These are Few of My Favorite Things: Thanksgiving Cactus

Dec 18, 2020 | Growing Tips

By Michelle Wittie – SEMG 2020 & Kate Shadock – SEMG 2018

I asked Michelle Wittie, SEMG 2020, also monitor and administrator of the popular Facebook group, GARDENING IN RIO RANCHO,  and self-avowed ‘Houseplant Doyenne’, “What is your favorite holiday plant?”

Thanksgiving Cactus are one of my favorite holiday plants. Most all distributors have them available to purchase, they come in multiple beautiful colors and have extremely easy care. They are almost always a plant that can be brought home from the store without repotting and enjoyed throughout the holidays with beautiful colors and low water needs. This is a cactus that blooms 3-4 times a year with proper care.

It needs bright light but the colors that sparkle on the flowers are worth the space it will take up near your window. Thanksgiving Cactus is a good gift for people who don’t have a lot of plant knowledge, as these cacti show signs of needing water by shriveling slightly when they feel to dry. These cacti are also quite easy to propagate by sticking a piece of it right into some soil. They root fast and grow quickly. Once they are established, they will flower continuously, and the flowers last a long time.

Unlike mine, Michelle’s plants bloom profusely. She advised the two most common reasons for not blooming.

  1. Root binding is common, and they won’t bloom if they are root bound.
  2. Not enough light is what I find most often…my east light ones never bloom, the south light plants bloom four times a year.

When they get the amount of sunshine they need the ends turn purple and then they flower. However, the smaller varieties don’t need as much sun to bloom. Remember, even though these are cacti, they will require more water when they get moved to a sunnier location.

Over the years I’ve had several “Christmas Cactus” according to the pot label – though I noticed a distinct difference in the leaves, blooms, and when they bloomed. I asked Michelle how to tell them apart. She provided this handy chart.

Until I saw this, I’d never heard of Easter Cactus. What a lovely option to the ubiquitous Easter Lilies.

Easter Cactus have the roundest leaves – which are easier to see on an actual plant.

This time of year “Christmas” cactus are easy to find, even in the grocery store.  Pick one up, follow Michelle’s tips and enjoy vivid blooms this winter.

Photos:  M. Wittie