How To Identify Holiday 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.

Is this a Christmas cactus, right?

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 do the leaves of a Christmas cactus resemble?

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 distinguishes a Christmas cactus from a spring cactus?

You recently talked about Thanksgiving and Christmas cacti. Could you elaborate on the Easter cactus, the third plant you mentioned?

In addition to the previously mentioned Thanksgiving and Christmas species, an Easter cactus is sometimes referred to as a spring cactus, Rhipsalidopsis gaetneri, or Hatiora gaetneri. Easter cacti often bloom in the spring, close to Easter, in honor of their namesake.

All of the holiday cacti are native to South America’s tropics, where they can be found growing on trees in their natural state. Because of this, they all go by the label “jungle cactus” in addition to “holiday cacti.”

There are ways to distinguish an Easter cactus from the other holiday kinds despite how similar they are. The season of blooming is one simple technique to identify the species. Easter cactus flower in the spring, with flower buds first appearing in February and blooming from March until May. Thanksgiving and Christmas cacti often bloom one month earlier than Christmas cacti in the late fall or early winter.

Examining the edges of the leaf segments of the holiday cactus is another way to distinguish them, in addition to their various bloom seasons. Easter cacti are distinguished by the bristles that can be seen on the margins of their leaf segments. In the previous piece, I mentioned that Christmas cactus have smooth, round edges and Thanksgiving cacti have pointed, jagged ones. The spring variety’s flowers have a more star-like appearance, but they still have the vibrant hues that are common to all three species: reds, pinks, and purples, with some cultivars also showing a completely white blossom.

The same growing parameters apply to all holiday plants, which are shorter days, longer stretches of uninterrupted darkness to encourage flowering, and well-drained soil. One thing to think about is how much water they require, especially with Easter cacti. Overwatering can seriously harm plants and is especially harmful to Easter species. Prior to watering the plant, make sure the soil in the pot is dry.

All three offer stunning displays of vibrant, tropical beauty, sure to spread a little festive cheer throughout the holiday seasons, whether you select an Easter, Christmas, or Thanksgiving cactus. With the Spring Gardening Digital Value Pack, you can be sure that your garden will flourish in the spring.

With help from the Smart Gardening Techniques: Houseplants and Houseplants 2 book, learn how to maintain your indoor plants in good health.

Use the environmentally friendly Eco Watering Spouts, which come in eye-catching hues of lime green, hot pink, and orange, to water your indoor and outdoor plants.

Have more inquiries about how to recognize plants? You can confidently name plants with the help of The A to Z of Plant Names.

In Succulent Container Gardens, you may learn how to maintain lovely succulent plants, including other cacti, as stunning container gardens.

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 kind of plant resembles a Christmas cactus?

Years ago, I lost this plant, but I’d like to get another one. It resembles a massive Christmas cactus, however it just once bloomed for me. Before the plant began to blossom, I had it for nearly 4 years. My spouse referred to it as my “weed.” The flower is fuschia/red in hue. The only two images I have of it in bloom are the ones I’m including.

These are Epiphyllum, the orchid cactus, which is distinguished by its incredibly beautiful and vividly colored blossoms. Imagine them developing in a jungle, high in the treetops, in full bloom, in their natural environment.

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.