- Christmas Cactus: Why to Provide Your Home with the One?
- How To Bloom
- How to Plant
- How To Care
- Holiday Cactus Varieties: What Are The Different Types Of Holiday Cactus
- Different Types of Holiday Cactus
- UConn Home & Garden Education Center
- Holiday Cacti
- What to know about the 3 types of holiday cacti | Centre Daily Times
- How Can You Tell the Difference Between…
- Why are they so hard to identify?
- Differences in the stems (1) of the Christmas, Thanksgiving and Easter Cactus
- Differences in the flowers of the Holiday Cactus
- Differences in the general shape of the Holiday Cactus
- Other Interesting Differences
- Miscellaneous Side Notes
- Other Helpful References
Christmas Cactus: Why to Provide Your Home with the One?
When a holiday season is approaching we wish to surround ourselves with festive atmosphere. And festive-looking plants is an excellent idea for the house decoration. Cacti are charming and unpretentious in planting and care.
They are not considerably prone to diseases and pests. Christmas cacti bloom every year and live longer than other popular plants. Why not to plant one of blooming cacti at home?
There are a few kinds of holiday cacti, like Christmas cactus, Easter cactus and Thanksgiving cactus, which bloom periods occur respectively during the mentioned holidays. We are going to highlight the specific features and the difference between this sucu and other holiday cacti.
Christmas cactus is referred to the genus Schlumbergera. This is scientific name . It originates from Brazil and South America, where it grows like an epiphyte plant upon the trees’ stems and branches or in the soil, near the roots of the trees.
How To Bloom
Cacti are amazing, especially when they are blooming. It has rounded leaf lobes and flower coloring varying from pink and purple to white and red varieties.
The range of shapes and colors of Christmas cactus, however, is supplied with new hybrids annually. You may come across peach, yellow, lavender, orange-red, salmon colors and multicolored flowers.
All these colors fit the joyful atmosphere of Christmas perfectly and will match greatly with the other items of your home décor.
White Xmas cactus is an excellent present, especially for a lady. Its tender snow-white petals with pink specks in the center can’t leave anyone indifferent to its delicate beauty.
If you want your cactus to bloom plentifully, start providing it with 12-hour dark treatments, i.e. simply keep your plant in the dark during the night time.
How to Plant
Cacti needs well-drained soil for planting. Peat moss with sand (1:1) will do fine. You may plant the cactus from a stem cutting or purchase a young plant in a small pot that you will later re-plant to a bigger container.
If you are planting the cactus from a stem cutting, make sure that the cutting has 3 segments or more. Push the cutting into the planting soil so that 25% of the lower segment is buried into the soil.
After planting, keep the cactus in the place where it will be getting indirect sunlight. Put the plant in the light but not in a sunny place. Direct sun rays are harmful for the cactus.
Mist the soil lightly. New growth is expected in about 2 weeks after planting. Until it appears, mist the soil just slightly.
Get to regular watering only after the cactus shows its new growth.
Many people, having a holiday cactus aren’t quite sure, which exactly kind they have. Christmas and Thanksgiving cacti look very much the same So what’s the difference? Look attentively at your cactus.
If you have a plant with even petal distribution and rounded leaves, you are growing a Christmas cactus. One-sided petal distribution and pointed leaves are characteristic features for Thanksgiving cactus.
Xmas cactus is truly a magical plant. It’s getting ready to impress you with its stunning blossom when all the other species of cacti are preparing for the winter quiet period.
Once you master the main principles of the care for this cacti, you will enjoy the charming blossom of a healthy plant every winter during the next 20 years and longer! The cactus will fill your room harmoniously with its exotic beauty.
How To Care
Once you see Christmas cactus in all its beauty of the stunning blossom, you simply can’t resist acquiring this grand plant. And this is a very right decision. This kind of cactus with little care will decorate your dwelling successfully for the next few decades. Growing cacti isn’t difficult at all. You must simply take into account the basic principles of its care. Here they are.
10 Main Principles for the Luxuriously Blooming Holiday Cactus
Christmas cactus is a quite unpretentious plant. But its care differs a lot from the care needed for regular cacti.
- Christmas cacti require a well-illuminated place or semi-shadow, as it doesn’t tolerate direct sun light. Opt for a light place on a not too warm window-sill, facing the northern, eastern or western side.
- The plant doesn’t like to change its location, that’s why try not to move it from place to place without need. This rule is especially crucial for the bloom period. The cactus may shed its buds and flowers if relocated during its blooming.
- The best temperature for the plant is 12-16° С.
- In summer period (till the middle of October) it’s better to move the cactus to the garden or balcony in the shadow.
- Cactus doesn’t like drying up but it will not be happy when overly moistened either. That will cause its sensitive roots to rot.
- The best time to repot cactus is spring or summer, when it’s blooming period is over.
- In summer the plant suffers from high temperatures and low air humidity. That’s why it’s recommended to spray cactus with water.
- From March till October it’s highly advisable to fertilize the plant with a mineral fertilizer for the cacti every 2 weeks.
- Starting from September, watering of the cactus need to be reduced. As soon as new buds and leaves appear, the plant must be relocated into a warm place (up to 20°С) and its watering needs to be increased.
- A short day and low temperature encourage development of flower buds. As soon as they appear the plant has to be moved to a warmer room (up to 22°С), where it’s going to stay all the blooming period through.
Well-drained soil for cactus will prevent water stagnation and spreading of fungal diseases, causing root rotting. To make sure your cactus will strike the root and produce the new healthy growth fast, purchase sterile soil mixture. Opt for one of these:
- peat and sand (1:1)
- perlite (70%) and peat (30%)
- vermiculite (70%) and peat (30%)
How To Root
That time is needed to let a cutting cover the place where it was pinched off with callus. While the cuttings are drying, prepare the planting medium.
Water the soil mixture and let it drain for about 30 minutes. Place the cutting into the soil about 1 inch deep.
It’s better to plant a few cutting at the same time as one of them may not strike root. Cover the planted cactus with a transparent plastic bag.
Place the plant into a warm place in a shadow. Moist the soil and keep plastic bag on for approximately 3 weeks until the cactus shows a new growth. Then, remove the plastic bag and care for your cactus on a regular basis.
As you see, with a desire, little patience and care, you may enjoy one miracle more for Christmas time. Abundantly blooming Christmas cactus is truly an amazing spectacle, almost a miracle.
Your Christmas Cactus may bloom on it own, but if not, here’s what to do. It can take a little effort, but when it’s covered in flowers, it’s so worth it.
I’ve been growing Christmas Cactus since I was a little girl. We had quite a few of them in our greenhouse in Connecticut which bloomed at the holidays with no effort at all. Now I grow them in my garden in Santa Barbara where they enjoy our year round temperate climate. Even if mine didn’t bloom, I’d love them anyway because of their unusual, appealing foliage and somewhat wacky growth habit.
This epiphytic tropical cactus goes by Schlumbergia x buckleya or bridsii in botanic circles and has a somewhat confusing history regarding their genus. There is also a Thanksgiving Cactus, Schlumbergia truncata, so if yours blooms earlier then it could be this 1 and not the Christmas Cactus.
Mine is actually a Thanksgiving Cactus but was sold as a Christmas Cactus as many of them are. Sometimes the 2 are just called Holiday Cactus but regardless of which 1 you actually have, you get them to bloom in the same way.
Here I am with 1 of my Christmas Cactus in my side garden giving you some blooming tips:
There are a few things I want to tell you about the Christmas Cactus flowers & related tidbits before I get to the blooming part. This is just in case you’re brand new to this popular holiday houseplant!
1- They bloom at the end of the leaves (which are technically stems) & are quite prolific bloomers especially as they age.
2- Each individual bloom lasts 5-7 days, depending on the temps. They tend to bloom in stages so the flowering should last for 3-6 weeks.
3- They originally had red flowers but now hybrids are sold in white, pink, magenta, lavender & peach.
4- You can remove the flowers as they die, just simply pinch them off.
5- They bloom best when tight in their pots so don’t rush to repot them every year.
6- If yours doesn’t flower the 1st year, 1 of the reasons could be that it’s simply be acclimating to the dry air in your home.
7-Remember, this is a tropical cactus not a desert cactus.
This Christmas Cactus of mine grows nestled between my Variegated Pineapples & Neoregelias along the driveway.
I did a video on Christmas Cactus care last year which you can find in the video at the end of this post. I do virtually nothing to mine growing in the garden except water them more often than my other succulents.
I never let them go completely dry, and if you do, the leaves tend to shrivel and turn reddish. Mine that you see in the video is reddish because it was getting more sun this summer but now is getting much less as we head into winter. The change in color is due to environmental stress.
Your Christmas Cactus (or Holiday Cactus in general) may flower on it’s own, depending on the conditions. It needs to go into a dormant cycle to get it to bloom again.
Here’s what you do to get your Thanksgiving or Christmas Cactus to bloom again:
1- 12 – 14 hours of darkness per day. It needs to get this reduction in light approximately 8 weeks before you want it to bloom.
2- To be kept drier. Wait until the top 1/4 to 1/2 of the soil dries out before watering again. This could be anywhere from every 3-6 weeks depending on the temps, the mix it’s in & the size & type of pot it’s planted in.
3- A temperature kept between 50 & 65 degrees F.
As I said, it can take a bit of effort to move it into a closet or basement every night but perhaps you have a spare room which naturally has these conditions. It’s now October 12th so you may want to start this process soon. After the buds start to appear, then you can move it back to a bright spot, resume the care you were previously giving it and enjoy the beautiful flowers.
This 1 has reddish tinges because of the amount of sun it’s receiving. If more shaded in summer, it will be more green.
By the way, there’s another extremely popular flowering holiday plant which requires conditions similar to this to bloom again and that is the poinsettia. You’ll see 1 in the video growing just down the street from me which is just starting to change color. Poinsettias are trickier to grow as a houseplant much less getting it to bloom again so it’s best to stick with the Christmas Cactus.
Mine grow outside and naturally set buds later in fall because these changes naturally occur as we get darker and cooler. I think they’re especially attractive in hanging baskets and a welcome sight in stores, nurseries and flower shops come holiday time. An old favorite that gets extra attention come December!
Holiday Cactus Varieties: What Are The Different Types Of Holiday Cactus
The three common holiday cacti, named for time of year the blooms appear, include Thanksgiving cactus, Christmas cactus and Easter cactus. All three are easy to grow and have similar growth habits and care requirements.
Although these familiar cacti are traditionally available in shades of red, today’s holiday cactus varieties come in magenta, pink and scarlet, as well as yellow, white, orange, purple, salmon and apricot. Although all three are native to Brazil, Thanksgiving and Christmas cactus are tropical rain forest plants, while Easter cactus is native to Brazil’s natural forests.
Different Types of Holiday Cactus
The three types of Christmas cactus plants (holiday cacti), are primarily recognized by the time of bloom. Thanksgiving cactus blooms in late autumn, about a month before Christmas cactus. Easter cactus displays buds in February and blooms around Easter.
Different types of holiday cactus are also differentiated by the shape of their leaves, which are actually plump, flat stems. Thanksgiving cactus is often known as lobster cactus because the edges of the leaves are hooked, giving them a claw-like appearance. Christmas cactus leaves are smaller with smooth edges, and Easter cactus leaves have a more bristled appearance.
Unlike regular, desert-dwelling cactus, holiday cacti are not drought-tolerant. During active growth, the plants should be watered whenever the surface of the potting mix feels dry to the touch. Drainage is critical and the pots should never stand in water.
After flowering, water the holiday cactus sparingly until the plant completes its normal dormant period and new growth appears. A period of relative dryness is especially important for Easter cactus, which isn’t a tropical plant.
Holiday cactus prefers dark nights and relatively cool temperatures between 50 and 65 degrees F./10 and 18 degrees C.
Holiday cactus is easy to propagate by breaking off a stem with two to five segments. Set the stem aside until the broken end forms a callus, then plant the stem in a pot filled with a mixture of sand and sterile potting mix. Be sure the pot has a drainage hole in the bottom. Otherwise, the stem is likely to rot before it develops roots.
UConn Home & Garden Education Center
The group of plants referred to as holiday cacti includes the Thanksgiving cactus, Schlumbergera truncates, the Christmas cactus, Schlumbergera bridgesii, and the Easter cactus, Schlumbergeragaertneri. Their common names were derived from the holiday closest to their traditional bloom dates, although over the last few decades much hybridization has taken place and today’s newer developments have a more extensive blooming period.
More than 300 years ago, Spanish explorers brought some of these plants from their expeditions to South America back to their native Spain. Monks tended these new discoveries in their monastery gardens. The tropical cacti burst into brilliant red blooms just in time to decorate the chapels for Christmas and they have been in demand for holiday color ever since.
The color range has been greatly expanded to include white, yellow, orange, apricot, salmon, and bicolors as well as pink, red, scarlet and magenta. Newer hybrids also tend to be more erect with upward facing flowers. Some of the older varieties are especially well-suited to hanging baskets with their graceful drooping baskets and downward facing flowers.
Individual blooms last about a week with the whole display continuing for almost a month. Hybrids may lengthen the seasonal show but because their flowering times are manipulated by growers through the judicious use of light and temperature, their typical bloom times under your particular growing conditions may not be discovered until the following year.
Three Common Holiday Cacti
The three common species of holiday cacti can be differentiated by the shape of their ‘leaves’. The leaves are most accurately described as flattened stem segments or ‘phylloclades’. They do not have any true leaves. The Thanksgiving cactus is sometimes know as the crab’s claw or lobster cactus because the outer leaf margins are pointed like hooks or claws. Christmas cacti have smaller, smooth edged stem segments, and Easter cacti exhibit bristles at the end of each leaf and in between the segment joints.
All three varieties are easy to grow, have similar cultural requirements and are not difficult to propagate. Their habitat is the Brazilian rain forest where they grow on the high branches of tropical trees. Holiday cacti are epiphytes meaning they physically grow on other plants but do not parasitize or derive carbohydrates from them. They are often found in the crotches of trees and get their water and nutrients from decaying organic matter, filtered sunlight and rainwater.
S. truncates, Thanksgiving Cactus (top) and S. bridgesii, Christmas Cactus (bottom)
Their growth habits explain the preference of holiday cacti species for potting mixes high in organic matter. Commercial peat-based mixes are fine but if a homemade one is desired, one source suggests 2 parts peat moss to 1 part perlite to 1 part sand.
Holiday cacti are indeed true cacti but they are not as drought tolerant as their desert-dwelling relatives. Their potting mix should be kept moderately moist. During periods of active growth, plants should be watered whenever the soil begins to feel dry to the touch. Holiday cacti require excellent drainage and plants should not be allowed to sit in saucers filled with water. Plants can be fertilized once a month from April to October with a water-soluble, balanced fertilizer such as 20-20-20 or the equivalent. Ideally the middle number (phosphorus) on the fertilizer package should be the same or higher than the first number (nitrogen) for optimum blooms. Also plants prefer a slightly acidic potting mix with a pH of between 5.5 and 6.5. Check the pH before adding limestone to their potting medium.
Holiday cacti do not require frequent repotting. Usually once every three years is sufficient. Check the drainage holes for excessive root growth and repot in spring if necessary. Although somewhat slow growing, holiday cacti are extremely long-lived producing a more spectacular show each year and it is not uncommon for them to live for decades if well cared for.
After holiday cacti finish flowering, cut back on water slightly until new growth appears. Then resume a regular watering and fertilizing regime. Plants can be pruned in late spring to encourage branching. Removed pieces consisting of several segments can be rooted in moist vermiculite or perlite to make more plants.
Remove 2 to 5 segment sections and leave them out overnight to dry. Callous tissue will form on the cut or pinched end. Place the cut end about 1 inch deep in the moistened vermiculite or perlite and place the whole container in a clear plastic bag. Secure the bag around the pot or flat. Place it in a bright area but not in direct sunlight. Check the cuttings after a few weeks for roots by gently tugging on them. Once the roots are an inch or more in length, move the cuttings into individual pots filled with peat-based potting medium.
Post Holiday Care and Initiation of Bloom
Most holiday cacti will appreciate being set outside in a shady place during the summer months. When the temperatures drop below 50º F, it is time to bring them back inside and discontinue fertilizing. For flower buds to form, plants need to be exposed to 4 to 5 weeks of total darkness for 12 to 14 hours a day or nighttime temperatures around 55º F. Short day treatments can be administered to Thanksgiving cacti starting September 1st, Christmas cacti around October 1st and Easter cacti beginning January 1st. Alternatively, plants can be placed in an area with 60 to 70º F days and 55 to 60º F nights. After 4 to 8 weeks, flower buds will appear. Plants exposed to short day treatments may then be brought back into normal light.
A common complaint is bud drop. This occurs for several reasons including temperatures that are too high, exposures to drafts, insufficient light, under or over watering, low humidity or exposure to fumes from gas burning stoves. Holiday cacti prefer to be on the dry side while forming buds, during bloom times and when not actively growing which is generally from October to April.
Underwatering followed by overwatering for compensation is another common occurrence. Since these plants are succulents, often lack of regular watering is not noticed until it is too late and plants begin to shrivel or droop. At this time, well-intentioned owners give them copious amounts of water. Many of the roots have desiccated during the dry period and are unable to take up excess water resulting in water logged plants that causes the remaining roots to rot. If your plant has been underwatered and is wilting, try bringing it back with smaller but more frequent waterings and not a deluge. Sometimes plants are not able to regenerate lost roots and recover.
Overwatering, drops in temperatures at night, and low light can lead to edema, blister-like water soaked swellings on the foliage. The blisters can burst leaving dead corky tissue. Water plants only when the soil is dry but not desicated.
Edema blisters on foliage Click on image to see larger view
Mealy bugs, scale, spider mites and aphids can be a problem which is most likely to occur when plants are allowed to spend the summer outdoors or if otherwise exposed to these insects. Contact the UConn Home & Garden Education Center (toll-free in CT) at (877) 486-6271 or your local Cooperative Extension Center for control measures.
by Dawn Pettinelli and Joan Allen, UConn Home & Garden Education Center
Issued in furtherance of Cooperative Extension work, Acts of May 8 and June 30, 1914, in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Dean of the College, Cooperative Extension System, University of Connecticut, Storrs. The Connecticut Cooperative Extension System is an equal opportunity employer and program provider. To file a complaint of discrimination, write USDA, Director, Office of Civil Rights, Room 326-W, Whitten Building, Stop Code 9410, 1400 Independence Avenue, SW, Washington, DC 20250-9410 or call (202) 720-5964.
What to know about the 3 types of holiday cacti | Centre Daily Times
It’s not unusual for a single Christmas cactus plant to be passed down from generation to generation because they’re long-lived and rather easy plants to grow. Norman Winter TNS
I remember the large Christmas cactus that my mother nurtured and how I always enjoyed its beauty, especially around Christmas when it was in full bloom. This houseplant has been a favorite plant since Grandma’s day and it’s not unusual for a single plant to be passed down from generation to generation because they’re long-lived and rather easy plants to grow.
As I later learned from my good friend George Hochmuth, professor emeritus, University of Florida, there are actually three different holiday cacti: the Thanksgiving cactus (Schlumbergera truncata), the Christmas cactus (Schlumbergera bridgesii) and the Easter cactus (Rhipsalidopsis gaetneri). The problem is they all look alike.
The Schlumbergera species are native to the tropical forests of Brazil, while the Rhipsalidopsis species is native to the natural forests of Brazil. Although these plants are called cacti, they are not at all like the common desert cactus. These three species of cactus are members of the group of cacti called leaf cacti and the plant bodies are flattened and the leaves are actually stems. The flowers are produced from notches in these stems or from the tips, and the fuchsia-like flowers last a long time. They are usually pink, but modern hybrids include white, red, yellow and purple varieties.
The main difference between the Christmas, Thanksgiving and the Easter cactus is the time of bloom. The Thanksgiving cactus will usually bloom in late fall, one month before the Christmas cactus, whereas the Easter cactus starts producing flower buds in February.
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I always wondered how my mother got her Christmas cactus to come into full bloom during the holiday season. She must have learned that the flower bud initiation on her cactus will respond to cool temperatures and shortened day length. Thanksgiving and Christmas cactus should be left outdoors, away from artificial light until night temperatures dip into the 40s. At this time, usually in September/October they should be brought into a cool room with temperatures between 50 and 65 degrees and be sure to keep them away from all light between the hours of 5 p.m. and 8 a.m.
Since the Thanksgiving and Christmas cacti are tropical plants they will require watering on much the same basis as any other type of tropical plant. A good procedure to follow is to water the plants thoroughly and then allow about the top inch of soil to dry before watering again. During the fall and winter months, water less frequently in order to get them to bloom. The Thanksgiving and Christmas cacti will require higher humidity and this can be accomplished by creating a humidity tray, which is done by filling a waterproof saucer with gravel, then adding water halfway up the gravel. Place the cactus on the gravel surface.
One rule is to never place the plants near a door that opens and closes to the outside. Likewise, keep it away from heating ducts or near the woodstove/fireplace or drafty areas. In late October or early November, fertilize with a 0-10-10 type liquid fertilizer. A second application of this fertilizer can be made in February. During the growing season from April through September, fertilize the plants with an all purpose liquid houseplant type fertilizer. The fertilizer you use should have a nitrogen ratio of no higher than 10 percent.
One of the frustrating things that can happen to your Thanksgiving/Christmas cactus is after the flower buds have developed they drop off the plant. Bud drop is usually caused by over-watering, lack of humidity or insufficient light. After the Thanksgiving/Christmas holiday season, the cacti should be given a 30-day rest period. Again, place them in a cool room and provide limited water. Don’t worry if it loses a few leaves or joints and appears weak during this rest period. The best time to pinch, prune or shape a Thanksgiving/Christmas cactus is when the new growth begins in March or early April and the best time for repotting a cactus is in February, March or April. However, these plants will flower best if it’s kept in a container where it’s a little pot-bound.
The Easter cactus is a little different in that it requires a dry period. From October to November, very little water is required for flower bud initiation. Easter cactus should also be placed in the same cool area under shorter periods of light at this time. In December, raise the temperature to about 65 degrees and water sparingly. With this regime you can expect flowering around March. The Easter cactus is a bit different since it is not a tropical plant and it requires a dry period.
That’s the story on not one but three holiday cactus. Seeing them bloom brings back many memories of the holiday seasons.
Bill Lamont is a professor emeritus in the department of plant science at Penn State and can be reached by email at [email protected]
Although they look very similar there are some distinct differences between the Christmas Cactus vs Thanksgiving Cactus vs Easter Cactus. Each of these succulents derived their common names from the time of the year that they typically flower in North America. Collectively and even individually they are sometimes referred to as ‘Holiday Cactus’.
Later in the article we have posted 5 photographs and a video to help identify these three succulents!
How Can You Tell the Difference Between…
Christmas Cactus, Schlumbergera bridgesii
Easter Cactus, Hatiora gaertneri
Thanksgiving Cactus, Schlumbergera truncata
All three cacti are epiphytes, growing naturally in trees in the rainforests of Brazil. They have such similar characteristics it is obvious that they are closely related. Both the Christmas Cactus and Thanksgiving Cactus fall under the genus Schlumbergera. The Easter Cactus (sometimes called Whitsun Cactus) is classified under the genus Hatiora.
As houseplants, all three require very similar basic care.
Why are they so hard to identify?
Of the three Holiday Cactus most of the identification confusion is between the Christmas Cactus and the Thanksgiving Cactus. Not only do they look similar, without close examination, but they are mislabeled by sellers possibly more than any other succulents. Intentionally or unintentionally, the Thanksgiving Cactus is often sold as a Christmas Cactus. Since they both bloom in late fall or winter and are beautiful plants, typical consumers are not likely to care exactly which one they have purchased. Nevertheless, it is always beneficial to know, if possible, the exact name of your succulent. This ensures you will be able to provide the best care possible.
Differences in the stems (1) of the Christmas, Thanksgiving and Easter Cactus
Christmas Cactus – Has wide and flat segmented leaves that are smaller and rounder than the other two cacti. The edges of the leaves have small indentations (scallops) in contrast to the Thanksgiving Cactus leaves that have outward pointed claws. Put another way, the stem edges are smooth and crenellated (slightly notched) but never toothed or jagged like the Thanksgiving Cactus. The end or tip of each segment is very slightly curved but can look almost flat across.
Thanksgiving Cactus – Has broad segmented leaves with serrated (jagged) edges on each side. The serrated edges form into points. There are 2-4 points on each side. (The distinctive claw shaped pointed projections inspired the creative names Crab Claw Cactus or Claw Cactus.) The end of the last segment is slightly concave with a point on each side.
Easter Cactus – Has flat segmented leaves that are similar in some ways to the Christmas Cactus. There are slight scallops on the edges of the leaves but the shape is much subtler than the Christmas Cactus. The Christmas Cactus indentations are more tear drop in shape. The Easter Cactus shape is merely slight indentations. The most significant difference are the small bristles on the end of each leaf. There are no bristles on either the Thanksgiving Cactus or the Christmas Cactus.
1. Thanksgiving Cactus, 2. Christmas Cactus, 3. Easter Cactus Stems Thanksgiving Cactus vs Christmas Cactus Stem Segments
Differences in the flowers of the Holiday Cactus
Christmas Cactus – The flowers are usually white or red but occasionally may be yellow. The blooming time is typically in December. The Christmas Cactus has purplish-brown anthers. In contrast the Thanksgiving Cactus has yellow anthers. Flowers are symmetrical being evenly distributed around each flower tube. The flowers are more pendulous and droop straight down from the ovary.
Easter Cactus – The flowers are royal purple, red or pink and brighter than Christmas Cactus or Thanksgiving Cactus. The flowers are more star-shaped than the other two ‘Holiday Cactus.’ It typically blooms in the spring months of April and May.
Thanksgiving Cactus – The flowers are pink, red, white or yellow and they typically bloom in November. The Thanksgiving Cactus anthers are yellow but they are purplish-brown on the Christmas Cactus. Thanksgiving Cactus flowers are more asymmetrical, protrude from the ovary and extend horizontally from the tips of the stem segments.
The symmetrical Christmas Cactus Flower Schlumbergera bridgesii extends down. The Thanksgiving Cactus flower, Schlumbergera truncata, is asymmetrical and grows horizontally. The Easter Cactus flower, Hatiora gaertneri, is a starburst shape.
Differences in the general shape of the Holiday Cactus
Christmas Cactus – Begins growing upright but as it matures the stems are pendent arching down.
Easter Cactus – When comparing mature ‘Holiday Cacti’ the Easter Cactus will be the smaller of the plants.
Thanksgiving Cactus – Typically the Thanksgiving Cactus stems grow in an upright or erect direction. The Christmas Cactus stems arch up but then droop farther down.
Other Interesting Differences
It is usually more difficult to grow the Easter Cactus than the Christmas Cactus or the Thanksgiving Cactus. In particular, the Easter Cactus is much more sensitive to under or over-watering.
Miscellaneous Side Notes
Many Christmas Cactus and Thanksgiving Cactus will be commercially labeled with the genus Zygocactus. Although that Zygocactus genus name still surfaces it was officially abandoned decades ago in favor of Schlumbergera. Since the 1950’s both the Christmas Cactus and the Thanksgiving Cactus are technically placed under the genus Schlumbergera.
True Christmas Cactus, Schlumbergera bridgesii, is rarely available commercially. The Christmas Cactus is very easy to propagate, however, so it is possible to obtain cuttings from someone that already owns one.
Depending on the care and the growing environment, all three of these ‘Holiday Cactus’ may also produce surprise flowers at other times of the year. Both the Thanksgiving Cactus and the Christmas Cactus will often bloom again between March and May. The Easter Cactus, however, very rarely flowers again outside of its springtime blooming. In fact, it is not uncommon to have years that the Easter Cactus produces no blooms at all.
The Easter Cactus is the most difficult to grow. It has the annoying habit of shedding most of its phylloclades at just a slight drought. It also does poorly if it is over-watered. It is almost mandatory to have a soil moisture meter on hand if you want to optimally water an Easter Cactus.
It is possible, and maybe even easier, to tell the difference between these three cacti with your eyes closed. Rub your finger along the edge of a leaf segment. If you feel a distinct point or claw it is a Thanksgiving Cactus. If you do not feel a point or claw and you also don’t feel anything on the flat end or tip of the leaf it is a Christmas Cactus. If you do not feel points or claws but you do feel numerous small soft bristles on the tip end of the leaf it is an Easter Cactus.
This video is not the best quality but it does accurately show close-ups of the Thanksgiving Cactus, Christmas Cactus and Easter Cactus. The majority of the videos that you find online incorrectly identify these three cacti.
Hi guys, it’s Lynne here. Hope everyone’s having an incredible day.
Now in this video I’m going to tell you how you can tell the difference between a Thanksgiving Cactus and a Christmas Cactus and I show the two comparisons between the two. So you know whether you have a real Christmas Cactus or a Thanksgiving one.
Now here in Ireland we don’t actually celebrate Thanksgiving so most of the Schlumbergera truncate cacti is either sold or sold under Christmas Cactus regardless of their variety. But the reason I’m doing this video is because there are two different types there’s a few different hybrids but there’s two main different types and they do flower at slightly different times and they do look different.
Now the first one I’m going to show you the difference in the leaf arrangements here. Now this one up I hear is the Schlumbergera truncata which is actually the true Thanksgiving Cactus and it has the edges are slightly sharp on the leaf edging and they sort of resemble a little bit like a crab’s claw as you can see on here and that is the truth Thanksgiving Cactus. And then the true Christmas Cactus here actually has scalloped edges and this is the Schlumbergera bridgesii I sometimes called bridgesii. There’s a few different hybrids but this is the true Christmas Cactus with the round scalloped edging to it.
Now just to make a little bit more confusing is that the Easter cacti which are the Rhipsalidopsis family rather thus from family also have scalloped edges and after flower they’re do look very similar to the Christmas cacti.
I’ll just show you this one here this is a Rhipsalidopsis and Easter Cactus. This was given to me as a wonderful cutting by by a lovely friend of mine. It’s doing really, really well and this was actually was given to me … was a Christmas Cactus because she bought it as a Christmas Cactus but it actually turned out to be an Easter Cactus. An easy mistake to make as I’ll show you here that the scalloped edging on this Easter Cactus looks very similar to the true Christmas Cactus. But the differences here although it’s got the scalloped edging on this Easter Cactus smooth around scalloped edging. The Christmas Cactus here this Schlumbergera actually has the scalloped edging going downwards in a teardrop shape as you can see that’s more teardrop shaped rather than completely rounded and that’s how you can tell the difference between the true Christmas Cactus and the Easter Cactus.
So just to let you know that in case you buy planted a flower so that’s basically the difference with the two leaves how you can tell between the truncata, Thanksgiving Cactus and the bridgesii, Christmas Cactus.
And the other difference between the two is obviously the flowers. Now the Thanksgiving Cactus will tend to flower any time from October up until the end of November time. And the flowers always sort of grow sort of outwards and beautiful flowers that they always grow outwards.
And with the Christmas Cactus it flowers usually from the November time up until the December sometimes right up until the January a bit later on. And the flowers always hang down almost like beautiful little bells hanging down so that the flowers are different in their arrangements. And that’s the – the only way really you can tell the difference obviously the leaf and the flowers and that’s really all it is to it, very easy to identify….
…Heaps happiness and tons and tons of cactus power as always from I and until the next video bye.
Other Helpful References
From the University of Illinois Extension – Thanksgiving Cactus, Christmas Cactus, Easter Cactus: What’s the Difference? “These three species of cactus are members of the group of cacti called leaf cacti, explains Martha Smith, University of Illinois Extension horticulture educator. The plant bodies are flattened and the leaves are actually stems. The flowers are produced from notches in these stems or from the tips. The fuchsia-like flowers last a long time. They are usually pink, but modern hybrids include white, red, yellow, and purple varieties.
Smith says the main difference between the Christmas and Thanksgiving cactus, and the Easter cactus is the time of bloom.”
From the Britannica Online – Christmas Cactus “The Christmas cactus is often confused with the Thanksgiving cactus (also called crab cactus, S. truncata, or Epiphyllum truncatum); however, in the former, the margins of the stem joints are crenated (they have rounded indentations), whereas in the latter the margins are sharply saw-toothed.” Side Note: There is a great photo of Christmas Cactus flowers on the Britannica page we have linked to but it is 90 degrees off. If the photo was aligned correctly the flowers would be pendulant (drooping down), not horizontal.
From the University of Minnesota Extension – Holiday cacti: Christmas cactus, Thanksgiving cactus, and Easter cactus “They can also be very long-lived. It’s common to hear of these plants being passed on from generation to generation and sometimes living over 100 years! Although true cacti, these plants are native to rain forests and epiphytic meaning they grow on other plants and derive moisture and nutrients from air and rain. The need for high humidity, bright but filtered light, and soil kept relatively moist most of the year sets these plants apart from the majority of cacti and succulents… Though called Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter cactus, these common names are primarily for marketing purposes and provide only a general reference for the time of year these plants may bloom.”
As noted, it is not possible to always predict precisely when any of these three plants will bloom. The health of your succulent and the current growing conditions will determine the flowering or lack of it.
From Clemson University – Thanksgiving & Christmas Cacti “To distinguish between the Thanksgiving and Christmas cacti, look at the shape of the flattened stem segments, which are botanically called phylloclades. On the Thanksgiving cactus, these stem segments each have 2 to 4 saw-toothed serrations or projections along the margins. The stem margins on the Christmas cactus are more rounded. Note that there are no true leaves on either of these holiday cacti, so photosynthesis occurs within the green phylloclades.”
- (1) With succulents like the various Holiday Cactus the “pads” on the stems are sometimes called leaves, cladodes, phylloclades, and cladophylls . In some ways the stems function and have the appearance a leaf. Technically they are stems but in describing them above it is easier to visualize what they look like by referring to them as leaves.
All three of the ‘Holiday Cactus’ are wonderful succulents to add to your collection. Hopefully our article will help you identify whether you have a genuine Easter Cactus, Thanksgiving Cactus or a Christmas Cactus. Since there are many dozens of hybrids that have been developed from each one of these cacti don’t worry if you are still finding it difficult to identifying what you have. Just enjoy your beautiful and unique succulent!