Why Is My Thanksgiving Cactus Dropping Buds

A. After a Christmas cactus, Thanksgiving cactus, or Easter cactus has found a nice home, let it alone. A holiday cactus may lose buds in response to a significant change in temperature, watering frequency, or light level.

To thrive, a holiday cactus needs a pot that isn’t too huge, excellent drainage, and strong indirect light. Do not repot these cactuses into a larger container right away because they prefer to flourish in crowded pots.

Here is a helpful Q&A about holiday cactus issues and solutions from an extension specialist:

Why are the buds on my cactus flowers vanishing?

I sometimes think like everything is working against me and my plants. They can become unwell, fail to bloom, or fail to bear fruit for a variety of reasons. Christmas cactus bud drop can have a variety of causes, including improper cultural care, poor lighting, the plant’s erratic behavior, and environmental factors. These plants require more water than real cacti, and they need at least 14 hours of darkness each day for the buds to form. Incorrect hydration, drafty circumstances, hot or cold temperatures, and an abundance of buds are additional problems that could cause a Christmas cactus to drop its bloom buds.

The most frequent issue with Christmas cacti, aside from root rot, is bud drop. Being sensitive plants that were raised in tightly regulated conditions, it is frequently brought on by a change in the environment. Bud drop can be caused by just moving your plant to a different spot in the house, but fresh plants are going to experience a full host of shocks that could also cause buds to fall.

The plant will become confused by changes in temperature, humidity, lighting, and maintenance, and will cease producing all those gorgeous blossoms. Try to mimic greenhouse maintenance as nearly as you can.

  • Water the soil evenly, but avoid letting it become wet.
  • In the late summer, stop fertilizing.
  • Maintain a range of 60 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit (15-26 C.). Christmas cactus buds may fall off in temperatures over 90 F (32 C).

Brazil’s densely forested tropical jungles are home to Christmas cacti. These epiphytic plants grow in the warm, shady womb that the dense tree canopy and other vegetation create. To force bud formation, they need a time without much light. Give the Christmas cactus 14 hours of darkness from September through the end of November, but bright light the rest of the year to guarantee that there are no buds falling off and that production is dense.

The plant naturally experiences these “long nights” in its home country. The plant should be kept in bright light for the final 10 hours of the day, but keep it away from direct sunlight coming from southern windows. The fake lighting routine can be stopped once the buds have settled and started to open.

Why are my Christmas cactus’ buds dropping off?

Christmas cacti are fairly adaptable, however as the flower buds are developing, changing temperatures frequently cause them to fall off.

Christmas cacti are indigenous to high Brazilian rainforest locations, where they are used to cooler temperatures and shorter days for the duration of the flower buds’ development.

For the first six weeks of September, strive to maintain an ideal temperature of about 60°F (15°C). The flower buds may drop if the temperature is much different from this.

A temperature of 68F (20C) is thought to extend the flowering period once the blooms have emerged.

Key Takeaways:

  • Christmas cactus loses its flower buds due to dry stress, changing temperatures, overwatering, and an excessive amount of artificial light at night.
  • For six weeks starting in September, Christmas cacti need evenly moist soil, higher humidity, and more hours of darkness than light.
  • The flower buds frequently try to orient toward more light and then drop off as a sign of stress if you move the cactus during flower bud production and change the direction of the brightest light.
  • When the buds are developing, keep the Christmas cactus at cooler temperatures and mist the leaves to raise the humidity.

How frequently should a Thanksgiving cactus be watered?

Never water until the soil seems dry to the touch. The plant can die if it is overwatered. Aim for 60 to 65 degrees F in the room’s temperature range and plenty of indirect light. If you already have a Thanksgiving cactus from the previous year, you should start temperature and light treatments in mid-September to ensure that it blooms on schedule.

Do the flowers on cacti fall off?

What causes my Christmas cactus’ buds to fall off before they open? I’ve had this plant for a while, and when I bring it inside after spending the summer outside in the shade, it’s happy and full of buds. I do occasionally get flowers that bloom, but a great deal more come off. I’m taking care to avoid over- or under-watering.

A sudden change in environment can occasionally stress Christmas cacti, causing them to lose their flower buds. If the decline appears a short time after bringing the plant back inside, that might account for it.

Christmas cacti aren’t genuine cacti, so they need more water than you might think—roughly equivalent to the needs of the majority of other tropical houseplants.

They were originally from tropical woods, so they really don’t like dry indoor air, which is one of the reasons plants specifically lose buds when moving from a humidity-controlled greenhouse to a dry home or from a more humid outdoor environment into a house that has the heat on for the winter.

Is it conceivable that the plant is being affected by drying air from a nearby heater vent or cold drafts from a nearby door if the bud drop doesn’t occur right away after the transfer indoors? That might be fixed quickly and easily with a small movement.

During the growing season, Christmas cactus benefits from a monthly application of houseplant fertilizer, but it sets flowers better when the fertilizer is discontinued about the middle of September.

Additionally, that’s when the plant requires nighttime darkness.

ideally, each night should be completely black for at least 14 hours. Is your plant located in a space with a lot of light? Or perhaps the plant isn’t obtaining the necessary darkness since it is exposed to sporadic light.

When they discovered the plants were being struck by light from automobile headlights as people were leaving for work in the morning, one of the producers at Longwood Gardens told me they were having difficulties getting their greenhouse poinsettias to develop color in late fall. The poinsettias were impacted by the dark interruption to a sufficient degree (which also want that full night of interrupted darkness to color). The plants took on a lovely hue when a cover was raised to shield the headlights.

Christmas cactus prefers somewhat bright light during the day. Therefore, if yours is in a dim area, that may potentially be impacting its flower power.

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Why are the flowers on my Thanksgiving cactus wilting?

Dry soil is a common cause of Christmas cactus bloom wilt. Watering a Christmas cactus can be challenging, and overwatering can lead to more serious issues like lethal stem or root rot. Be cautious and avoid overcorrecting.

You should wait to water the plant for the majority of the year until the soil feels just a little bit dry, and then water strongly until the entire root ball is saturated. Before placing the plant back in the pot, let the water completely drain from it. It’s vital to keep in mind that when the plant starts to bloom, slightly new strategies are required.

Water only enough to keep the potting mix constantly moist but never mushy or completely dry during the blooming season. Deep watering should be avoided at this time to avoid blossoms wilting and dropping due to damp roots. Additionally, avoid fertilizing the plant while it is in bloom.

The Christmas cactus prefers cold overnight temperatures between 55 and 65 F (12-18 C) during the blooming season from October on through the winter. Keep the plant away from heat vents, fireplaces, and cold drafts.

The Christmas cactus also requires a humidity level that is comparable to its native, tropical climate. Place the pot on top of a layer of pebbles in a plate or tray, then keep the pebbles damp to enhance the humidity surrounding the plant if the indoor air in your home is dry throughout the winter. Make sure the pot is resting on wet pebbles rather than directly in water since water that seeps into the soil through the drainage hole might lead to root rot.

How long do cactus blossoms last?

The popular Christmas cactus frequently develops into a family heirloom. With the right maintenance, you can keep this seasonal favorite in bloom for four to eight weeks.

To prolong the blooming period of your flowering Christmas cactus, keep it in a cool, sunny setting. Avoid hot and cold air drafts, moisture stress, and other environmental fluctuations. This may cause the loss of buds and flowers.

Water the soil thoroughly and frequently enough to maintain a light moisture level. Despite having a succulent-like appearance, this tropical plant requires a little more water.

Once the plant has done blooming, fertilize it with a diluted solution of fertilizer for flowering houseplants. Then, with your other indoor plants, relocate it to a window with natural light or under artificial lighting.

Your cactus will blossom again if you give it cooler, drier weather and, according to some experts, 14 hours each night of complete darkness. Beginning on October 1 will result in blooms by Christmas.

When blooming, do Christmas cacti require additional water?

Long-lived plants like the Christmas cactus are frequently passed down from one generation to the next. The cactus will thrive with deep, infrequent watering, so you may essentially ignore it. A Christmas cactus plant, on the other hand, will perish from root rot if it is overwatered and may end up on the compost pile. To avert this calamity, quick, deliberate action is needed to save a Christmas cactus that has become overwatered.

Christmas cacti are native to southeast Brazil’s coastal mountains. They are all members of the Schlumbergera genus, which is home to all of the Christmas cactus. Christmas cactus is not the typical drought-tolerant desert species because it receives abundant rain for a large portion of the year in its native habitat. After giving them a good soak, the soil should be allowed to almost completely dry off. They must be maintained reasonably moist while flowering, although Christmas cactus should not receive an excessive amount of water.

How frequently should a Christmas cactus be watered?

Christmas cacti are highly common indoor plants, and for good reason too! They produce vibrant, tubular flowers that are pink or purple in hue when they bloom. They are a superb plant because of their lovely blossoms, lengthy bloom period, and simple maintenance needs. Someone in your family most likely owns a Christmas cactus!

About Christmas Cacti

Unlike other cacti, the Christmas cactus(Schlumbergera x buckleyi) and its relatives don’t live in hot, arid environments such as deserts or plains. These epiphytic succulents, which grow on tree branches and take in the high humidity, dappled sunlight, and moderate temperatures, are actually endemic to the tropical rainforests of southern Brazil.

Bottom line: Don’t handle a Christmas cactus like a typical succulent or cactus. They are unable to withstand the same kind of hot, dry weather that other cactus can. These cacti require more frequent watering than most succulents, but you also need to be careful not to overwater them. (See the care guidelines in more detail below.)

Thanksgiving, Easter, or Christmas Cactus?

The Easter cactus (S. gaertneri), Thanksgiving cactus (S. truncata), and Christmas cactus are the three main varieties of “holiday cacti” that are available (S. x buckleyi). The holiday that each cactus is named after often sees the most blooming. Thanksgiving cacti, which often bloom from November to February and hence go unrecognized as Christmas cacti, make up the majority of “Christmas cacti” sold nowadays. See our post on the several Christmas cacti species and how to distinguish them for more information.

Note: Because it’s the most widely used term and it applies to all three of these species, we’ll refer to all three of them on this page as “Christmas cactus” for simplicity’s sake.

Potting Christmas Cacti

  • Choose a pot with a drainage hole on the bottom if you’re choosing one for a Christmas cactus. This prevents the soil from getting overly saturated.
  • Most succulent-specific potting mixtures work well for Christmas cacti growth. It’s crucial that your potting soil drains properly.

Where to Put a Christmas Cactus

  • Plants should be kept in indirect light that is bright. The best location has an east-facing window or a well-lit bathroom. The delicate leaves might be bleached by too much direct sunshine.
  • It is preferable to have a daytime temperature of 70F (21C) and an evening temperature of 60–65F (15–18C).
  • Christmas cacti do well in a more humid climate, so keeping them in a well-lit bathroom or kitchen is a smart idea.
  • Christmas cacti can be kept in a shady area of the garden or on an unheated porch during the summer until the temperature drops below 50F. (10C). Keep them away from the sun’s rays outside.

How to Care for Christmas Cacti

  • Water your plants every two to three weeks, but only when the top third of the soil feels dry to the touch. If the plant is in 6 inches of soil, for instance, water when the top 2 inches of soil feel dry. (Check with your finger!)
  • When the soil is completely dry, wet it until water seeps through the drainage holes in the pot. To collect the water, put a tray underneath the pot. To prevent the pot from sitting in water, remove any extra water on the tray after 10 to 15 minutes.
  • While the plant is in bloom, it’s very crucial to water thoroughly.
  • Feed your indoor plants with a balanced houseplant fertilizer every two weeks from spring through early fall. Feed the cactus once a month in the fall and winter to promote fruitful blooming.
  • To promote branching and more flowers, prune plants in the late spring. Simply cut a portion of each stem off; the plant will grow new branches from the incision.
  • If desired, plant the cut pieces in potting soil that is only gently damp; they will easily root after a few weeks and make wonderful Christmas gifts!

How to Get Your Christmas Cactus to Bloom

The longer evenings and chilly weather of fall are what cause Christmas cacti and its relatives to bloom. The three major varieties of holiday cacti typically bloom on the following schedule:

  • Thanksgiving cactus typically produce flowers from late October through mid-winter, making them the earliest and longest bloomers.
  • Christmas cacti often bloom in the early to midwinter months.
  • Easter cacti flower around the middle of spring through late winter.

If your cactus isn’t flowering, it can be getting too much light or being exposed to too much heat. Here are some suggestions to help you get blooms from yours!

  • For a minimum of six weeks, the nights must be at least 14 hours long and the days between 8 and 10 hours. You might need to cover your cactus or relocate it to an area that is exposed to the natural light cycle if you have powerful interior lighting that is on at night.
  • When the plant is kept at temps between 50 and 60F, flower buds form best (10 and 15C).
  • By subjecting the plant to temps around 45F (7C) for a number of nights in a succession, you can jumpstart the budding process.
  • While the plant is in bloom, be sure to water it consistently. The plant may lose its buds if it dries out too much.
  • Don’t worry if the cactus loses its buds one winter; the following year it should bloom.

The three primary varieties of “holiday cacti” are as follows:

  • Often mistaken for Christmas cacti, Thanksgiving cacti (Schlumbergera truncata) bloom from late October to mid-winter.
  • Christmas cacti (S. x buckleyi) flower in the early to midwinter months.
  • Late winter to mid-spring is the blooming period for Easter cacti (S. gaertneri).
  • Make sure to water your Christmas cactus frequently and keep it cool when the buds on the plant appear ready to open.
  • The optimum time to propagate cuttings is late spring when most holiday cacti start to grow after their winter hibernation.

Blossom loss: Your Christmas cactus will probably lose its blossoms if it experiences any kind of stress. As mentioned in the plant care section above, this could be caused by the amount of light or a sudden shift in temperature. Make sure your soil doesn’t become overly dry while buds are developing.

The plant could be vulnerable to mealy bugs and root rot if overwatered. If you experience issues, remove the affected sections and repot the plant in fresh soil.