Home Indoor Plants Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter? Which Cactus do you have?

Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter? Which Cactus do you have?

by Dawn
Christmas cactuses

Identifying Your Holiday Cactus Isn’t Difficult

I’ve been growing “Christmas” cactuses for at least 15 years.  Multiple ones, lots of different colors, pink, white, red.  I love my “Christmas” cactuses.

Notice how I keep putting Christmas in quotes?  That’s because I just found out my “Christmas” cactuses aren’t all Christmas cactuses.  Just goes to show you can learn something new anytime, anywhere.  I’m going to help you decide whether you do, in fact, have a Christmas cactus, a Thanksgiving cactus or an Easter cactus.

Thanksgiving Cactus Characteristics

Let’s start with Thanksgiving cactuses (or cacti, whichever you prefer).  The Thanksgiving variety is the easiest to identify because of the jagged leaves.  

As you can see from the picture, the lobes of the leaf are quite pointy.  The Thanksgiving cactus is Schlumbergera truncata, in case you were wondering, although you probably weren’t.  Only total plant geeks like me get all warm and fuzzy over scientific names.

Thanksgiving cactus leaf
Thanksgiving cactus leaf- notice the “teeth”

Christmas v. Easter Cactuses: Telling them Apart

As for Christmas and Easter cactuses, they’re a little tougher to differentiate.  The Christmas cactus has leaves with smooth, rounded lobes, while the Easter cactus has long, smooth leaves without any really defined lobing. 

What’s funny is that the two closest in appearance aren’t closely related at all.  Christmas cactus is Schlumbergera x buckleyi (more closely related to the Thanksgiving cactus), and the Easter cactus is Hatiora gaertneri.  

Christmas cactus leaf
Christmas cactus leaf
Easter cactus leaf
Easter cactus leaf

Leaf Shape as Identifier

You can see how the Christmas cactus leaf has actual lobes, although they are softly rounded, whereas the Easter cactus leaf doesn’t really have lobes, just little marks where the lobes would be.  

Bloom Time as an Identifier? Well, maybe….

According to the “authoritative” websites, you can also tell the difference between the varieties by when they bloom.  Wellllllll, I guess that depends.  I have all 3 varieties, and I never knew it because my Thanksgiving and Christmas cactuses bloom anytime between mid-November and January, and my Easter cactuses bloom in July.  Yes, July!  They sometimes also rebloom in October, as you can see below. 

easter cactus flower
Easter cactus flower

Forcing Blooms

Apparently there’s lots of stuff you can do to make the different varieties bloom when they’re “supposed” to.  If you’re interested in that, you can read more about it here and here.  Personally, I just love that they bloom beautifully, no matter when they choose to do so.  

Apparently Easter cactuses can be difficult. Who knew?

If you do some extra research, you might also find yourself wondering whether you should buy an Easter cactus, because the “experts” say they’re finicky and don’t like to rebloom.  I didn’t know that, and apparently neither did my plants, because I’ve never had a problem getting them to rebloom.  Maybe that’s why I’ve never had a problem- I’ve never TRIED to get them to rebloom, I just let them do their thing!  

Transitioning Cactuses Outdoors for the Summer

I do put my all my cactuses on my covered front porch all summer where they get morning sun, which apparently is what encourages Easter cactuses to bloom, although not typically in JULY! 

TIP: If you decide to do that, be sure to only expose them to an hour or so of sun the first week, then a couple of hours the second week and so on.  Otherwise, they WILL get sunburned (I know this from experience, unfortunately). It doesn’t really hurt them, but they look mighty sick for awhile afterwards!

Propagating a Holiday Cactus

If you have a friend with an awesome Thanksgiving/Christmas/Easter cactus you like but you’re too cheap, I mean frugal, to buy one, just snap off a leaf, put it in some soil, sit it in a sunny window and water regularly. 

If you look carefully at the close-ups of the leaves, you can see “hairs”.  Those are actually little baby roots just waiting for some nice damp soil to grow in.  Give them what they want and they’ll do the same for you!

I broke off a leaf from the Easter cactus and planted it and now I have a nice baby Easter cactus….that still blooms in July!  Like momma, like baby, I guess.

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I hope you’ve enjoyed my little tutorial on which kind of holiday cactus you have in your home.  There are a couple of pinnable images below if you’d like to pin this for later. Otherwise, as always, smile and have a crazy organic day!

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easter cactus
thanksgiving cactus

Identifying Your Holiday Cactus Isn’t Difficult

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