What Is The Difference Between Thanksgiving Cactus And 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 a Christmas, Thanksgiving, and Easter cactus from one another?

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. The leaves of the Easter cactus (Schlumbergera gaertnerrii) have rounded edges.

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.

Can a Christmas cactus bloom on Thanksgiving?

Unfortunately, many mistake all three of these festive cactus for one another. Even by store clerks who provide care instructions and internet merchants who label them the same. Therefore, it doesn’t make things any simpler for us, the customers. Sometimes they are lumped together and given the more exotic-sounding name Zygocactus.

Fortunately, there are only three easy ways to distinguish between Christmas, Thanksgiving, and Easter cacti. Let’s go over each one individually to make the distinction.

Leaves

One of the simplest and quickest ways to tell what kind of cactus you have in front of you is to identify it by the shape of its leaves. Even while they might initially appear to be similar, when you look at the leaves more closely, it’s rather easy to tell them apart.

The leaves of this cactus are scalloped, flat, and thinner. The leaves of the Thanksgiving cactus are wider and pointier. The unusual pointed leaves of this cactus give it the nickname “crab claw cactus.” The edges of the flat, circular, and scalloped Easter cactus leaves are also present. The leaves feature tiny hairs as well.

Blooms

Looking at the appearance of the blooms is another technique to distinguish between the three cacti. The Christmas cactus has pendulum-shaped blooms with a brown or purple anther that typically fall downward. Similar to the Christmas bloom, the Thanksgiving bloom has an anther that is often yellow. Additionally, they resemble Fuschia blossoms more. Because they are bigger and more starburst-shaped, Easter cactus blossoms are more distinctive.

Observing when the cacti bloom is another way to recognize the three, but it’s not always that straightforward. The Christmas cactus often develops buds in November and blooms during the course of the holiday season. The Thanksgiving cactus’s buds start to form in the late fall and usually bloom around the same time as the Christmas cactus. Not really useful! In the early spring, the Easter cactus blooms.

Although the three cacti have slightly varied primary colors, it is difficult to distinguish between them because they are so similar. Although we do not advise relying on this technique for cactus type separation, the most typical colors are shown below for reference:

What distinguishes a real Christmas cactus from a fake 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.

Do Thanksgiving cacti have two blooming seasons?

On occasion, in March, Christmas and Thanksgiving cacti bloom profusely. This sort of thing does occur occasionally. Even while these flowers are typically more sparse than those you’ll see during the holidays, don’t be shocked if you see them from March to May. The majority of holiday cactus bloom more than once per year, which is the cause. Look for any buds that are developing in the spaces between the leaf segments. Using the methods mentioned above, you can encourage them to blossom, or you can just watch to see what occurs.

At any time of year, take advantage of the vibrant blossoms and post images to our Facebook page!

Does my Thanksgiving cactus need deadheading?

Christmas is typically not a time when desert-dwelling flora are highlighted because the holiday generally honors brisk pine tree forests, chilly temperatures, and snowfall. The Christmas Cactus is an exception, though, as it is indigenous to Brazil’s rainforests. It’s difficult to miss this plant during the season with its long flat stems and beautifully colored flowers. The Christmas Cactus will offer you tons of flowers in pinks, reds, purples, and white while it’s tough to get your other cactus to bloom. Possibly not always the colors of the season, but nonetheless lovely.

Perhaps you saw one at the florist or your neighbor decided to give you a Christmas Cactus as a gift in appreciation for your assistance in setting up the lights (well done!). You’re unsure of what to do with it as it sits in your living room, however it got there. You could be a little confused by the fact that it’s a cactus because they are frequently associated with moodiness around water. But unlike its relatives, this cactus is not terrified of water and has very few sharp parts, so it won’t bite. Discover how to take care of your Christmas cactus by reading on.

No life jacket requiredWatering your Christmas Cactus

The Christmas Cactus adores the water, contrary to what you might be used to (swimming, water polo, and perhaps even a little skinny dipping!) It prefers to have regular waterings that thoroughly wet the soil. Despite the fact that you should let the soil dry up a little bit in between your planned waterings, you should never let it become fully dry. This may impede the growth of your plant and lead it to lose all of the carefully tended flowers!

Warm hugsDon’t give your cacti the cold shoulder

The ideal temperature range for your Christmas Cactus should be between 15 and 21 degrees Celsius, despite the fact that hugging cacti is generally not advised. Like any warm-blooded plant, try to keep it away from drafts and vents. For these guys, a constant temperature is optimal. Although bright light is preferred, excessive amounts of direct sunlight can burn the stems.

A life after ChristmasWhat to do with your Christmas Cactus after the season

Deadhead all the wasted blooms to keep your cacti looking their best during and after the Christmas season. Additionally, this stimulates the plant to keep on blooming. You can continue to enjoy your cacti after Christmas until it eventually stops blooming. But once it does, don’t get rid of it! Whether or not they bloom, these cacti make stunning houseplants. And chances are it will blossom for you once more the next year, and occasionally even in the midst of the year. (Bonus!)

You can prune it at the start of the summer by cutting back a few of the stems’ lankier portions. Similar to getting a haircut, this fosters further growth and allows it to blossom once more.

Whether or not it is the holiday season, your Christmas Cactus will stand out from the rest of your houseplants thanks to its tall stalks and vivid blossoms! Enjoy its distinctive design in your house.

What shades are Thanksgiving cacti available in?

The popular Thanksgiving and Christmas cacti, Schumbergera truncata and Schumbergera x buckleyi, are native to Brazil and bloom in the fall and winter. They come in a wide range of hues, including red, rose, purple, lavender, peach, orange, cream, and white. These Schlumbergera species are excellent choices for hanging baskets because to their pendulous stems, which allow them to grow as epiphytes among tree branches in gloomy rain forests.

Thanksgiving cactus typically flower around Thanksgiving, about a month before Christmas cacti bloom, when planted under regular night length conditions. The Easter cactus (Hatiora gaertneri; synonym Rhipsalidopsis gaertneri), which blooms intermittently throughout the year with pink or red flowers, is another member of the group of cacti sold as holiday decorations. The Thanksgiving cactus is most frequently found for sale during the winter holiday season because of when it blooms. If the plants are kept at 68 oF, flowering can extend up to 7 to 8 weeks.

You can tell the Thanksgiving and Christmas cactus apart by observing the shape of the flattened stem segments, or phylloclades as they are known botanically. Each of these stem segments on the Thanksgiving cactus has 2 to 4 saw-toothed serrations or projections along the borders. The Christmas cactus has more rounded stem edges. Both of these holiday cactus lack genuine leaves, thus photosynthesis takes place inside the green phylloclades.

Based on the color of the pollen-bearing anthers, a second way to identify between these two Schlumbergera species. The Thanksgiving cactus has yellow anthers, whereas the Christmas cactus has purplish-brown anthers.