We are overjoyed that we bought a real Christmas cactus. The plant arrived in excellent shape and was prepared to be potted.
You have come to the right place if you have been looking for a genuine Christmas cactus.
Christmas Cactus vs Thanksgiving Cactus
The Thanksgiving Cactus (Schlumbergera Truncata) and the Christmas Cactus (Schlumbergera Bridgesii) are so similar that they are frequently confused with one another. However, there are several differences, most notably in the stems, leaves, and blooming time. (See the diagram below)
Where to Buy a True Christmas Cactus?
Our Christmas cactus was acquired from Mirage of Eden, an Etsy store. You may easily order their wide selection of live plants online through Etsy.
Are genuine Christmas cacti uncommon?
In this blog, I’ll discuss how to distinguish between Christmas and Thanksgiving cacti as well as share a link to a video I made for my Cacti & Succulent You Tube Channel called Desert Plants of Avalon in which I go into greater detail about the distinctions between Christmas and Thanksgiving cacti as well as Easter cacti.
Christmas and Thanksgiving cacti are epiphytic cacti that normally grow in tropical rainforests hanging from trees where they receive more moisture and shade than their desert sun-loving siblings. They are members of the Schlumbergera cactus family.
Schlumbergera cacti usually flower from mid-October to late-January, but it’s not uncommon for these cacti to bloom at other times of the year as well, especially if they’re cultivated indoors with artificial lighting.
Schlumbergera buckleyi, the real Christmas cacti, flower later than Schlumbergera truncata, the Thanksgiving cacti that are more frequently seen for sale. Schlumbergera buckleyi (Christmas cactus) blooms from early December to late January, while Schlumbergera truncata (Thanksgiving Cactus) blooms from early October to late December.
The Thanksgiving cactus, Schlumbergera truncata, is also known as the crab cactus because of its stem segments’ crab-like edges (see diagram below). Because of this, Schlumbergera truncata is frequently called the crab cactus.
Schlumbergera truncata, also known as the Thanksgiving Cactus, comes in a wide range of colors thanks to the numerous hybrids that are currently on the market. This cactus is the one that is most frequently seen for sale around the Christmas season and is also mistakenly referred to as the Christmas Cactus when it is actually a Thanksgiving Cactus.
Schlumbergera truncata has blooms that are more upright and do not hang down like Schlumbergera buckleyi.
The actual Christmas cactus, Schlumbergera buckleyi, has stem segments that are flattened and have smooth, scalloped edges rather than teeth ( see diagram below ). These days, this cactus is extremely infrequently offered for sale in garden centers and nurseries, and if you have lately purchased a cactus marked as a “Christmas Cactus,” it is almost always a truncata and not a buckleyi.
The actual Easter Cactus is Rhipsalidopsis gaertneri, and it likewise has stem segments that are highly spherical with scalloped edges, hairy coverings at the tips of each segment, and frequently red edges ( see diagram below ) Easter cacti typically bloom from March to April and their flowers are also significantly smaller.
Here is a video I did for my Cacti and Succulent You Tube channel called Desert Plants of Avalon where I go into great detail on how to distinguish between Christmas, Thanksgiving, and Easter Cactus.
In the coming days, I’ll be creating a blog post and a video on how to take care of Christmas and Thanksgiving cacti, so keep an eye out for them.
From the entire Emerald Isle, I’m sending you all my love, happiness, and an abundance of PLANT POWER.
Why is it so difficult to locate real Christmas cacti?
Weihnachtskakteen Schlumbergera bridgestii “Christmastime is a rare time to find true Christmas cacti for sale. The branches of these plants drop downward like pendants, and their leaf segments are smooth and scalloped. The plant is more fragile than the Thanksgiving Cactus, making shipping more challenging.
Schlumbergera truncata, the Thanksgiving Cactus Around the holidays, this is the plant that you will probably find for sale being marketed as a “Cactus of Christmas. In contrast to the “real Christmas Cactus,” which has scalloped leaves, these plants’ leaves have pointed “hooks” that set them apart from their closely related relatives. As opposed to the Christmas Cactus, which has more pendulous branches, its branches arch UP before hanging down.
Tropical plants with South and Central American native ranges include Christmas cactus. Although they are not true cacti, they do grow in a setting resembling that of epiphytic orchids in the forks of tree branches, where they thrive in decomposing leaves and other organic matter that gathers there. Can you picture seeing these in full bloom high in the trees?
Your Christmas cactus will most likely be in bud and bloom when you get it home. If at all feasible, place the plant in bright light in a humid environment to avoid bud drop. As the water evaporates, placing them on a saucer or tray with pea gravel and water will enhance the humidity around the plant. They won’t grow as well if you position them near a door, heating ducts, a fireplace, or other drafty spots.
Water less regularly during the flowering period and for approximately a month after it, letting the soil dry in between applications, than you would in the spring and summer. When you do water, keep in mind to water WELL.
How can you determine whether a Christmas cactus is genuine?
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.
When can a Christmas cactus be purchased?
In the late fall and winter, Christmas cacti are typically bought already in bloom or at least budded. Avoid drastic temperature changes when transporting your Christmas cactus since they can cause some of the buds to fall off. For optimal results, place in a light window and maintain the soil just moist enough. During the winter flowering season, fertilizer is not required.
Christmas cacti require as much light as possible once the last blooms have faded and prefer to be maintained on the cool side during rest periods (February – March and July – August). The plant needs to be transferred to a normal room temperature once the flower buds begin to appear in the fall.
At the start of the growth period, these cacti should be repotted every three to five years. It’s important that the soil flow easily, so always use a light soil (commercial cactus soil is acceptable).
The right amount of water, food, and relaxation must be given at the right times. Additionally, the length of daylight and the temperature of the environment will affect flowering.
The plant needs to rest when flowering is finished. Sparingly water it; do not let the stems to shrivel. If at all feasible, relocate the plant to a cool, well-lit area.
From the first of April, begin watering more frequently. Now that winter is over, the cactus will begin to flourish once more. The tips of each stem will have fresh shoots that may be seen plainly. If necessary, pot in April, and then feed a few times throughout the following months. Use a regular cactus soil that allows water to drain freely. If the soil is excessively damp, the weak roots will decay.
Christmas cacti can be placed outside in a light spot once the weather warms up. Avoid direct sunlight because certain types’ stems might become sunburned. I prefer bright, dappled shade.
This time of year is ideal for taking cuttings if you wish to. Placing good stems with two to four segments in damp sand makes propagation simple.
Reduce watering and let the soil completely dry in between waterings so that it doesn’t shrivel.
If you have your cactus outside for the summer, you can leave it there until the temperatures at night fall below fifty degrees (this period of cool nights and shortening days will encourage lots of flower buds). Restart increasing watering as soon as there are any indications of blossom buds. When growing blooms, the cactus must never become dry or be moved around excessively, as this will cause the buds to fall off the plant.
Mid-fall is when you should start to notice little, spherical buds emerging at the tips. When buds are growing in September and October, a few fertilizer applications may be beneficial for an old, huge plant.
It is diagnosed as needing more water. Give it a good soak in a basin of water or the sink, and after about 30 minutes, let it completely drain.
The roots are rotting, thus that is the diagnosis. Either the soil composition is incorrect or the plant has been overwatered. Take good cuttings and establish new plants because the plant cannot endure much longer.
The plant has either experienced too much movement or not enough water during the period when it establishes its buds, according to the diagnosis. More care should be given to it; observe the results. The next bloom cycle might be all that’s necessary for you to witness its splendor.
This year, give a Christmas cactus a try! The plant you purchase now might end up as an heirloom tomorrow!
How do a Christmas cactus and a False Christmas cactus differ from one another?
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.