Schlumbergera truncata: Thanksgiving cactus

Family: Cactaceae
Common name: Thanksgiving cactus, Holiday cactus, False Christmas cactus, Crab cactus, Lobster cactus, Claw cactus

Thanksgiving cactus plants looks less like a cactus and more like a beautifully unique, succulent flowering plant, with their flattened stems and bright flowers. They are also called False Christmas cactus, although these is some confusion on which species of Schlumbergera is the true Christmas cactus.

Depending on the time of flowering, there is Christmas cactus, Easter cactus and Thanksgiving cactus. Thanksgiving cactus flowers during October-November with bright flowers in red, pink, orange or white colors.

These plants can grow to a height of 40-60 cms with long trailing stems that are made up of small segments, each segment about 4-6 cms.

These segments have serrations or teeth around the edges, and also at the tip where it connects which the next segments. These teeth look like crab or lobster claws, giving the plant its names Crab cactus and Lobster cactus.

The tip of these segments in Thanksgiving cactus looks like they are cut, or trimmed abruptly and hence the name truncata. Thanksgiving cactus flowers are tubular, about 8-12 cms long with a single plane of symmetry. Stamens and style are very prominent yellow with white filaments.

Thanksgiving cacti also produce small red fruits that are 1-2 cms long, bearing shiny, black seeds that are about 1 mm long. These plants are native to the tropical rain forests of Brazil, and are capable of growing as epiphytes on trees. They also grow in rock crevices, but mostly in partial shade.

The plants cannot withstand too much sunlight, as it would cause the stem edges to brown. Thanksgiving cacti can easily be grown in gardens and even indoors near bright windows. There are many cultivars of these cacti introduced all over the world, with small variations in stem structure and flowers.

Like any other cacti or succulents, overwatering is a big risk resulting in root rot. The soil should be moist and well-drained, and watering should be done only 2-3 times a week, cutting down the frequency even further during winter and rainy season.

Regular fertilization will help the plant bloom well. After blooming, the plant becomes dormant during winter, when the fertilization and watering should be reduced.

Thanksgiving cacti do not need regular repotting since these plants prefer to remain in the same pot for many years. They are perfect for hanging pots or baskets with their long, arching stems falling gracefully over the edges.

Propagation can be easily done by planting the segments of stem. They should be twisted away from the parent plant and allowed to form calluses before they are planted in a succulent soil mix.