The plants known as Thanksgiving cactus, Christmas cactus, and Easter cactus are three lovely types of blooming holiday plants. Unlike desert cactus, these plants are epiphytes that grow in tropical jungles in trees.
Although there are many similarities between the three, specific differences will help you tell one from the other.
One big difference between the three types of epiphytic cacti is the leaf shape.
- Schlumgera truncata, or Thanksgiving cactus, has claw-shaped points on its leaf edges.
- Schlumgera bridgesti or Christmas cactus has teardrop or scalloped edges to the leaves.
- Rhipsalidopsis gaertnerrii, or Easter cactus, has leaves with very round edges.
Thanksgiving and Christmas Cactus are Cousins
You may also have noticed the differences between the genus names of Thanksgiving and Christmas cactus and Easter cactus. Easter cactus is an unrelated plant, but it still has many similarities with Thanksgiving and Christmas cactus.
Bloom Time Differs
Another big difference between these holiday cacti lies in the time of year when they bloom. As the common name suggests, Schlumgera truncata tends to bloom early in the fall.
Schlumgera bridgesti has a slightly later bloom time. And Rhipsalidopsis gaertnerrii blooms early in the spring. It requires longer downtime to spur blooming.
What is DownTime?
Even with their differences, these three types of epiphytic cactus are “short day” plants. Cool temperatures and lengthy periods of darkness induce blooming.
Bring them in if you keep these plants outdoors through the summer, and place them in a cool, dark location to encourage buds to set.
Here are some good locations for holiday cacti downtime:
- a basement with some natural light
- an infrequently used spare bedroom
- any space where the plants can rest undisturbed and in a low-light setting.
Thanksgiving cactus and Christmas cactus need about six weeks of downtime.
Easter cactus needs a more extended rest. Two or three months of short days will encourage your Easter cactus to bloom.
How Often Do Holiday Cactus Bloom?
After your Thanksgiving or Christmas cacti have bloomed, they may bloom again in the springtime as a light rush of blooms. To encourage this, when all of your holiday cactus blooms are spent, return the plants to a short day setting.
How Do You Know Your Plant is Ready to Bloom?
When your epiphytic cactus produces buds, you can move it from its resting place to a warmer setting to enjoy the flowers. Once in a while, this move will spur bud drop.
How Can You Prevent Bud Drop?
Hot temperatures, drafts, excessive sunlight, or excessive water may cause bud drop.
Remember that these epiphytic cacti, unlike desert cacti, do not like direct sunlight. Place your holiday cactus in a draft-free, warm location with ample bright, but indirect sunlight.
Be careful not to overwater. Use the soak and dry watering method when the first inch of cactus soil is quite dry.
Don’t apply fertilizer during bloom time. Instead, fertilize lightly, early in the springtime after the blooming has finished.
This is also the best time for repotting. Even then repotting may not be necessary. These sorts of plants do best when they are slightly root-bound.
Note that repotting just before or during bloom time will cause bud drop. Never repot a holiday cactus during bloom time.
Is It Hard to Take Care of Holiday Cacti?
Holiday cacti are long-lived and easy to propagate from cuttings. These epiphytic cacti are easy-care and resistant to most diseases. Be very careful not to overwater as this will cause root rot.
If the leaves of any of these holiday cacti begin to turn reddish, you are giving the plant too much sun. Other causes may be too little water or too little phosphorus.
Evidence indicates that individual plants can live for more than a century. Also, they are sometimes handed down from one generation to the next within a family.