If you’ve been into Green Thumbs, you know we love Holiday cacti!  There are three types of Holiday cacti: Thanksgiving cactus (Schlumbergera truncata), Christmas Cactus (Schlumbergera bridgesii) and Easter cactus (Schlumbergera gaertneri)Holiday cacti have beautiful flowers that come in a variety of colors and can live a very long life when cared for properly.  


Growing Holiday Cacti:

Light and Temperature: Holiday cacti are ‘short day’ plants which means their flowering is initiated when the day length becomes shorter as the seasons change from summer to winter.  Cool night temperatures also have a role in flower initiation.  Thanksgiving and Christmas cacti will bloom after approximately 6 weeks of short days while Easter cacti will bloom after 8-12 weeks of short days flowing near their respective holidays. It is worth mentioning that the flower timing is not an exact science.  There are some types of Thanksgiving Cacti that may be an early type and bloom closer to Halloween than Thanksgiving. Furthermore, there are some types of Christmas Cactus that are late bloomers and may be flowering well into the new year.


Soil:  Holiday cacti require a soil that has plenty of aeration and has good drainage.  Look for a soil that is specifically for cacti and succulents–our favorite is Black Gold Succulent and Cacti Soil.  Holiday cacti like to be lightly root bound and only need to be repotted every three years.  


Watering: Water holiday cacti when the top inch or so of soil is dry to the touch.  Use planters with holes in the bottom to allow excess water to drain freely.  Discard any additional water that may drain out of the bottom of the pot.  Over watering or allowing water to stand in the saucer may result in root rot, bud drop and wilting.  Holiday cacti do not like soils that remain wet for long periods of time so ensure that your watering habits align with your soil type.


Fertilizer: Fertilize your Holiday cacti monthly with a well balanced fertilizer like Grow Big, or Buddha Grow.  In the fall when flower buds begin to form, switch to a fertilizer with low nitrogen, high potassium and high phosphorus.  Our favorite Bloom Booster is Tiger Bloom, Big Bloom or Buddha Bloom.


Pro tip: Purchase a liquid bloom fertilizer in the spring for your flowers and blooming vegetables (tomatoes, peppers, etc) and use the remainder throughout the winter for your flowering holiday cacti and other blooming houseplants!


Common Issues:

Plant does not bloom

  • Cause: Indoor temperature may be too warm.  
    • Place the plant in a location where the day temperature is 60-65 degrees during the day and 55-65 degrees during the night.
  • Cause: Holiday cacti are short days and long night plants
    • Put the plant in total darkness for a minimum of 12 hours per day.  Put the plant in bright light for the remaining 12 hours of the day.
  • Cause: The plant lacks the nutrients it needs to flower
      • Use a liquid fertilizer with a low nitrogen concentration but high phosphorus and potassium in the fall (0-10-10) or similar.

Plant drops buds

  • Cause: The plant is near a draft or there is a sudden change in humidity and/or temperature.  
    • Move the plant to a location that does not have drastic changes in humidity and is not near a drafty area.
  • Cause: Too much or too little sunlight
    • Evaluate the location of your plant.  Be sure that the plant is not in a place that does not get any sun but also in a place that does not receive harsh sunlight.

Plant looks wilted even though it was just watered and the soil is wet

    • Cause: Too much water causes root rot
      • Allow the plant to dry out between waterings.  Make sure the Holiday cacti is growing in a soil that is meant for cacti and succulent plants.  Also, make sure that the planter has drainage holes for excess water to drain out of.

Plant is brown and corky on its oldest branches

    • Cause: This is likely normal and is due to the age of the plant
      • No action is required as this is normal when holiday cacti age

Small flying insects that look like fruit flies are around the plant and in the soil

    • Cause: These insects are likely Fungus Gnats
    • Be careful to not overwater
    • Follow our Fungus gnat protocol

Have more questions or want to grow your own Holiday cacti? Stop in to 111 S Broadway in Belgrade, MT or leave a comment below!

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