Watering Thanksgiving cactus correctly is key to maintaining your plant and keeping it healthy and looking beautiful.
One of the biggest struggles people have with Schlumbergera truncata is giving it the perfect amount of moisture, without overdoing it.
So in this post I’m going to tell you how to figure out exactly when it’s time to water your plant, and the best way to do it.
You’ll also learn how often to irrigate your Thanksgiving cactus, the symptoms of over and under watering, how to adjust the schedule as your plant’s needs change throughout the seasons or it begins to flower, and much more.
Thanksgiving Cactus Water Requirements
Thanksgiving (aka November) cactus plants require consistently moist soil. They don’t like to dry out completely or have soggy or overly wet roots.
In nature, they are epiphytes that attach themselves to trees or rocks, where they get much of their moisture from the air rather than the ground.
Also, despite the common name, Schlumbergera truncata is actually a type of succulent plant, so it can’t survive the harsh drought conditions like desert cacti can. This is definitely confusing for new gardeners.
Does Thanksgiving Cactus Need A Lot Of Water?
Although they don’t need a lot of water, Thanksgiving cacti don’t like to dry out completely either. Instead, it’s best to maintain evenly moist soil, and only let it dry slightly between drinks.
Improper watering can result in problems like root rot, wilting or soft, mushy leaves, and even leaf, segment, and bud drop.
Best Type Of Water For Schlumbergera truncata
The good news is that Thanksgiving cactus plants aren’t sensitive to the salts and chemicals in tap water.
But I still prefer (and recommend) using distilled or rainwater, which are purer and more natural for them.
Regardless of the type you choose to use, make sure it is tepid, or at room temperature, as very hot or cold water can harm your plant. And if you do use city tap water, let it sit out for 24 hours so the chlorine can evaporate.
When To Water Thanksgiving Cactus
To figure out when to water your plant, check the soil regularly. Wait until it feels dry about 1″ deep before you give it another drink.
I don’t recommend watering your Schlumbergera truncata on a set schedule or based on the days on a calendar, because you’ll probably end up giving it too much.
Always check how moist or dry the soil feels to know when it’s time to water again.
How Do You Know When Your Thanksgiving Cactus Needs Water?
The best way to tell when your November cactus needs water is to push your finger into the top inch of the soil. If it feels dry, then it’s time to give your plant some water.
A simpler method is to use a moisture gauge – a small and inexpensive hygrometer probe that displays a reading telling you how much water is in the soil. A reading of around 1-3 means that your Thanksgiving cactus needs water.
Should I Water My Thanksgiving Cactus While It’s Blooming?
You should definitely water your Schlumbergera truncata while it’s blooming. It needs consistent moisture during flowering, so never let it dry out completely – but be careful not to overdo it either.
Over or under watering your plant while it’s blooming may cause the buds and flowers to drop off.
But when you’re forcing it to rebloom, you should allow the soil to dry out more between drinks, as this tells the plant that it’s time to take a rest before flowering. Then resume your regular schedule once it sets buds.
Do You Water Thanksgiving Cactus After It Blooms?
You should slow down on watering your plant after it blooms. Once your November cactus is done flowering it will need a brief rest and less water through the winter.
During this time, allow the soil to dry out more before watering again, but don’t let it dry completely. You can resume your regular schedule in the spring.
Learn more about what to do with your Thanksgiving cactus after it blooms here.
How Often To Water Thanksgiving Cactus
How often you need to water your Thanksgiving cactus depends on several factors, including the size or your plant, the time of year, and the environment.
Generally speaking, you will need to irrigate more often during the spring and summer, especially if it is in a hot and sunny spot outdoors, than you will in the colder months.
You should also consider the size of the container. Check a large pot every month, and smaller ones on a weekly basis.
How Often To Water In Spring & Summer
A Thanksgiving cactus requires more water throughout the spring and summer months, because this is when they grow the most.
Plus, higher temperatures and the scorching sun will dry it out faster. So, if yours is outside, check on it weekly to see when it needs water, otherwise check on your indoor plant every 2 to 3 weeks.
Then start reducing the amount of water you give it towards the end of summer to prepare it for fall.
How Often To Water In Fall & Winter
The lower temperatures and darker days of fall and winter will tell your Schlumbergera truncata that it’s time to rest, so it won’t need as much water during this time.
Let it dry out more in the fall to encourage flowers in November, then keep the soil evenly moist while the plant is blooming. Allowing it to dry out too much can cause the buds and/or flowers to drop.
Also bear in mind that your heating system may dry out the air in your home, increasing your plant’s need for water. Be sure to check it weekly to see if it’s time to give it a drink.
How Much To Water Thanksgiving Cactus
Your November cactus needs consistent moisture, but not too much. The roots are susceptible to rot, so they should never be soggy.
But make sure the soil never dries out completely either, as this can cause the leaves to wilt, or buds and flowers to drop.
It’s impossible to tell you exactly how much to water your plant, because the amount they need depends on so many factors.
So, always let the top inch of soil dry out before giving your plant a drink. You can use your finger or a moisture gauge to help you get the timing right.
Although Schlumbergera truncata likes consistent moisture, they won’t tolerate wet or saturated feet for very long.
Overwatering is their #1 killer, so it’s important to look out for the following signs that yours has had too much, and to cut back on the amount you’re giving your plant.
- Water pooling or wet, soggy soil
- Mushy, limp, or droopy leaves and branches
- Buds or flowers dropping
- Leaves and segments dropping
- Rotting stems and branches with a sour smell
- Soft, mushy roots
- Tiny gnats near the plant
Under Watering Symptoms
It’s less common for people to underwater their November cactus than to give them too much. But it’s still possible, so it’s important to know the signs.
Be careful not to confuse the symptoms of underwatering with those of overwatering – they can be very similar. Here are the signs it’s not getting enough.
- Light colored, dry soil
- Soil pulling away from the inside of the pot
- Limp or shriveling leaf segments
- Leaves look lighter in color
- Leaves turning brown
- Entire plant is drooping
- Buds or flowers dropping
Thanksgiving Cactus Watering Techniques
When it’s time to give your plant a drink, there are two different methods you can use – watering from either the top or the bottom.
I always recommend watering from the top, as soaking it up from the bottom almost always leads to root rot. Below I’ll talk about the details of both techniques, as well as the pros and cons.
Top Watering Thanksgiving Cactus
To water a Schlumbergera truncata from the top, pour it carefully over the soil until you see it briefly pooling on the surface and it starts flowing through the drainage holes in the bottom of the pot.
Avoid pouring it over the leaves, as they may rot if water sits on them for too long.
Allow all of the excess to drain away completely, and empty the drip tray before replacing the pot so your plant is never soaking.
Bottom Watering Thanksgiving Cactus
To water from the bottom, you fill the drip tray and allow the plant to absorb it through the drainage holes.
I don’t recommend using this method on a regular basis, however, as it makes it very easy to overwater your plant. That’s because the soil can feel dry on top, but the roots may be saturated.
The only time I’d consider this method is if the soil has completely dried out and will not absorb water when you pour it over the surface.
In that case, soak it for only about 20 minutes, or once it starts absorbing moisture, then empty the drip tray and let the excess water drain completely.
Here are the most common questions I get asked about watering Thanksgiving cactus. If you don’t see yours listed here, please add it to the comments section below.
How much water does a Thanksgiving cactus need?
Just how much water a Schlumbergera truncata needs depends on various factors, including its environment, size, location, and the time of year. The safest way to know for sure is to monitor the soil regularly, and only water when the top inch is dry.
Should Thanksgiving cactus be watered from the top or bottom?
I recommend watering your Thanksgiving cactus from the top rather than the bottom. This is the safest method, and it reduces the risk of soaking the roots, which may cause them to rot.
Do Thanksgiving cacti like to be misted?
Thanksgiving cacti do like to be misted if your indoor air is dry, as humidity is important for them to thrive. But be sure to mist lightly, because the leaves can rot or get spots on them if water sits on them for too long.
What does an overwatered Thanksgiving cactus look like?
An overwatered Thanksgiving cactus will look very droopy, with limp leaves and mushy roots or stems. You may also notice leaves and segments dropping, along with buds and flowers if it’s in bloom.
What is the correct way to water a Thanksgiving cactus?
The correct way to water a Thanksgiving cactus is to pour it slowly over the surface of the soil, allowing the excess to drain out the bottom of the pot. Empty the drip tray before returning the pot to avoid soaking the roots.
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More About Watering Plants
- How To Water Your Christmas Cactus
- How To Water Poinsettias
- How To Water A Cactus Plant
- How To Water Indoor Plants: The Ultimate Guide
Share your tips for watering Thanksgiving cactus in the comments section below.