My Christmas Cactus is Blooming!

My wife is excited, but perplexed. Both her Thanksgiving cactus and her Christmas cactus have lots of buds! Actually her 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. 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.

If your cacti seem healthy but have not flowered in recent years and don’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.

I may have to try educating my wife to the fact that all the buds on her two plants may be there because the baseboard in our family room has not been working! She has been using the electric fireplace as a heat source when she has been in that room and it has a fan which blows the heat toward the couch. Now that I replaced the thermostat cont4olling the baseboard below the window the heat goes right up between the big window and her plant stands! Even if we lower the thermostat at night the heat source may keep the cacti too warm!

Good luck with your “Holiday Cactus”!