What Do Christmas Cactus Leaves Look Like

Unbelievably, you might have a Thanksgiving-themed cactus rather than a Christmas-themed one! Despite having extremely similar appearances, the two plants are distinct.

Unfortunately, the fact that these Christmas succulents are sometimes mislabeled at garden centers contributes to the confusion between them. Furthermore, the misunderstanding is exacerbated by the fact that they both bloom in the late fall or early winter. But it’s good to know which one you actually possess. How to tell them apart is as follows:

Thanksgiving Cactus (Schlumbergera truncata)

The Thanksgiving cactus’ leaves can be used to distinguish it from the Christmas cactus. The leaf segments, or “phylloclades,” have pointed spines and are serrated or “toothed,” with 2-4 on each side.

Because of this, these succulents are known as “Crab Claw Cactus.” The final segment’s end has a point on either side and a little concavity.

Thanksgiving cactus flowers are created at the tips or the point where the leaf segments converge. They look like a long tube, like a flower inside a flower.

They normally bloom around Thanksgiving and come in a variety of hues, mostly pastels, such as red, pink, peach, purple, orange, or white.

Observe the pollen-bearing anthers as well.

Christmas cactus anthers are pink to purplish-brown, and Thanksgiving cactus anthers are yellow.

Christmas Cactus (Schlumbergera bridgesii)

The Christmas cactus has leaves with a more rounded, scalloped edge. Although each segment’s tip has a small curvature, they can appear practically straight across.

Christmas cactus blooms often bloom in December and are pink or white. But if you notice flowers on these plants between March and May, don’t be alarmed.

Easter Cactus

Unbelievably, there is also an Easter cactus (Hatiora gaertneri), and you got it, it blooms in April. The leaves of these succulents feature a strong ridge on one side and tiny bristles.

The flowers are more shaped like stars. They originated in Brazil’s native, temperate woodlands. Although this cactus is significantly more susceptible to over- or under-watering, use caution when watering it.

What characteristics distinguish 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 centered.

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 rumors 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.

What distinguishes Christmas cactus from counterfeit Christmas cactus?

My mother used to refer to her Christmas cactus as a Thanksgiving cactus since it would be fully bloomed by the end of November when I was a child. I was a good boy and never questioned or challenged Mom. Mom was correct, and that was twenty or so years and a couple advanced degrees later. Schlumbergera truncata, the well-liked plant that is currently showing up in garden centers for the holiday season, is also known as the Thanksgiving or false Christmas cactus.

We must delve farther into the passionate love affair with the Christmas cactus in order to overcome this deceit. When we turn the clock 177 years back to 1840s England, we find William Buckley, a committed gardener, and his experiment of a Schlumbergera hybrid between two species. He combined S. truncata with S. russelliana to produce the S. x buckleyi hybrid, which was known as the real Christmas cactus. As you read this at home, you might be tempted to quickly explore the internet. If you do, you might find some outdated literature that refers to this cross incorrectly as S. bridgesii, which would add another degree of dishonesty. There are certainly some older works of literature that use Zygocactus as the genus.

You need to know a few more things at this point because you are horrifiedly staring at your fake Christmas cactus and unsure of where to look for the real one. You need to know a little bit about botany and it is difficult to pick out the imposters. The Schlumbergera’s “leaves” are actually flattened stalks known as cladophyll (phylloclades by some botanist). The faux Christmas cactus will have stems with an open branch habit and soft points or teeth around the borders. These points are simply a part of the stem that is heavily lobed; they are not spines. False Christmas cactus flowers will be cheerful and vibrant in hues of pink, white, peach, and salmon. They will be held for around 5 to 7 days at the tip of the stems, pointing slightly upward. Additionally, the blossoms will appear somewhat horizontal or flat. The stems of the genuine Christmas cactus will significantly arch downward and have a closed habit. The stems will have rounded edges with tiny, discernible points or nubs. The blossoms of a genuine Christmas cactus will be more spherical than those of an impostor, point downward, and follow the stem’s orientation. Reds, pinks, and carmine will be the colors.

You might come across the Easter cactus Rhipsalidopsis gaeteneri, a close relative of Schlumbergera as you go out on your quest to find the genuine Christmas cactus. You’ll be relieved to learn that they are rarely provided and have little financial significance in the garden retail sector. Additionally, as their name suggests, they bloom in the spring. However, if you do come upon one, what’s another plant, right?

Last but not least, I’m sure you read this article and only glanced at the genus name since, like me, you find it difficult to say (shlum-BER-ger-uh), and I doubt that did anything to assist. Just some quick information The Cactaceae family of real cactus includes the Schlumbergera, which thrives in environments that we typically do not connect with cacti. They inhabit trees like orchids and are found deep within South America’s tropical rainforest.

Wishing you luck on your exploration and do let me know if you add a genuine Christmas cactus to your collection.

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.

What shade are the leaves of a Christmas cactus?

Christmas cacti are typically trouble-free succulent plants, but if you find that your plant’s leaves are turning red or purple around the margins or if they are red or purple instead of green, something is wrong.

How do you tell a cactus leaf apart?

Your cactus can be identified by its leaf form. The leaves of the Thanksgiving cactus (Schlumbergera truncata) have sharp protrusions that resemble crab claws. The leaves of the Christmas cactus (Schlumbergera bridgesti) have rounded or teardrop-shaped projections.

How often does a Christmas cactus bloom each year?

Whichever one you have, it’s possible for them to bloom more than once a year. For Your Reference, Here Are A Few Of Our General Houseplant Guides: Watering Indoor Plants: A Guide.

How should a Christmas cactus be watered—from the top or the bottom?

To ensure that the water reaches the Christmas cactus’ roots, irrigate it from the bottom up. Continue adding water to the soil until it begins to seep through the pot’s openings. It hydrates the ground.

Ensure that there is no standing water beneath the pot once the soil has been thoroughly moistened. Never leave excess water in the planter; you don’t want mold, root rot, or insects laying eggs there. If the water is fully separate from the pot and is in a tray underneath the pot, that’s acceptable.

Mist the Leaves

You can sprinkle the leaves with water in a spray bottle to keep them as healthy as possible. When watering the plant, misting the leaves only once will be sufficient to provide appropriate hydration.

Are there additional blooms on Christmas cacti each year?

You probably enjoyed an abundance of vibrant flowers in November or December if you followed my beginner’s plant care guide for the Christmas cactus (Schlumbergera), and now you’re wondering if you have to wait a full year before your plant blooms once more.

Christmas cactus may genuinely rebloom in February with the right care and environmental factors; the same is true for Thanksgiving cactus and other indoor plants simply referred to as “holiday cactus.”

Here’s how to continue enjoying your holiday cactus’ flowers long after the season has over.

The Christmas cactus needs watering, but how often?

Christmas cacti are highly common indoor plants, and for good reason too! They produce vibrant, tubular flowers that are pink or purple in hue when they bloom. They are a superb plant because of their lovely blossoms, lengthy bloom period, and simple maintenance needs. Someone in your family most likely owns a Christmas cactus!

About Christmas Cacti

The Christmas cactus (Schlumbergera x buckleyi) and its cousins don’t exist in hot, arid conditions like deserts or plains, in contrast to other cacti. These epiphytic succulents, which grow on tree branches and take in the high humidity, dappled sunlight, and moderate temperatures, are actually endemic to the tropical rainforests of southern Brazil.

Bottom line: Don’t handle a Christmas cactus like a typical succulent or cactus. They are unable to withstand the same kind of hot, dry weather that other cactus can. These cacti require more frequent watering than most succulents, but you also need to be careful not to overwater them. (See the care guidelines in more detail below.)

Thanksgiving, Easter, or Christmas Cactus?

The Easter cactus (S. gaertneri), Thanksgiving cactus (S. truncata), and Christmas cactus are the three main varieties of “holiday cacti” that are available (S. x buckleyi). The holiday that each cactus is named after often sees the most blooming. Thanksgiving cacti, which often bloom from November to February and hence go unrecognized as Christmas cacti, make up the majority of “Christmas cacti” sold nowadays. See our post on the several Christmas cacti species and how to distinguish them for more information.

Note: Because it’s the most widely used term and it applies to all three of these species, we’ll refer to all three of them on this page as “Christmas cactus” for simplicity’s sake.

Potting Christmas Cacti

  • Choose a pot with a drainage hole on the bottom if you’re choosing one for a Christmas cactus. This prevents the soil from getting overly saturated.
  • Most succulent-specific potting mixtures work well for Christmas cacti growth. It’s crucial that your potting soil drains properly.

Where to Put a Christmas Cactus

  • Plants should be kept in indirect light that is bright. The best location has an east-facing window or a well-lit bathroom. The delicate leaves might be bleached by too much direct sunshine.
  • It is preferable to have a daytime temperature of 70F (21C) and an evening temperature of 60–65F (15–18C).
  • Christmas cacti do well in a more humid climate, so keeping them in a well-lit bathroom or kitchen is a smart idea.
  • Christmas cacti can be kept in a shady area of the garden or on an unheated porch during the summer until the temperature drops below 50F. (10C). Keep them away from the sun’s rays outside.

How to Care for Christmas Cacti

  • Water your plants every two to three weeks, but only when the top third of the soil feels dry to the touch. If the plant is in 6 inches of soil, for instance, water when the top 2 inches of soil feel dry. (Check with your finger!)
  • When the soil is completely dry, wet it until water seeps through the drainage holes in the pot. To collect the water, put a tray underneath the pot. To prevent the pot from sitting in water, remove any extra water on the tray after 10 to 15 minutes.
  • While the plant is in bloom, it’s very crucial to water thoroughly.
  • Feed your indoor plants with a balanced houseplant fertilizer every two weeks from spring through early fall. Feed the cactus once a month in the fall and winter to promote fruitful blooming.
  • To promote branching and more flowers, prune plants in the late spring. Simply cut a portion of each stem off; the plant will grow new branches from the incision.
  • If desired, plant the cut pieces in potting soil that is only gently damp; they will easily root after a few weeks and make wonderful Christmas gifts!

How to Get Your Christmas Cactus to Bloom

The longer evenings and chilly weather of fall are what cause Christmas cacti and its relatives to bloom. The three major varieties of holiday cacti typically bloom on the following schedule:

  • Thanksgiving cactus typically produce flowers from late October through mid-winter, making them the earliest and longest bloomers.
  • Christmas cacti often bloom in the early to midwinter months.
  • Easter cacti flower around the middle of spring through late winter.

If your cactus isn’t flowering, it can be getting too much light or being exposed to too much heat. Here are some suggestions to help you get blooms from yours!

  • For a minimum of six weeks, the nights must be at least 14 hours long and the days between 8 and 10 hours. You might need to cover your cactus or relocate it to an area that is exposed to the natural light cycle if you have powerful interior lighting that is on at night.
  • When the plant is kept at temps between 50 and 60F, flower buds form best (10 and 15C).
  • By subjecting the plant to temps around 45F (7C) for a number of nights in a succession, you can jumpstart the budding process.
  • While the plant is in bloom, be sure to water it consistently. The plant may lose its buds if it dries out too much.
  • Don’t worry if the cactus loses its buds one winter; the following year it should bloom.

The three primary varieties of “holiday cacti” are as follows:

  • Often mistaken for Christmas cacti, Thanksgiving cacti (Schlumbergera truncata) bloom from late October to mid-winter.
  • Christmas cacti (S. x buckleyi) flower in the early to midwinter months.
  • Late winter to mid-spring is the blooming period for Easter cacti (S. gaertneri).
  • Make sure to water your Christmas cactus frequently and keep it cool when the buds on the plant appear ready to open.
  • The optimum time to propagate cuttings is late spring when most holiday cacti start to grow after their winter hibernation.

Blossom loss: Your Christmas cactus will probably lose its blossoms if it experiences any kind of stress. As mentioned in the plant care section above, this could be caused by the amount of light or a sudden shift in temperature. Make sure your soil doesn’t become overly dry while buds are developing.

The plant could be vulnerable to mealy bugs and root rot if overwatered. If you experience issues, remove the affected sections and repot the plant in fresh soil.