Why is My Thanksgiving Cactus Turning Purple?

With its beautiful flowers and distinctive shape, the Thanksgiving cactus (Schlumbergera truncata) is a welcome addition to any home. Originally a resident of the rainforests in Brazil, this tropical epiphyte has adapted admirably to indoor conditions and gives plant enthusiasts both color as well as an unusual growth habit. In this guide, we take a closer look at the many wonderful features of the Thanksgiving cactus and offer some tips for its care.

Origin and Background:

Despite the name, Thanksgiving cacti don’t actually belong to the cactus family proper. In their natural habitat, they are epiphytic—they grow on trees. Its common name is due to the fact that it usually blooms around Thanksgiving in the Northern Hemisphere.

Why is My Thanksgiving Cactus Turning Purple
By Schlumbergera_06_ies.jpg: Frank Vincentzderivative work: Peter coxhead (talk) – Schlumbergera_06_ies.jpg, CC BY-SA 3.0,

Distinctive Features:

1. Leaf Structure:

Thanksgiving cacti differ from traditional ones in that their stems are flattened and segmented, giving them a leaf-like appearance. The plant’s distinctive appearance comes from the toothed-edged stems.

2. Breathtaking Blooms:

The real eye-catchers are the brilliant, tube flowers that sprout out of the stem segments. They can often display shades of pink, red, white, and sometimes purple. This lends them somewhat of a festive air in any environment.

Growing and Care Tips:

1. Light Requirements:

Put your Thanksgiving cactus in bright, indirect light. It can take some direct sun, but long periods may damage the leaves.

2. Temperature:

Temperatures should be kept moderate, between 60-70°F (15-24°C). Shield the plant from drafts, as harsh temperature changes can lead to stress.

3. Watering:

Maintain the soil evenly moist, but not waterlogged. Water when the top inch of soil feels dry and don’t forget to use less water after it has bloomed.

My Thanksgiving Cactus Turning Purple
By Leo Michels – Own work, Public Domain,

Blooming Season and Dormancy:

The Thanksgiving cacti also bloom in late fall, just as we are approaching the holiday season. After blooming, they go through a dormant period. At this time decrease watering and provide a cooler environment to stimulate bud formation for the next flowering cycle.


Propagation of Thanksgiving cacti from stem cuttings is very easy. Wait a day or two, then plant the cuttings in a good potting mixture that drains well. Keep the soil consistently moist until roots form.

Factors Turning the Thanksgiving Cactus in Purple:

The colorful Thanksgiving cactus is renowned for its rich palette of reds, pinks, and oranges but what happens when the hues suddenly veer into shades of purple? If you’ve ever been intrigued by this botanical mystery, don’t worry—you aren’t alone. So let’s take a look at some of the possible causes for this intriguing phenomenon.

1. Environmental Stress:

Thanksgiving cacti are easily prone to changes in their environment. The plant becomes temporarily purple under sudden changes in temperature, light, or humidity. This is stressful for the salt marigold. A stable environment can help alleviate this color shift.

Thanksgiving Cactus turned Purple
By Peter coxhead – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

2. Lighting Exposure:

The color of your cactus depends heavily on the quantity and quality of light it receives. However insufficient or excessive light may result in pigmentation changes. Place the plant somewhere in the interior that has enough bright, indirect sunlight.

3. Temperature Fluctuations:

It is not cold-resistant, so extreme temperatures or drafts can stress it and affect its color. If a stable temperature in the mid-range is kept, there will be no drastic color changes.

4. Nutrient Imbalance:

Thanksgiving cacti, like all plants, need a proper diet. Lack of essential nutrients is detrimental to their health and color. Perhaps during the growing season, an appropriate fertilizer for cacti could be applied as required.

5. Watering Woes:

Either overwatering or under-watering will stress the cactus and affect its color. Maintain an optimal amount of moisture in the soil by watering regularly, allowing it to become a bit dry between soakings.

Thanksgiving Cactus Turning Purple in winter
By User:chevin – Own work, Public Domain,

6. Natural Growth Cycle:

Natural color changes also take place in the growth cycle of cacti, including the Thanksgiving C tree. It could be related to factors like age and the changing seasons. Knowing the plant’s natural beat will help you read these oscillations.

7. Genetic Factors:

Also, depending on the particular genetics of your Thanksgiving cactus that may account for some color differences. Although the species naturally expresses purple hues in some genetic variations.


Although a Thanksgiving cactus that’s purple looks intriguing or alarming, there are various factors involved in this interesting phenomenon. With a bit of effort in terms of environmental conditions, light exposure, and nutrition then combining this with some knowledge about its natural growth cycle you can help your Thanksgiving cactus to flourish and experience perennial color. Adequate attention and care will make your plant a healthy, visually impressive specimen for your collection.