell HUGE Plants for almost nothing!
And you can give the plants away to special guests after the reception.
Also some Christmas cactus flowers are almost ruby colored

Who knows? Maybe for some bizarre reason

They didn't like the mention of Christmas Cactus. Maybe they feel that plants should be lay-only? (There's a word for that but I can't remember it.)
I had a couple of Christmas Cacti in my office. I brought them home, where they became Halloween Cacti. I put them outside this last spring and they became Thanksgiving Cacti who now look as if they may extend their run through Christmas.

I have an . . .

Easter, Thanksgiving, and a Christmas Cactus and never prune them back. They seem to prune themselves, dropping selected bracks, and new rich, full new growth begins. They only reason to prune them back is if the plants gets bigger than you want it to get. Then those cuttings can be easily rooted to make new plants. If the plant gets "leggy," it's usually because it's not getting enough light/dappled sun. Mine grow year round outdoors, hanging from an olive tree, and bloom profusely every year.

Hirt's Hirt's Orange Christmas Cactus Plant - Zygocactus - 4" pot
Lawn & Patio (Hirt's)
  • Easy to grow house plant
  • With proper care will bloom between Thanksgiving and Christmas
  • Prefers some sun
  • Water when dry
  • The plant you will receive is growing in a 4 pot, with multiple plants in the pot

Related posts:

  1. Thanksgiving cactus (plant)
  2. Thanksgiving cactus Origin
  3. Thanksgiving cactus Problems
  4. Thanksgiving cactus color
  5. Thanksgiving cactus Blooms