If you and a friend are betting on whether a flowering holiday cactus you bought at the grocery store is a Christmas, Thanksgiving, or (less likely) Easter cactus, you might simply want to call a draw.
Because depending on the flowering season and where you reside, marketers use these names for a variety of different plants. And depending on when it is sold, the same plant may be given any of those names.
The same variety, for instance, can be offered as a Christmas cactus in Canada while being sold as a Thanksgiving cactus in the United States. Why? Since Thanksgiving is celebrated early in October in Canada, the term Christmas makes more sense to customers by the time these plants are budding and blooming in November.
And because of this, it is preferable to refer to plants by their scientific names rather than local common names or promotional words in order to save your friendship. Even while there will still be some difficult-to-identify species, taxonomical changes, and scholarly conflicts, at least with botanical names we can start to use the same terminology.
I’ve also seen Christmas cactus plants marked with the incorrect botanical name, which is not surprising given that they are mass-produced for holiday customers, to round off the picture.
Check the Leaves
To identify holiday cactus, the most typical advice is to examine the shape of the leaves. While we refer to them as “leaves,” they are actually modified branches known as cladodes or “clades. If distinct, it’s a fantastic indicator, but again, there are many varieties that can fool even the most observant and skilled gardener. More details are available (below).
Observe the Blooms
Similar flowers (in a variety of colours) are produced by Schlumbergeras (see below), with a few minor variations, such as pollen colours.
Schlumbergeras have a very different flower development than Rhipsalidopsis (Easter Cactus), which is why it is rarely brought up in discussion.
The good news is that all of these plants require the same level of care, regardless of what they are (see Holiday Cactus Care Guide here).
How can you distinguish between an Easter and a Christmas cactus?
The holiday season has here, which not only calls for decorations but also festive plants! At this time of year, there are many lovely holiday plants to pick from, whether they are bought from a florist, nursery, or are grown at home. The Christmas cactus is one of the most popular plants to give or receive at this time of year. Or is it a Thanksgiving or Easter cactus?
The three cacti differ from one another in terms of how their leaves are shaped. The edges of the leaves of the Thanksgiving cactus (Schlumgera truncata) are very sharply pointed and shaped like claws. The leaf projections of the Christmas cactus (Schlumgera bridgesti) are more scalloped or teardrop shaped. The edges of the leaves of the Easter cactus (Rhipsalidopsis gaertnerrii) are extremely rounded and centred.
These three cacti are all classified as short-day plants. Therefore, the plant needs low temperatures and 12–24 hours of darkness in order to bloom. If you overwintered your plant outside or bought it from a florist or nursery, you should keep it in a cold, dark place until the buds appear. The optimum location is an infrequently used bedroom or lower level. The Easter cactus gets its name from the fact that it takes 8–12 weeks of short days to bloom as opposed to the Christmas and Thanksgiving cacti’s roughly six weeks. It can be brought into a warmer environment once the buds start to form for your enjoyment. At this stage, a plant may occasionally start to lose its buds. That might be caused by air currents, warm temperatures, an abundance of water, or direct sunlight. Bright light is good for the plants, but not direct sunlight. Before watering, the soil should be completely dry to one inch below the surface. Fertilizing or repotting shouldn’t be done when the plant is in bloom. The plants appear to thrive when they are root-bound.
You might see the Christmas and Thanksgiving cactus bloom once more in the spring, though perhaps not as lavishly as over the holiday season. Simply restore the plant to its short day settings to promote springtime blooming.
Unless they are overwatered, these plants are generally disease-free. If the plant turns crimson, there is either too much sun, not enough phosphorus, or not enough water. There are rumours of plants that have been passed down from generation to generation for more than a century. Take advantage of these easygoing holiday plants and establish a new gardening custom. Call the Linn County Master Gardener Hortline at 319-447-0647 with any and all of your gardening inquiries.
Are Easter and Christmas cacti the same?
The Christmas and Thanksgiving cacti have different leaves but the same flowers, as was already described. Easter cacti, on the other hand, have leaf margins that are smoother and devoid of notches and require a considerably longer cool and low light period in order to flower. Easter cactus plants have flat, star-shaped flowers that are simple to distinguish from the elongated blooms of the other holiday cacti.
Purple-brown anthers hang from the drooping flowers of the Christmas cactus. The blooms of the Thanksgiving cactus feature yellow anthers and develop parallel to the stalks.
All three plants have different hues, although red to fuchsia are the most typical. They come in white, orange, and yellow as well. No matter what they are called, holiday cactus are rather simple to grow and will bloom every year if they have their low temperature, low light period.
What distinguishes Easter cactus from Christmas Thanksgiving?
We frequently see cactus family plants in bloom throughout the holiday season. Christmas cacti are among the most popular plants to give or receive at this time of year. Or is it a Thanksgiving or Easter cactus?
These three cactus species, also referred to as Holiday Cacti, are classified as leaf cacti. The leaves are actually segmented stems and the plant bodies are flattened. These stems’ notches or tops are where the blooms are formed. The long-lasting blossoms resemble fuchsias. Modern hybrids come in white, red, yellow, and purple variations in addition to the typical pink colour.
There are stories of plants that have been passed down from one generation to the next and are more than 100 years old.
Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter cacti differ mostly in their blooming seasons. A Thanksgiving Cactus can bloom in late fall, one month before the Christmas Cactus, as their popular names would imply. In February, the Easter Cactus begins to develop bloom buds. There are procedures to take to ensure bloom regardless of kind.
The variation can also be seen in the way the leaves are shaped. The edges of the leaves on the Thanksgiving Cactus (Schlumbergera truncata) have sharp, claw-like projections. The leaf projections on the Christmas Cactus (Schlumbergera bridgesii) are more scalloped or teardrop shaped. Last but not least, the leaf of the Easter Cactus (Hatiora gaertneri, originally Rhipsalidopsis gaertneri) has extremely rounded edges all around.
These three cacti are all referred to as short-day plants. Therefore, the plant needs 12 to 24 hours of darkness and cool temperatures to make it blossom. If you bought your plant from a florist or nursery or overwintered it outdoors, you should keep it in a cool, dark place until the buds appear. The optimum location is a lower level or rarely used bedroom. The Easter Cactus, hence the name Easter Cactus, takes 8 to 12 weeks of short days to bloom as opposed to the Christmas and Thanksgiving Cactus’ roughly six weeks of short days. When the buds appear, you can enjoy them by bringing them into a warmer environment. At this stage, a plant may occasionally start to lose its buds. That might be caused by air currents, warm temperatures, an abundance of water, or direct sunlight. Bright light is good for the plants, but not direct sunlight. Before watering, the soil should be dry to one inch (2.5 cm) below the surface. Fertilizing or repotting shouldn’t be done when the plant is in bloom. The plants appear to thrive when they are root-bound.
Thanksgiving and the Christmas Cactus The cactus may blossom again for you in the spring, but not as abundantly as over the holiday season. Bring back the plant’s short-day circumstances if you wish to promote spring blossoms.
Unless they are overwatered, these plants are generally disease-free. The plant turning scarlet is a sign of too much sun, phosphorus deficiency, or water shortage.
How can I determine the type of cactus I have?
The physical characteristics of each cactus should be used as a starting point when distinguishing one from another. Some distinguishing physical characteristics to watch for are:
One essential aspect you may want to consider is the cactus plant’s leaves. Do your plants have any spines? You can determine this by examining their leaves. A leaf with spines will have needle-like, sharp edges, while a leaf without spines will have rounded edges. The colour and shape of your cacti plant’s leaves can also provide useful information.
Chlorophyll and carotenoids, which are photosynthetic pigments, can be used to determine the colour of leaves. Carotenoids give the plants their characteristic colours, whereas chlorophyll is in charge of receiving light energy from the sun and storing it as chemical energy.
Your cactus plant type may also be determined by the shape of the leaves. Succulent plants often have spines and needle-like leaves, whereas flat-leaved plants are typically stronger in nature since they can endure severe situations better. For instance, the leaves of a barrel cactus grow straight, whereas the leaves of a saguaro cactus are flat.
Similar to the shape and colour, the different needle styles can also be used to identify the type of cacti you have, albeit the results are not always reliable. The more hardy and leafy kinds will typically have flat spines, whilst the more succulent and squishy forms would typically have needle-like spines.
How high can they grow?
When determining the type of cactus you have, you might also want to consider its height. Because plants that thrive at higher altitudes typically have longer roots than those that do not, height and altitude can be used as a determining factor when determining your plant type. The Saguaro Cactus, which may often reach heights of 50 feet, is the tallest of all succulents. Hedgehog and pereskia, on the other hand, are little kinds that rarely grow taller than six inches. You can tell what kind of cactus plant you have by just measuring the height of the plant.
Shape and coloration
When there are no spines or leaves to go by, a cactus’ shape and colour can also be utilised to determine its type. Shape typically gives some hints about the plant’s requirements for the climate, which in turn may give more information about the nature of the plant.
Although there are so many different kinds of cactus that you can identify, you might not be able to do so just by looking at it because of its colour. Another spiny variety may have a green-brown body, whereas a white-spined barrel cactus may have green. The dwarf saguaro’s yellowish hue stands out sharply from, for example, the brown spines on a barbed wire cactus.
As you can see, there are a lot of physical characteristics to watch out for that could reveal what species of cactus plant your plants are. One piece of advice is to explore further if you notice something peculiar or unusual about a particular species because it might be what you’ve been looking for.
How are its flowering style and pattern?
The way a plant blooms is another physical characteristic that will reveal whether it is a terrestrial or epiphytic plant. While terrestrial plants have roots and require direct connection to soil, epiphytes are plants that thrive in humid regions with little soil contact and depend on other plants for nutrition.
Another sign of a cactus’ kind is the way its flowers are arranged. The saguaro and barrel both feature radial patterns, while the hedgehog is another plant with radial patterns but more elongated ones. A species that forms columns, like the cardon, may have vertical stripes or zigzags with contrasting colour patterns.
The most likely form of cactus you have is a cardon if it is columnar and has vertical stripes of contrasting colours. On the other hand, if your cactus has radial patterns and spines, it is probably either the barrel or saguaro type.
Although it’s not always reliable, the colour of the flowers might also give you a hint about what kind of cactus your plant is. For instance, a hedgehog may have yellow blooms, or a kind of flower with a red top may be a cardon.
What about the seeds?
Depending on their environment, different cactus species generate different seeds. For instance, the Saguaro cactus produces smaller, fleshier seed pods, whereas the hedgehog produces much larger, spiky fruit. While the cardon is known to produce seeds that are round and glossy, some varieties, like the barrel cactus, will have a more oval or spherical appearance.
These various seed pod varieties can provide you hints about the kind of cactus you might grow in your garden. Perhaps after a lengthy development period, your plant that you’ve had for a while isn’t blossoming or generating any flowers? Even before planting, it may be quite beneficial to look at the seeds, since they might provide important details about the type of plant. If your cactus isn’t flowering or generating any flowers over a lengthy time of growth, it may not be blossoming due to its type or the climatic circumstances that type loves. Different cactus species generate different seed pods.
What three varieties of Christmas cacti are there?
Thanksgiving cactus, Christmas cactus, and Easter cactus are the three popular holiday cacti, each of which is called after the season in which its blooms occur. All three are straightforward to cultivate and have comparable growth patterns and maintenance needs.
Today’s holiday cactus variations are available in magenta, pink, scarlet, as well as yellow, white, orange, purple, salmon, and apricot, however these well-known cacti are typically only available in red-hued hues. The Thanksgiving and Christmas cacti are tropical rain forest species, while the Easter cactus is indigenous to Brazil’s natural woods. All three are endemic to Brazil.
Is there a similarity between a Christmas cactus and a spring cactus?
The Christmas cactus (Schlumbergera bridgesii) and the Easter cactus (Rhipsalidopsis gaetneri) appear to be different varieties of the same plant, but they are actually whole different species.