Thanksgiving Cactus Plant Care

The first time I saw this gorgeous plant, I knew it would make for a perfect table centerpiece. Or maybe it will look fabulous in a window or over a mantel of a fireplace. Today, I want to introduce you to the Thanksgiving Cactus sold during the holiday season.

The best part is that it is a succulent that produces the most stunning flower buds and is easy to care for.

Is it a Thanksgiving Cacti or Christmas Cactus

thanksgiving cactus

I agree it can be not very clear, as you have heard of the Christmas Cactus sold during the festive season. So, one can easily get confused between the two plants. The reason is that both these succulent plants’ bloom times overlap. Yet, the Thanksgiving Cactus is considered the false Christmas Cactus.

Still, there is a difference between the two, even if they both have red flower buds. The Thanksgiving Cacti belongs to the Schlumbergera truncate. It has rectangular green segments with points that resemble a crab claw giving it the name Crab Cactus.

But, if you look at the Christmas Cactus, it has teardrop-shaped leaves with scalloped edges and is known as the Schlumbergera bridgesii blooms any time from December to February. While your Easter Cactus again has oval leaf segments with round edges.

It has flared flowers blooming from March to May. Another interesting note is that none of these plants is a true cactus plant. Instead, the plants are epiphytic and live on other plants. Hence, the plant gets moisture and nutrients from the air, also known as air plants.

Yet, they belong to the Cactaceae family and are short bloomers, so you need to trick them into flowering.

Thanksgiving Cactus Care Tips

flowering thanksgiving cactus

The holiday cactus is very popular, known as a winter-flowering indoor plant, and is easy to take care of. The Thanksgiving Cactus blooms with colorful flowers in white, red, pink, and orange. So today, I will help you care for your new Thanksgiving Cactus plants.

The Type of Soil That Thanksgiving Cacti Needs

thanksgiving cactus potting mix

In its natural habitat, the crab cactus grows on trees and survives from organic matter found in the bark. So, when grown as a houseplant, it helps to grow your Thanksgiving Cactus Plant in humus-rich potting soil.

In addition, the soil needs to be airy, moist, well-draining, and acidic. Hence, a mix of one part perlite, one part peat moss, and one part orchid bark is ideal for your Thanksgiving Cacti.

Light Requirement for Crab Cactus

thanksgiving cactus light requierment

When growing Thanksgiving Cactus in spring and summer, your plant does best in indirect light.

But you need to move your holiday cactus plants in the middle of summer to bright light but not direct sunlight to help encourage lush growth and blooms.

Hence, a spot with bright indirect light is ideal. When growing in its native habitat, the cactus does not receive much sun, and direct sun can damage the foliage.

How To Water Thanksgiving Cactus

It helps to follow a proper watering routine with your genus Schlumbergera by keeping the soil evenly moist and not fully dry. Neither should you overwater your tropical plants as they are sensitive to root rot.

So, leaving the top two inches of the soil dry is best before you water your plant. As with most houseplants, it helps to leave the excess water drain out and remove it from the bottom of the pot.

A handy technique to water your plant is the soak and drain method. You can do this by placing your plant in the sink to give it a good soak and let the water drain out of the drainage holes.

Fertilizer Needs

liquid fertilizer for cactus

The Thanksgiving Cactus grow well with regular feeds during the growing season as it helps your plant to form buds in the fall. The best fertilizer to use is a liquid feed every two weeks in spring, summer, and early fall. Once the blooms drop, do not fertilize until you see new growth in spring.

Temperature and Humidity Levels

The Thanksgiving Cactus loves warm temperatures and humid conditions. It helps to keep the moisture levels around 50% with temperatures between 60°F to 65°F (15°C to 20°C). So, your average room temperature is ideal for this tropical plant. As you can see, moderate to high humidity is perfect for your plant.

Repotting and Pruning

While your Thanksgiving Cactus grows pot-bound, you do not want it to become too pot-bound. The best is to repot your plant once every three years and best done in spring. You can expect fewer blooms if you do not transplant your crab cactus often.

Another helpful Thanksgiving Cactus care tip is to prune your plant to keep it healthy. It will create a bushy plant to produce more flower buds in the blooming season. The best time to do this is in spring when you see new growth.

When you cut your plant, new growth will emerge in that section, so make those cuts wisely. The stem cuttings you remove you can use for propagation.


We mentioned the stem cuttings taken from your Thanksgiving Cactus in spring or summer during the active growing season. Hence, you can develop new plants using the cuttings by doing the following:

  1. First, with sterilized pruning shears, choose cutting with several leaf segments.

  2. Leave the cutting in cool temperatures to dry for 24 hours, letting the cut end callous.

  3. Next, prepare a pot with potting mix and moisten the soil.

  4. Now, plant the cutting upright and place them in the same direction they were growing on the mother plant.

How to Make Your Thanksgiving Cactus Bloom

flowering thanksgiving cactus

When grown indoors, the Thanksgiving Cactus needs a bit of help as it displays flower buds in the fall. Yet, compared to the Christmas Cacti and Easter Cactus, the crab cacti can flower from November to March.

The tropical plants bloom when it goes through shorter cool temperatures for a few weeks. So, to achieve this result, it helps to place your plant outdoors in early fall to expose it to the cold. Also, deadheading the spent flower helps to prolong the blooming period.

Common Problems With Thanksgiving Cactus

Okay, let know one tell you a plant is problem-free as they are not. You can find some problems arising from blooming issues to improper watering. As growers tend to force the plant to bloom before selling them, the plant does not want to bloom the following year.

Hence, you will need to wait a year or two before it flowers again. Or, you can follow the recommended tips mentioned before. Another concern is the buds falling off resulting from a change in the temperature.

Thus, it helps provide your tropical plants with a stable environment during the blooming season. Lastly, if you notice leaves turning yellow, it can be two problems. The first is overwatering, and the cacti leaves will be yellow and mushy.

On the other hand, yellow leaves can be from too much direct sunlight.

Where to Buy Thanksgiving Cactus Plants?

The good news is you do not need to go outdoors to your local garden center to find the Thanksgiving Cactus. Plantly has all the holiday cactus plants available for you. You can even buy your plant’s cactus soil, rooting hormone, and a hanging basket while shopping here.

Whether you want to buy, sell or simply reach out to other plant enthusiasts, Plantly is the right place to be!

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