How to Care for a Thanksgiving Cactus?

The Thanksgiving Cactus, also known as the Crab Cactus or the Holiday Cactus, is a popular tropical cactus that makes for the perfect holiday gift.

As the name suggests, this cactus blooms in late fall (around the end of November), around the Thanksgiving holiday.

This cactus is native to the rainforests of Brazil. Fun fact: the Thanksgiving cactus has an incredibly long life, from 40 to 100 years.

Hence, it is a worthwhile addition to your space as it adds a splash of color and freshness to your home.

Whether you add it as a centerpiece of a coffee day or as a window accessory, this beautiful cactus doesn’t disappoint.

When you hear the word cactus, it is natural to think of a stubby pear-shaped plant with prickly spines.

However, the Thanksgiving cactus doesn’t fit that description and is different than the regular cacti.

The reason behind this is that it falls under the category of epiphytes which is a plant that is known to grow on another plant for physical support.

These plants acquire their required level of nutrients and moisture from the environment (the rain and snow).

Hence, the Thanksgiving cactus takes root on trees and uses their decaying matter to fulfill nutrient requirements.

Who says you have to wait for spring to enjoy blossoms? With the right care, the Thanksgiving cactus blooms gorgeous flowers indoors just in time for Thanksgiving!

The good news is that this plant is easy to take care of and maintain! We have put together some simple care tips to remember when caring for the Thanksgiving cactus.

Thanksgiving Cactus: Useful Care Tips

The Thanksgiving cactus is a low-maintenance plant. However, to get it to bloom perfectly, it does need a bit of care. Here are some care tips for growing the Thanksgiving cactus:

Light Requirement

The Thanksgiving cactus grows best in direct sunlight or light shade during the spring and summer months.

Exposing it to too much sunlight in the summer months can cause its leaves to turn yellow or reddish,

A room temperature between 60 to 65 degrees Fahrenheit for indoor environments is ideal for the Thanksgiving cactus, especially when the plants have grown buds.

However, it is recommended to shift them to a cool room in September and October, ensuring they are not exposed to any light for at least 12 hours a day.

You can do this by shifting your cactus into a dark closet and covering it up with a cloth. Repeating this step for 6 to 8 weeks is recommended to encourage blooming.

Prior to their blooming in November, you can shift them to a brighter location, avoiding direct exposure to sunlight for a minimum of eight hours a day.

Choose a spot that is bright enough and receives indirect sunlight, as direct exposure can burn the cactus. You can even filter the sunlight through a curtain. 

Water Requirement

Unlike the typical species of cacti, with Thanksgiving, cactus does not originate from dry landscapes; rather, they grow best in the tropical rainforests of Brazil.

Hence, they do require more watering than regular cacti!

A consistent watching routine is one of the most important parts of caring for your Thanksgiving cactus and ensuring it is happy.

This cactus grows best when the soil is consistently moist, so you must keep it from fully drying out.

However, it is important to remember that the Thanksgiving cactus requires minimal water as it is sensitive to waterlogged soils.

Overwatering can cause the roots to rot. To keep this from happening, only relater the plant when the top one to two inches of soil has completely dried out.

Then you can thoroughly water it until it drains out of the drainage hole.

This watering method is called the “soak and drain method.” To avoid a mess, you can bring the plant to the sink, water it as required, and wait for the water to drain from the bottom of the pot into the sink.

Depending on your area’s temperature and humidity levels, it is recommended to water them once a week to promote looming.

As mentioned earlier, since the Thanksgiving plant is an epiphyte, exposed roots get their required level of moisture from the air, so you don’t have to worry too much.

Soil and Potting Needs

Well-drained soil works best for the Thanksgiving cactus. Keep in mind that they don’t do well in waterlogged or soggy soils, so it is recommended to avoid overwatering them.

Moreover, you must also ensure that there is a drainage hole present at the bottom of the pot to allow the water to drain out.

In their natural habitat, the Thanksgiving cactus prefer acidic soils since they use decaying matter from trees around them for their share of nutrients.

You can imitate this oil by mixing it with plenty of organic matter to create ideal rich and porous soil conditions for your Thanksgiving cactus.

Create the perfect soil mixture for your plant; use the following ingredients:

  • 1 part Peat Moss
  • 1 part Orchid Barkis
  • 1 Part Perlite

Soil formulated for citrus trees also works great for the Thanksgiving cactus.

Regardless of which soil you use, you must ensure that the potting mix is well-drained, airy, and hummus-rich to promote optimal blooming in the holiday season.

The Thanksgiving cactus is happy staying in tight pots as it prefers to be bounded by its roots. 

The ideal time to repot your Thanksgiving cactus is between February and April so it can continue its growth before the blooming months.

Choose a pot slightly larger than its root ball when repotting your cactus. Don’t report it too frequently –only do so if you notice its growth slowing down. 

Fertilizer Requirement

The Thanksgiving cactus needs to be fertilized regularly throughout its growing period so that you can enjoy optimal booming in the holiday season.

In the months of spring, summer, and early fall, it is recommended to thoroughly apply a balanced liquid fertilizer (diluted form) such as 20-20-20 or 20-20-10 to encourage blooming.

You can also fertilize the Thanksgiving cactus using Epsom salts mixed with a teaspoon per gallon (5 ml. per approx. 4 L.).

Once the flower buds on your cactus start to appear, follow the label directions and apply succulent plant food for optimal growth and blooms.

Hold off on fertilizing after the blooms have dropped and the Thanksgiving plant actively starts to grow again in spring.

 Moisture and Humidity Requirements

Thanksgiving plant gathers its moisture from the environment. It is safe to say that they don’t like hot or frigid environments since they don’t grow in deserts.

The ideal temperature for this plant is between 60 to 65 degrees Fahrenheit.

Due to their tropical nature, Thanksgiving plants do well in humid environments.

Look for areas in your house that are more humid, for example, your kitchen. You can also preserve the moisture by placing a drainage tray of pebbles beneath the plant spot.


Regular pruning is required to keep your Thanksgiving plant happy and healthy.

If you want to make your Thanksgiving plant produce maximum blooms in the holiday season, you can prune it during spring once it has begun actively going again, encouraging your plant to branch out where you cut the stems. 

Since flowers emerge from the end of the stems, promoting more blooms in fall. 

Carefully choose where you are pruning your plant since every cut you make will promote branching. It is recommended to sterilize your scissors or pruning tools before starting. 

Remember to save your cuttings if you plan on propagating them.

Tips on How to Propagate Your Thanksgiving Cactus

If you don’t want the pruned cuttings of your Thanksgiving plant to go to waste, propagation is the best way to repurpose them.

The Thanksgiving cactus is in its active growing period in spring and summer, making this the ideal time for propagation. It is recommended to avoid propagation in winter when the plant has reached dormancy.

You can get multiple Thanksgiving plants for free following these simple propagation steps. All you need are some stem cuttings from your Thanksgiving plant, and you are good to go!

  • Start by taking a pair of sterilized scissors and hand-cut a stem with four or five sections. Use a rooting hormone to dust the end of the stem cutting and allow it to be callous for 6 to 7 days.
  • Use a small plastic pot for the new plant, fill it with pre-moisturized soil, and add some seed starting mixture.
  • Place the stem cutting in an upright position in the soil. You must ensure that the cuttings are in the same direction that they were in previously.
  • Place the pot in an area that is well lit but does not receive direct sunlight.
  • The cuttings will root in about three weeks.

The Thanksgiving plant is relatively low maintenance. However, there are still some things you need to take care of.

We hope this guide helps allow you to provide the best care to your Thanksgiving plant. Good luck!