My Christmas Cactus is Blooming!

          Actually, both plants in our family room are Thanksgiving Cacti even though one was originally purchased as a Christmas Cactus. The “Christmas Cactus” is also a Thanksgiving cactus, as are most that I see for sale in the retail stores.

          I heard someone say “The pilgrims should have had a different marketing firm”.  Thanksgiving has become a “forgotten” holiday by the retailers. When the Christmas items hit the shelves the day after Halloween or even the week before Halloween and people want to buy cacti that already have buds or blossoms it is easy to simply slap the Christmas name on the Thanksgiving cacti. This year I saw blow up snowmen and other Christmas related items at Menards the first week of October. I didn’t look for any holiday cacti at that time though.

The blossoms and stems (they don’t really have leaves, just segmented flat stems) are similar enough that most people don’t even notice. The Thanksgiving cacti stem segments have a little sharper points or teeth on the side scallops and a tooth or horn on the top corners. Christmas cacti have more round projections and corners. Some retailers are a bit more honest about the names and just call them “Holiday Cacti”.

          Either way, they are a beautiful, long lived plant that is often handed down from generation to generation, both of ours have started blooming this past weekend. Right on time for Thanksgiving!

          If your cacti seem healthy but have not flowered in recent years and doesn’t have buds now it may be because of their location or the temperature of the room where you have them. Both Thanksgiving and Christmas cacti flowering is triggered by a combination of night time temperature drops and reduced day length. If night time temps are dropping to between 55F and 60F buds will form but if temps are only falling to 65F they may need complete darkness from about 5 pm to 7 am. If temps remain in the upper 60’s or low 70’s F they may not bloom at all. The buds can also be very sensitive to higher temperatures and can stop developing or even fall off if nighttime temperatures suddenly go up.

          Want to try out your” green thumb”?  Holiday cacti are easy to propagate from cuttings. Cuttings of two or three stem segments can be planted directly into a good potting mix or single stem segments can be rooted in water a couple of weeks before planting into a potting mix.  But wait until they have been done blooming for a month or two!

          Good luck with your “Holiday Cactus”!