Thanksgiving and Christmas Cactus Care

Many families have heirlooms passed down from generation to generation.

For some families, it may be a piece of jewelry or furniture, for others it may be a plant. This time of year, I often hear people raving about the masses of blooms on the old Christmas cactus that has been in their family for decades. The reason these plants enjoy such a long life is because they are relatively easy to care for, can tolerate most growing conditions, are quite resistant to disease and insects and continue to grow and bloom when root-bound in the pot. The Thanksgiving and Christmas cacti depend on short day length and cool temperatures to set flower buds. To ensure that the first blooms appear before Thanksgiving and until Christmas has passed you can artificially induce shorter days. An ideal place to force a Thanksgiving or Christmas cactus into blooming is in a spare bedroom or basement where no artificial lights are used at night. These plants should receive bright light during the day and the temperature kept cool, under 65 degrees Fahrenheit.

Some Thanksgiving and Christmas cacti will bloom if kept at 55 degrees Fahrenheit during the fall, regardless of the day length. Keep the plants a bit on the dry side until you see pinpoint buds forming, then resume normal watering.

Here's something surprising about these plants. Holiday cacti grow and flower best when the roots are a little cramped. They do not need to be repotted annually because as I mentioned earlier, pot bound plants that are stressed will bloom better. Repotting is only necessary when the soil becomes compacted or the plants have completely out-grown their containers. The best time to repot holiday cacti is when they are not setting buds or blooming.

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