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University of Minnesota Extension

Holiday cacti

Quick facts

  • Holiday cacti have beautiful, exotic flowers and can live a long time.
  • Examine holiday cacti for overall health and signs of pests before bringing indoors.
  • To produce flower buds, they require shorter days and/or cool night temperatures.
  • Holiday cacti will not grow well in heavy, wet soils.
  • Fertilize monthly June thru August with a balanced houseplant fertilizer at half-strength.
Christmas cactus in bloom with pink-red flowers growing in hanging basket
Christmas cactus in bloom

Thanksgiving cactus (Schlumbergera truncata), Christmas cactus (Schlumbergera bridgesii), and Easter cactus (Schlumbergera gaertneri) are popular houseplants, often given as gifts during the holiday season. They are grown for their beautiful, exotic flowers.

Holiday cacti can be very long-lived. It is possible for these plants to live over 100 years, passed down from generation to generation. Although true cacti, these plants are native to rainforests.

The need for high humidity, bright but filtered light, and relatively moist soils for most of the year sets these plants apart from the majority of cacti and succulents. Well-drained soil and containers that have enough holes to allow water to easily drain are critical to plant health. Root rot (loss of roots due to overly wet soil) is one of the most common reasons these plants die.

People often complain about the lack of flower blooms. It is important to understand how light, temperature, and overall plant health affect blooming.

Though called Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter cactus, these common names are only a general reference for the time of year these plants may bloom.

Growing holiday cacti


Authors: Julie Weisenhorn, Extension educator, and Mary Meyer, Extension horticulturalist

Reviewed in 2022

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