Blooming Cacti

28 October 2021

It is almost time for holiday cactus plants to bloom again. Often you will hear someone say their Christmas cactus is blooming early again. It could be that what they are growing is actually a Thanksgiving cactus. These are two different varieties of the succulent. The most obvious difference is the “leaves”. A Thanksgiving cactus has pointed edges and the Christmas cactus has smoother, rounded edges. There is also an Easter cactus, but that is for another time.

These are true cacti and can live for quite some time, up to 100 years. They are often passed down from generation to generation. They are native to rainforests.


Either plant likes a well drained soil mix. You can pick up some succulent soil already prepared or you can make your own from equal amounts of peat moss, perlite, vermiculite, and soil. This will be porous enough to give good drainage. Be sure the pot has at least one good sized drainage hole.

They don’t like being overwatered so be sure the soil is dry before you give it the next drink. Remember that the top of the soil dries out first. To be sure it is ready, stick your finger into the soil. If it still feels moist, wait for the next watering. If you don’t want to ruin your manicure, pick up a probe in the garden department. It works on any plant.

Fertilize monthly from June through August. Use any balanced houseplant fertilizer but only give it half strength doses. Beginning in September, change the fertilizer to one with low nitrogen but high phosphorus and potassium.


Give it bright light but not direct sun. They thrive in night temperatures around 65 degrees. To form the flower buds, the night temps need to be from 50 to 55. They are fine outdoors as long as they are in a shaded area. Bring them indoors when the temperature dips to 35.

The flower buds start to form in September and continue through November. During that time bright and indirect light is fine but from dusk to dawn it should be placed in a dark room with a temperature of 50 to 55 degrees. If the seasonal weather cooperates and you are putting them outdoors to have them cool enough to bud, remember that the plant does not differentiate one light source from another. So, even a street lamp can make it think it is still daytime.

As the flower buds are forming, the plant likes to be pampered. Drafts or sudden changes in temperature or humidity may cause it to drop the buds. If you want to enjoy the blooms in a room other than where you are letting the buds develop, very carefully move them as soon as the buds appear.

If the plant does not produce blooms it is probably because the temperature is too warm or not enough darkness. It may also lack the proper nutrients. If the buds start to drop, be sure it is not getting an drafts from an HVAC vent. If it develops more blooms than it can support, it is just pruning itself. Just keep giving it your good TLC including proper watering, fertilizing, and light and temperature control.

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