So, you posted a picture of your Christmas Cactus in our Facebook group, Houseplant Addicts, and were told that it is, in fact, not a Christmas Cactus but a Thanksgiving Cactus, and now you’re confused. I’m here to help! Holiday cacti are Schlumbergera hybrids, and are often confused for each other; except the Easter Cactus, but we will get to that later. They are epiphytic tropical cacti. The differences are all in the shape of the leaves, and the care is pretty much the same across the board. Let’s break it down.
Schlumbergera truncata-Thanksgiving Cactus
These are the ones most often sold labeled as Christmas Cactus around the holidays. They have pointed almost claw-like projections on the leaf edges. They normally bloom between November and January, with multiple flower color options.
Schlumbergera bridgesii-Christmas Cactus
Christmas Cactus like the Thanksgiving Cactus has projections on the leaf edges, but they are slightly scalloped instead of pointy. These can be harder to find than the Thanksgiving Cactus. They also bloom between November and January, and there are multiple flower color options.
Rhipsalidopsis gaertnerii-Easter Cactus
The Easter Cactus is the cousin of the other two. They look a lot like Christmas Cactus leaf wise, with a more defined scalloped projection, and sometimes slightly longer leaves, but the blooms are completely different. These are sold in the spring, and bloom between March and May. Like the others there are multiple flower color options.
Holiday Cactus Care
Holiday cacti prefer bright indirect light, but can adapt to lower light situations. Water thoroughly when soil is completely dry, unless the plant is in bloom. If in bloom, don’t let the soil dry out. They bloom around the changing of the seasons, so light and temperature play a big role. Shorter days, and cooler temps bring ideal conditions for blooming.
They can go outside in the spring, as long as the temperature is above 50°F (10°C) and it is not in direct sunlight, as it will burn. New growth can come in slightly pinkish-red on the edges, but fully red leaves can indicate sunburn/sunstress and under watering. Holiday cacti are relatively slow-growers and some are passed down generations.