Now is the time to bring your holiday cactuses indoors and start preparing them for their blooming period. At this time of year, we are talking, specifically, about the Thanksgiving (Zygocatus truncatus) and Christmas (Zygocatus bridgessi) cactuses.

The Thanksgiving cactus is also called the crab cactus, claw cactus or yoke cactus. This plant is very similar to the Christmas cactus with a couple of exceptions:

(1) it blooms about two weeks before the Christmas cactus; and (2) the tips on each two to four-inch leaf joints are sharply serrated. It has three-inch long white flowers that have with rose, salmon-pink or bright violet-colors.

In contrast, the Christmas cactus has smaller, smooth edges on its two three- quarter inch long and one-half inch wide leaf segments. The flowers range from white to pink to magenta in color. No matter which plant you have, the culture in the home is similar.

The Thanksgiving and Christmas cactuses prefer a well-drained soil. A light application of a complete fertilizer is recommended during active growth. Place in a bright sunny, southern or southwestern directed window.

Bud development normally takes place during early autumn when the days become shorter and temperatures are lower. During September and October, when flower buds are developing, stop feeding and reduce watering. Never allow the soil to dry out completely. To set the flower buds in the fall, one of the following growing conditions must be met:

At night temperatures of 50 – 55oF, flower buds will form regardless of the day length.

Each day, temperatures of 60-65oF, provide 13 hours of uninterrupted darkness. Plants must be protected from any light during the thirteen hours of darkness from September to November.

After flower buds have developed, the plant will continue to flower in normal house temperatures with average indoor humidity.

Before bringing you holiday cactus indoors, make sure to check it thoroughly for pests. Then, begin the blooming preparation process and it will be ready for blooming during the Thanksgiving or Christmas holidays.