Cactus Requirements?

My Thanksgiving/Christmas CactusI am quite fond of things that have history.  Antiquity draws my curiosity.  Things of old are interesting.  They have been places and seen things we have not. They have stories to tell. They hold value just because of their age.

So, even the plants that were shared with me by my Mama through my mother are sweet to me.  One of my favorites is this Christmas cactus.  I’ve had this tender green succulent for AT LEAST ten years.  The dear plant that this shoot came from sits in the middle of the table on a screened porch on Lake Seminole.  It’s pot is the size of four of mine and its canopy is the size that my arms would make when creating a circle.

My mom calls it a Thanksgiving cactus, as hers and Mama’s always bloomed in November instead of December.  Is that programmed into the plant or is that simply a difference in gardening zones – we simply get warmer here quicker than those in the northern states.  I don’t know … but it really makes no difference with my plant because …

<sigh> it never blooms.

Year after year, I try to do something different that will make conditions “right.”  Through the years, I’ve given extra attention to watering and intentionally neglected to water (this IS a cactus anyway).  I have brought it inside at the hint of cold, left it outside until 31 degrees, made sure it had huge amounts of sun (those  at my Mom and grandmother’s home were in shady spots) or let it stay in my favorite place all year, on my screened porch.  I have repotted. And I believe that one year I even fertilized (that’s something I rarely do for my plants …. I know, it’s terrible.  But, at times I’m doing good to keep myself and my family fertilized … I just don’t get around to my green friends).

My friend, Katherine, has posted pictures of her cacti.  Just LOOK! She only bought them last year and LOOK at them!  What am I doing wrong, Katinerine?  How is this happening?  I really need some help.

So, I’m open to suggestions.  Can anyone help me?

6 thoughts on “Cactus Requirements?

  1. OK–I am laughing!! Here are my suggestions: Leave in a sunny indoor place until spring. Keep it watered, BUT not soaked. It can dry out between waterings, but not for too long. It is in the cactus family, but it originates from the Brazilian rainforest where it lives in trees, so it does like moisture. Your pot should have drainage holes with a dish underneath, so the excess water can drain away. Then in the spring (don’t forget!), repot (your pot looks a little small) with fresh potting soil and let it stay outside in a part sun/part shade spot and then, forget about it, except to water in the dry months. Hopefully, in November you should see some buds appearing. When you do, bring it indoors to a sunny spot. (Make sure you don’t bring it in after it has gotten really cold—sudden changes in temp will make it drop its buds.) Then you need to fertilize–sorry!–I fertilize mine every time I water while it is blooming. Your sweet little plant all the way from Lake Seminole is definitely worth putting a little time into! Don’t give up on it!


    1. Okay. I’m moving it inside right now then heading out to Christmas shop. whoohoo! I’ll give you an update next Thanksgiving. Thanks, Katherine!


  2. Hello, I just brought from my parents home, a Christmas Cati that belonged to my grandmother. I remember it in her home when I was around 14. I am now 61. When Granny passed, my mother took the plant home with her, where she nourished and loved it every day. Every Christmas it was so heavy with blooms, some of it would break off. Reason to start another pot. Mother passed away in 2002. I had to leave the plant at my parents home and care for it there because my dad was still alive and I couldn’t imagine going into the house and not seeing the plant in its usual spot. Unfornatually, over the next few years the plant was sorley neglected. The Cacti has been in the same pot for 20 years or more. The soil was hard as a rock. The “leaves” were thin and misshapen due to lack of care. Every time I watered it, it would turn yellow and parts would fall off.

    Dad passed away last August. I just brought the plant to my home 2 weeks ago, put it in the laundry tub full of water over the rim of the pot, and gave it a good long soak, about 3 hours. I then made sure it was drained properly by tilting it on its side overnight. I put it in a big pan, placed it by a South facing window covered by a sheer curtain. When I checked on it 4 days ago, to my surprise it was forming buds. Yeah!!

    There is a long history to this plant. I now hope to pass down the plant to my daughter and her daughter and hope it will last another 47 years or longer.

    When it is finished blooming and the time is right, I will take cuttings for my many, many cousins so they can also have part of Granny and the family history with them too.

    Merry Christmas to you all and have a happy and healthy 2009.



  3. Oh, Joy!! What a sweet story and tender present: blooms of Joy here at Christmas! Do you blog? Can you take a photo to share? If not, if you’ll send a photo to me, I’d love to add it to my post.


  4. Oh, thank you so much. I do not blog, maybe should I start. I can send a photo, but, I must say the plant is still in poor condition right now, but when it is in full bloom, hopefully in a couple weeks, I will send you a photo. The buds are few and far between, but now that I have it in my home, I can better care for the poor thing. Thanks for your comment. Please send your email address or where I should post the photo.


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