University of Maryland Extension

Crab Cactus

Text and photo by Ellen Nibali

Crab cactus, Thanksgiving cactus, Claw cactus,

Schlumbergera truncate

Jungle cactus seems like an oxymoron, but in the wild the plant family of crab cactus inhabits debris in the crotches of tropical trees. Like its cousin Christmas cactus, crab cacti bloom around holiday time. (Bloom time can be manipulated.)  The odd stems are composed of flat segments with prongs (the “claws”), and the curious flowers swell directly from the tip segment. Up to 3” long and ranging from white to red, flowers appear to grow out of each other. Blooming can last for weeks. Crab cactus enjoys medium light (never direct sunlight) and summer humidity outdoors. Fertilize biweekly and keep thoroughly moist spring to fall (though don’t stand in water), reducing water and halting fertilizer in winter after flowering. Propagates easily from a few segments.


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