Thanksgiving cactus question

quinnfyre(z7 PA)July 21, 2011

I'm curious, is there a reason why a healthy looking Thanksgiving cactus keeps dropping bits of itself every couple days? I water it when it goes dry, and it is in a west window. I almost feel like it is trying to propagate itself, but I'm not sure, which is why I'm asking. I've just been sticking the bits back in the pot if I'm taking it down to water it, or just sticking the bits in the geranium's pot below until the next time I take the pot down. The bits look pretty healthy too. The largest are a little bigger than finger length, the smallest are just under thumb length. I have an average to small size hand :)

In case it matters, this one blooms a peach color, and has a more succulent feel to it than the other one I have, which is bright pink, and in the same west window (and not dropping bits of itself). It also tends to look more branched out. The pink one has much flatter leaves and grows bushy, and blooms far less often. The peach one is a very reliable bloomer.


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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

Hi, Quinn!

First question I ask is always about potting mix.

These plants will often drop segments/limbs if the roots are rotting from too much moisture,
if the roots are bound in the container, or if the plant is not getting enough light to maintain
its foliage. So, if other plants in the same location are receiving enough light, then you'll
probably want to examine the roots.


    Bookmark   July 21, 2011 at 11:33AM
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quinnfyre(z7 PA)

Hmmm, it may be rootbound. I doubt it is rotting, it often goes quite dry before I water it because we don't keep the house very cool (about 80-85 degrees) and it is very near the ceiling, so it can get quite warm up there which dries it out faster. It gets plenty of light, and may in fact get a little too much, as it goes reddish in the part facing the window directly. I've repotted it semirecently, maybe 1-2 months ago, but mainly to knock the old medium off and add new mix and some osmocote. I will take it down today and take a look. It will give me a chance to put the bits back into the pot too. The other one is on the sill instead of hanging in the window, so I think it gets less light.

    Bookmark   July 21, 2011 at 3:40PM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

But what sort of mix are you using?

These are jungle cacti and they like moisture...frequent moisture that dries quickly.
Imagine growing in the crook of a tree with some bark, leaves, and other debris,
with frequent rains that soak everything but don't leave water standing near the roots.

So, given your watering habits, perhaps it has gotten too dry and has lost roots....
in which case, it would drop those segments associated with the lost roots.
This is all just guessing, of course ;-)


    Bookmark   July 21, 2011 at 3:54PM
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quinnfyre(z7 PA)

Ok, I think it may actually be getting sunburned. Also, I think it hates its pot. I have noticed this before, but the way the pot is shaped, it doesn't completely dry out at the bottom. If I had any ingredients for Al's mix, I'd go make up a batch, but I will make do with what I have, I think, and repot it to another pot entirely to boot. I believe I have been keeping it better watered this year. Usually it stays quite dry. I am fond of it but it is among the 'expendables' downstairs. I don't mean that to sound as bad as it does, but I have to keep plants that are not my favorites in the common areas. That way, if the roommates decide they feel like moving things around (and they see plants as decorative objects to be placed at their convenience and not for optimal plant growth) I won't be colossally annoyed. But this one has been so faithful that I'd like to treat it to a better pot/mix and a spot upstairs with me.

In any case, any location change I'll be doing in this house will ultimately be temporary, as I am planning on moving out of the state in a few months. And living all by myself :) Plants can go where they want.

    Bookmark   July 21, 2011 at 4:28PM
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pirate_girl(Zone7 NYC)

Hey Quinn,

Can I pls. jump in here? You don't necessarily need Al's mix (not that there's anything wrong w/ it). I sometimes grow mine in AV (African Violet) mix w/ about 1/3 more perlite added to it. It's light & fluffy & drains well.

I agree it's unlikely rootbound, these plants tend to have smallish roots.

I'm w/ Josh on this, it's a mix &/or drainage problem if you're not overwatering. You may find the mix hardened off & the plant less able to drink. In that case, one can soak the whole thing in a basin of room temp water for a little while to try & let some water soak in while one makes other arrangements.

I hear that you're moving soon, but still, would it be terrible to suggest to the roommates that you place the plants w/ care & consideration & if they wouldn't mind very much might they pls. leave them where they are?

PS: doubt it's sunburn, mine are in a west window & get some direct sun, just redden/purple up a bit on the new segments, but there's no segment/branch drop.

I've never had a peach one, sounds beautiful, I've seen a couple of 'em. Good luck.

    Bookmark   July 21, 2011 at 10:50PM
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quinnfyre(z7 PA)

It's not a matter of needing Al's mix, in particular, but wanting something chunkier that drains well without compacting. The most recent repotting was actually to remedy that situation you brought up. It was compacted and the soil ball had come away from the sides. I did help it out by letting it soak a bit with each watering but I finally decided enough was enough and gave it fresh mix. I still think it gets sort of stodgy at the bottom, which is why I'm just going to change the pot to something else entirely.

In this window, it gets direct sun from about just after noon until a bit before the sun sets. It's almost completely unobstructed. There are parts of it that look like sunburn holes, and burnt edges along some of the segments. It's enough light to bloom a geranium regularly, and bleach out a Hoya pubicalyx to pale yellow. Roommates don't tend to move the kitchen plants, but the living room ones have gotten moved around a bunch of times. It doesn't really bother me, but these aren't the plants I am fussy about. The hoyas and orchids are the ones I don't want other people messing with, so they reside with me in my room.

It is a nice one, I found it at Trader Joe's a few years ago as a tiny little thing. It has large peach blooms and really does bloom right at Thanksgiving. Hopefully I can get it to bloom in my new place as well. It blooms way better than the bright pink one, which has never given me any more than one bloom at a time. Oh well, I don't mind; it is very attractive as a plant.

    Bookmark   July 21, 2011 at 11:40PM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

Good morning, Quinn!

Hey, I just read at the Hoya Forum that you have bark left over (but not turface or grit).
If so, I wouldn't hesitate to re-pot this jungle cactus in a mostly bark mix, with some
perlite added for good measure. If that dries out too quickly, add a pinch of potting soil
to bind the ingredients together. This is basically Al's 5-1-1.


    Bookmark   July 22, 2011 at 11:51AM
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quinnfyre(z7 PA)

Yup, I think that's the plan! I think it will be bark, perlite, maybe a bit of charcoal, maybe a bit of coco husk fiber. I just have to decide what pot I want it in. I thought I had something in mind available, but I don't see it. It may end up going in a 5 or 6 in clear plastic square orchid pot, but the square shape can be a little awkward sometimes. I'll figure it out tomorrow after work. Right now I'm trying not to melt. The temp near the ceiling in my room is 89 degrees. And that's with a window AC unit going. The downside of living on the third floor.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2011 at 7:51PM
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