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Pest of the Christmas and Thanksgiving Cactus

Written by Mindy on November 18th, 2015

Oh, the holidays bring to the nurseries some of the most unique plants and this is the case with the Christmas and Thanksgiving cactus.  The first thing you may be thinking is that the Christmas and Thanksgiving cactus is the same.  The only difference is when it is forced to bloom.  While each one is forced to bloom for that holiday, there is a difference and it can be seen in the leaves.

A Thanksgiving cactus will have two to four saw-toothed serrations on the margins of the leaf segments.  On the other hand, the Christmas cactus has more rounded serrations on the leaf segments.  Now that you know the difference, let’s take a look at the pests that prey on these holiday plants.


The first set of issues is not caused by “pests” instead it is caused by management.  The holiday cactus will respond to environmental issues in a lot of ways.  This can range from not setting blooms to dropping blooms.  Both of these issues can be caused by change in temperature, too wet soil or too dry soil, and not enough light or light at the wrong time.  What I mean by the latter is the fact that the holiday cactus requires a long, dark period to set blooms.  While your plant can be placed in a completely dark room, there are times when light sneaks in from sources that you never really consider.  This includes light coming in through a window from the street and cars driving by.  Another source is light coming from under closed doors.  To prevent bloom loss, always check the soil prior to watering.  Also, make sure that your plant is in complete darkness to help set and keep the blooms.

Another issue that the Christmas and Thanksgiving suffers from is root rot.  This problem is caused when the planting medium is kept too wet.  As stated before, always check the moisture level of the soil.

The pests that prey on the holiday cactus include aphids, mealybugs, red spider mites, fungus gnats, and soft brown scale.  While these pests normally do not kill the plant, you do not really want these pests in your home.  The first line of defense is to spray the cactus off with a hard burst of water.  This will dislodge the pest.  Next, make sure that there is open space around the leaves for air circulation.  Many of these pests love an environment that is moist and increasing the amount of air around the leaves will help eliminate the problem.  Finally, in the case of soft brown scale, remove leaves that are affected and throw them away.


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