Christmas Cactus Vs. Thanksgiving Cactus

The Holiday season is approaching, which means decorations, gifts, get-togethers, food, and festive plants!

With so many holiday traditions at every nook and cranny, festive plants are another thing homeowners buy right around the holiday season to beautify their homes and gardens and get them ready for the celebrations. 

Among the most popular plants for this time of year are the Easter Cactus, Thanksgiving Cactus, and Christmas Cactus.

But in this blog, we will cover only the Christmas and Thanksgiving cacti which are excellent choices for this holiday season. 

While these cacti are all different, they look very similar, which makes it difficult for most of us to determine which is which.

All the cacti mentioned above belong to the same species called leaf cacti and are widely known as Holiday Cacti.

The mother genus of the holiday cacti is the Brazilian forest cactus. The themes of the holidays reflect the various cacti flowering seasons in the United States and Canada.

The Easter cactus belongs to the family Rhipsalidopsis, which thrives in dry woodlands, while the Christmas and Thanksgiving cacti are Schlumbergera species.

Now, let’s see how you can tell the Thanksgiving cactus from the Christmas cactus.

Christmas Cactus Vs. Thanksgiving Cactus

Christmas Cactus

This resilient plant that our grandmothers nurtured is called the Christmas Cactus (Schlumbergera bridgesii).

The Christmas cactus I have at home was developed from a cutting my mother got more than 7 decades ago!

Since they are so easy to propagate, Christmas cacti are the ideal plants to pass down.

All you have to do is cut out a ‘Y’ shaped branch and place it in a pot with vermiculite or soil. It will quickly begin to root.

Christmas cacti’s buds start to show up in late November, all set to bloom around Christmas.

This cactus requires slightly distinct upkeep from other succulents since it flowers during the coldest days of each year, particularly if you wish to avoid unexpected issues that result in death.

This cactus has blooms that can grow to a length of three inches and are typically tier-ed.

Christmas Cactus Care

Christmas cacti are not very difficult to care for, but if you wish to preserve their health, you must follow some guidelines.

  • This cactus does best in moderate to bright sunlight. Just be careful to keep it out of the direct sun rays, which will scorch the leaves. 
  • Each alternate week, give it a light fertilizer made for houseplants. 
  • It must be placed at 60 – 70-degree Fahrenheit all year round.
  • Water is also important because this succulent is a rainforest native. Put the pot on a tray with water and stones to make the air more humid. 
  • During the planting season (summer and spring), extensive watering is necessary, and the soil must be constantly damp. Don’t ever let it dry out.
  • However, beware of overwatering, as this can lead to root rot.

Christmas Cactus Blooms

If you’d like your Christmas cactus to bloom again, you will have to start the dormant cycle about 6 to 8 weeks before.

Keep it out of poorly ventilated places. However, the main recommendations are to lower sunlight, temperatures, and water in order to deceive it into flowering.

It takes this cactus approximately 12 to 14 dark hours each day to flower. The temperature range of 50 to 55 degrees is ideal for the buds to develop.

Reduce the amount of watering and discard the platter of stones if there is any moisture present. Continue doing this until your buds start to emerge.

Your Christmas cactus will treat you with extra flowers if you take proper care of them all year round. After the flowering seasons, it requires a month to relax before you start the usual annual care.

Thanksgiving Cactus

Schlumbergera truncates the scientific name for the Thanksgiving cactus. The buds on this cactus first appear during late fall and usually bloom when the coldest days arrive.

The flowers often last over 2-4 months. Thanksgiving cacti normally flower from mid-November until late December and occasionally even into January.

The term “crab cactus” comes from the shape of its squared leaf segments, which have pincer-like spikes on one side and on the edges.

It is indigenous to Brazil, where hummingbirds pollinate its two to three-inch-long, satiny blossoms.

Thanksgiving Cactus Care

Since the Thanksgiving cactus is a tropical succulent, ensuring it doesn’t completely dry out is crucial.

However, the roots shouldn’t be left in drenched soil but rather just moist soil. This is because overwatered soil can lead to root rot and fungus.

The best way to water it is by employing the “soak and dry” method. 

Similar to the Christmas cactus, the Thanksgiving cactus should also be placed on a tray with water and pebbles.

The ideal temperature for the Thanksgiving cactus is around 60-70 degrees Fahrenheit.

Take very good care while moving it around the house and keep it away from winds because the blossoms are delicate and can come out with excessive pressure.

Thanksgiving Cactus Blooms

During the last summer months and earlier in the fall, the Thanksgiving cactus blooms need to be enforced.

It requires similar conditions to the Christmas cactus: colder temperatures, less watering, and fewer daytime hours.

Move it where it will experience twelve to fourteen hours of complete darkness as the buds begin forming.

To lower the amount of moisture in the air, the soil must be drier than earlier, and any pebble trays must be removed.

Reduce the temperature to between 50 – 55 degrees. Plus, they require a month of relaxation after flowering before you begin the standard annual care routine.

More Factors to Distinguish a Thanksgiving Cactus from a Christmas Cactus

Most of the succulents available in the market are usually hybrids of the Thanksgiving and Christmas cacti.

You’ll find them in a wide spectrum of beautiful vibrant colors ranging from white, pink, red, yellow, purple, orange, and two tones. 

You’ll be able to tell them apart by:

The Flowering Pattern and Bloom Colors

  • The Thanksgiving cactus comes in a variety of hues and has petals that face outward. Compared to the Christmas cactus, this cactus blooms closer to Thanksgiving, later in October or early November.
  • The magenta-hued dangling blossoms of the Christmas cacti bloom naturally close to Christmas. Late November until early February is when flowers typically begin to bloom.

Their Distinct Stems

  • The flat stem sections of the authentic Christmas cactus have clean, scalloped ends.
  • The stems of the Thanksgiving cactus bear up to four sharp teeth.
  • The Thanksgiving cactus features stems that initially grow straight before arching, in contrast to the Christmas cactus, whose stems dangle downwards like pendants.
  • Since it flowers around the time of the American Thanksgiving, Thanksgiving cacti are what is typically sold in nurseries and retail establishments. 
  • The Christmas cactus is also more challenging to export since the stems are far more delicate and tend to break.

Thanksgiving and Christmas Cactus Blooming Guide

The name usually given to these cacti is short-day plants. Short-day plants are the name given to these cacti.

Accordingly, the plant needs cold temperatures and 12–24 hours of darkness in order to flower.

If you bought your cactus from a nursery or florist or maybe grew it by keeping it outdoors, you’ll have to keep it in a cold dark place after bringing it home.

This will help buds emerge.

The optimum location is a rarely used room or lower level room like a basement.

A Thanksgiving and Christmas cacti need around 6 weeks of short days to form buds.

It is possible to move it into a warmer spot once the buds start to form for your delight. At this stage, a plant may occasionally start to lose its buds.

This could be caused by air currents, increased temperatures, an abundance of water, or direct sun.

Bright sun is good for plants, but again not direct sun rays. Also, make sure to test whether the soil has completely dried out before watering it again. 

Moreover, 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 Thanksgiving and Christmas cacti bloom once more in the spring, though perhaps not as lavishly as over the holiday season.

Simply restore the cactus to its short day settings to promote springtime blooming.

Unless they are overwatered, these cacti are generally disease-free. If it turns crimson, there is either too much sunlight, not enough fertilizer, or not enough water.

There are tales of plants that have been passed down through the generations for more than a century.

Take advantage of these easygoing holiday cacti and begin a brand-new gardening tradition.

In Conclusion

The Thanksgiving and Christmas cacti belong to the same family, which makes it all the more difficult to tell them apart.

However, our guide will certainly help you in telling them apart, and you could even impart your wisdom to a few people and sellers.

The shape of their leaves can be used to distinguish them from one another the fastest and most accurately.

Luckily, all of these cacti require little maintenance. The only challenge is that all of them must be forced into dormancy in order to produce the vivid and lovely flowers they are prized for.

Now is the time for you to get your hands on these beautiful cacti and celebrate the holiday season by decorating your home and gifting it to your loved ones.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Why do Cacti have Thorns?

The cactus is able to survive in the desert by stealing moisture from the desert air, but the cactus is vulnerable to predators.

With thorns, the cactus is able to deter predators. Think of it this way: thorns are like spikes that prevent the cactus from being eaten.

How to get rid of flies on Succulents?

The cause of flies on your succulents is moisture. The day your plant arrived, you should water it very well and thoroughly. If you have a succulent, you should mist it daily.

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