Christmas Cactus or Thanksgiving cactus, many times they are confused or mis-labeled. I show you how easy it is to tell which one is which.
Do you know the difference? I see folks all the time wondering why their so called ‘Christmas cactus’ is setting buds and blooming much earlier than late December. The easy answer is they are most likely calling their Thanksgiving Cactus (Schlumbergera truncata) a Christmas Cactus (Schlumbergera x buckleyi). Do you have a Christmas Cactus or a Thanksgiving Cactus? I will show you how to tell the difference.
How Can You Tell?
It is true that conditions where the plant is located can also have a bearing but 9 times out of 10 it is just a different plant. What makes it even more confusing is garden centers and grocery stores sell the Thanksgiving Cactus as a Christmas Cactus, so if it is listed on the plant, always go by the botanical name to avoid confusion.
(note: all of the cactus I spotted in stores this season were Thanksgiving Cactus but they were selling them as Christmas Cactus.)
One way you can tell is to look at the leaves. The leaves of the Thanksgiving Cactus have sharp points on them whereas the Christmas Cactus has more rounded edges. Here is a photo of mine. Can you tell the difference?
The plant on the right definitely has spikes on the edges while the left one has more rounded lobes.
They both are lovely and will reward you well in late autumn and winter when you crave a bit of bloom happiness.
I have several colors of Thanksgiving Cactus. This white one below is such a gorgeous color and it has a shimmer to it that just sparkles. It is one of my favorites. This photo is from last Fall and the plant is twice as big today so I am hopeful to get a ton of blooms this season.
The orangey one is called Exotic Dancer and it just bloomed in abundance last year, it too is twice as large this year. It has a lot of fuchsia pink mixed in with the orange for a truly exotic appearance.
I bought 3 of my plants as cuttings online and rooted them. My one and only Christmas Cactus is a cutting from my mothers plant. And I have another cutting from someone else.
Want to know how I rooted my cuttings? Click Here I have 100% success rate!
Force to Bloom?
Many folks have all sorts of tips and tricks to get the Holiday Cactus’ to bloom (I lump all 3 varieties in this group, including the Easter Cactus), I have tried none of them. I just have them outside in Summer in a well lit but not direct sunlight area, then bring them into my studio cottage or house on a windowsill when the nights start getting down to 50 degrees and let them do their thing.
I place them in a room that gets no artificial light in the evening. Holiday cactus need 12- 14 hours of darkness to set blooms. For us here in N. California that starts to occur around the 1st of October. Once they have set blooms you can put them in any room free of drafts and abrupt temperature changes. They will bloom longer in cooler temps. They prefer 60 to 70 degrees and humidity.
My plants totally took me by surprise this year and bloomed again in June! They had been moved to the greenhouse and set bud, then bloomed. The light amount was way more than they were supposed to get if you listen to all the experts. So who knows!
General Care of holiday cactus
Here is what I do to take care of them. I water them when I water all my plants, once a week. I water them and then let them dry out then water again. Many try to treat these like you would a true cactus and underwater them but they do better with more water than that. The plants I kept outside needed water more often, just like my other potted plants. Do no underwater these plants!
I feed my plants in Summer and stop when late Fall, as I do all my house plants. I will give them a weak solution once a month of liquid feed, and mine start to put on new growth about January.
Mine are way overgrown now and are top heavy, I have had them in plastic starter pots and they really need to be moved to a bit larger and heavy pots. Or I could just give them a good prune, click here if you want to see how that is done.
I will wait until after their bloom this Fall and Winter. Transplanting them now would most likely assure I would not get any blooms this season. They are a bit finicky once they start to set buds. Moving them after buds start will almost guarantee they will drop the buds and you will get limited flowering if any. From all accounts they like being root bound and bloom more profusely when they are. Mine started blooming the first year but I have them in small pots and may well have gotten root bound fast.
Another big bonus, these things can last forever! Well, maybe not forever but taken care of properly then can last decades. I have a friend who has one that is over 50 years old and it is still going strong. Now that is a house plant!
How do your Holiday Cactus get along? Do you try to force the blooms and what works for you?
Happy Holiday Cactus Growing!