I have a “Christmas cactus” that always blooms at Thanksgiving. Is there a way to make it bloom a few weeks later?
Answer: A Christmas cactus is one of three popular holiday cacti: Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas. You can probably guess by their names when these festive plants usually bloom; Thanksgiving cacti typically start in late fall and Christmas cacti around a month later. An Easter cactus starts producing flower buds in February.
If you have a Christmas cactus that always blooms around Thanksgiving, it is probably because of one of the following reasons: it is actually a Thanksgiving cactus or it blooms early due to growing conditions.
Thanksgiving cacti are often sold as “Christmas cacti” and these two holiday plants look very similar. Both fall under the genus Schlumbergera, have the same color scheme and require the same care. There are two main differences between a Christmas and Thanksgiving cactus: the flowering season, which we have already discussed, and the segments of the leaves. To help determine whether your cactus is a Christmas or Thanksgiving variety, will depend on the edges of the leaf segments. Christmas cacti have smooth, round edges while Thanksgiving cacti have pointy, jagged ones. A Thanksgiving cactus is shown at the top of this article; a Christmas cactus is shown at right. Note the difference in the leaves.
If your holiday cactus still sounds like it belongs to the merry Christmas groupings, than it probably flowers early in the season due to the growing conditions. Thanksgiving and Christmas cacti need cool temperatures (roughly 55 to 65 degrees Fahrenheit) to begin the production of flowers, so your cactus is most likely exposed to this change in weather early. You can help instigate when your plant will bloom by keeping track of the temperature outside. When it is below 50 degrees, you can place the container by a drafty window or when it hits the ideal 55 to 60 degree range, place the container outdoors. These cacti are most successful with longer periods of uninterrupted darkness, around 13 to 16 hours, and shortened days.
My biggest piece of advice for you if you want a Christmas cactus to bloom later in the season, is to make sure it actually is a Christmas cactus and not a Thanksgiving one. When purchasing a new cactus go by the botanical name instead of the common one. A Christmas cactus is Schlumbergera x buckleyi and a Thanksgiving cactus is Schlumbergera truncata. As for now, manipulate your cactus’s exposure to light and temperature conditions to try to achieve the perfect blooming season for your needs.
These striking, festive cacti are perfect ways to bring a little joy and cheer to the holiday season.
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