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Repotting Thanksgiving Cactus: 3 Easy Steps (w/ photos)

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Repotting Thanksgiving Cactus (Schlumbergera truncata) does not have to be scary! These plants are often mislabeled as Christmas Cactus (Schlumbergera x buckleyi), but the process to repot is identical.

Keep reading to find out everything you wanted to know about repotting these beautiful epiphytic jungle cacti so that you can keep enjoying them for years to come.

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Does Thanksgiving cactus like to be root bound?

Yes they do, and it can even encourage a better flower display when root bound. But the time will come when your plant will need a bigger pot or else it will start to suffer.

When should you repot a Thanksgiving Cactus?

There are many indications that you can look for that will tell you when your Thanksgiving Cactus needs a bigger pot.

Some of the things I look for are:

  • When you feel the surface of the soil, it has become a hard mat of roots.
  • You may have roots coming out of the drainage hole.
  • You may have experienced both of the above items, and your soil has been drying out much more quickly than it used to.
  • Your plant’s growth has been suffering.
  • You plant has been in the same pot for more than 2-3 years.

If you can relate to at least one, if not more, of the items above, your plant may be root bound. You won’t know for sure unless you take it out of its pot and check though.

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My Thanksgiving Cactus in full bloom.

The best time to repot your plant is right after the blooming period ends, but it can be done at other times of the year if you really need to.

What kind of soil do you use for Thanksgiving cactus?

Thanksgiving Cactus are epiphytic plants native to the jungles of southeast Brazil. As epiphytes, they grow on trees and require a very well draining potting mix.

There are many types of mixes that you can use, as long as they exhibit sharp drainage. I personally like to use a good cactus mix to which I add some perlite or pumice for additional porosity and drainage.

REPOTTING THANKSGIVING CACTUS

1. Remove the plant from its pot and loosen the root ball

It can be tricky to remove plants from their pots sometimes. If you have your Thanksgiving cactus planted directed into a rigid pot (terra cotta, ceramic, etc.), I like to take an old knife and insert it into the inner edge of the pot (pushing it all the way to the bottom of the pot), and work my way around the entire perimeter of the pot.

This will loosen the root ball and make it easier to take the plant out.

If your plant is in a flexible, plastic nursery pot, simply squeeze the edges of the pot to loosen the root ball.

Tip the pot over on its side with one hand, and grasp the base of the plant with your other hand simultaneously. Then gently pull the plant out.

Next, it’s time to loosen the root ball. You’ll want to loosen up the roots a bit so that your plant can more easily grow roots into the new potting mix once you place it in a bigger pot.

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Simply grasp the root ball like I’m showing in the photo above, and dig your fingers into the bottom and loosen the roots up a bit.

Next, you’ll want to work around the sides and do the same thing.

repotting-thanksgiving-cactus

You don’t have to go too crazy, but dig your fingers in and poke some holes around the sides and gently tease some roots apart.

Don’t worry about breaking a couple roots along the way. Your plant will be fine, and you will be benefiting your plant.

2. Choose a pot

A good rule of thumb that I follow is to only go up ONE pot size. For example, in this case, I went from a 6 inch diameter pot to an 8 inch diameter pot. Don’t go any larger.

Why? If you use a pot that is much too big, there will be a large excess of potting mix and it will end up taking a lot longer for it to dry out. This can lead to issues like root rot down the line, so resist the urge.

And always plant into a pot with a drainage hole.

3. Pot up with a well-draining potting mix

I personally like to use the following mix for all my holiday cacti:

2 parts Espoma Cactus Mix with 1 part 1/4 inch pumice.

There are other mixes that can work, and you can certainly use perlite instead of pumice.

Some people even like to add orchid bark to their mixes. As long as you amend your mix with some materials to increase drainage and add more porosity, you will be fine.

Next, add a little potting mix to the bottom of the new pot. You’ll want your plant to sit at the same height that it was previously at in the old pot, so you may need to adjust the amount of potting mix at the bottom of the pot.

Next, add potting mix all around the perimeter of the pot, and gently press down to remove any large air pockets.

You’ll also want to keep about a half inch space between the soil line and the rim of the pot. This is so you can maintain a water reservoir when you water.

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Leave about a half inch between the rim of the pot and the soil line. This photo was before watering, so the level of the soil went down a bit more once the potting mix settled.

If you fill your pot completely to the top with potting mix, you can easily make a mess when you water and splash soil all over the place.

Lastly, go ahead and water, let all the excess water drain away, and place your plant back in front of its window.

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My newly repotted Thanksgiving Cactus

The photo above shows my newly repotted Thanksgiving cactus, and I absolutely love the hanging pot. I purchased my Mkono 8 inch hanging planter from Amazon.

They come in many sizes, but I love them because they have a high quality construction and come with a plastic plug at the bottom. When you water, you can let everything drain, and then place the plug back so you don’t get any leftover drips on your floor.

The Mkono 8 inch hanging planter also has a very sturdy, built-in polyester rope to hang your plant, and they also come in different sizes as well. I have several at home!

For more information on caring for these plants, check out my blog post on general care and flowering tips for Thanksgiving Cactus and Christmas Cactus.

You can also check out my corresponding YouTube video where I show you step-by-step how I repotted my Thanksgiving cactus.

Do you have a Thanksgiving Cactus? Comment below. I’d love to hear!

Selina Scott

Saturday 30th of April 2022

I have about 6 thanksgiving cacti all need repotting, thank you very much for the tips! I love reading your articles! Also your advice is making my phals grow again!

Raffaele

Sunday 1st of May 2022

So happy to hear that Selina! :-)