Belcarra Garden Club
BC, Canada


Christmas Cactus Mystery

by Nora Boekhout

Have you ever wondered why the “Christmas Cactus” you bought last year doesn’t seem to follow the December calendar?  I used to think that mine were just a little bit oddball as they consistently start blooming in early November. I finally ended up calling them my “birthday cactus” instead!  Of course, the ones in the garden shops are always in colourful array in time for Christmas hostess gifts. (Spoiler… I just bought a little one that is yellow-orange!  A new color for me!) 

Guess what.. I eventually discovered that my cacti are also known as “Thanksgiving Cactus” (American holiday calendar) (Schlumbergera truncata)  and the “real Christmas Cactus”  (Schlumbergera bridgesii)  is different.

image from World of Succulents

Take a look at the tips of the cactus “leaves”.  Thanksgiving cacti have “claws” at the tips and Christmas cacti have rounded tips.  The Thanksgiving cactus has flowers that bloom outwards and the Christmas cactus has blooms that face down.  However, with today’s gardening genetic manipulation, there are hybrids in the mix as well.  BTW, there is also an “Easter cactus” (Rhipsalidopsis gaertneri), which blooms in late winter and spring!

Two years ago I bought a little Christmas cactus in the summer, just to see what might happen.  We were delighted at the beautiful blooms (at Christmas!) which were quite different than all my others.  Last year I was disappointed as no blooms appeared.  I read up on it, and it seems that a cold period of a month is needed to encourage blooming.  My little plant has spent November in a cool, protected area and I brought it upstairs December 1st.  HOWEVER, after writing this article and looking for good images, I actually think that I have an Easter cactus after all!  Oh dear! Wish me luck because I just hope that it blooms once again, whatever it turns out to be!

image from Sunny Home Gardens

You can read more about these three types of cacti. 
See if you can identify your own special plants!


January 2024 update

Further to my BGC article in December/23
my “Thanksgiving Cacti” are in bloom for the second time
and YES, my “not true” Christmas Cactus (which may be an “Easter Cactus”) finally has buds (Valentine’s? Early Easter?)
Now I’m not sure WHEN to do the “dark and cold” treatment for next year. LOL!




Here are just a few of the MANY links available on these lovely plants!

Is it a Thanksgiving, Christmas, or Easter Cactus?

Christmas Cactus vs. Thanksgiving Cactus vs. Easter Cactus

Farmer's Almanac - Christmas Cactus vs. Thanksgiving Cactus vs. Easter Cactus

Christmas Cactus or Thanksgiving? How to ID your plant.

Should you prune your Christmas Cactus?

Christmas Cactus Blooming - How to Get a Holiday Cactus to Flower Each Year

Using coffee grounds on Christmas Cactus.


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