My Thanksgiving cactus is coming into full bloom right now. It's pretty much on schedule, although it will have lost some of its blossoms by next Thursday (Thanksgiving). I bought 'Caribbean Dancer' two years ago, almost to the day, and it's been one of the easiest houseplants I've ever owned.
Before I got it, I thought all cacti of this kind were called Christmas cactus. Then I heard about Thanksgiving cacti. Yes, Virginia, there is a difference.
Thanksgiving cactus (Schlumbergera truncata) has a distinctive look to its foliage. Each segment is much more sharp-cornered, more square than its Christmas cactus (Schlumbergera x buckleyi) cousin. A little less noticeable is the way the bloom is held at the end of the foliage. Thanksgiving cactus has a more upright bent to it. When you see them side-by-side, it's easy to see the differences.
|Christmas Cactus - 2010|
(Schlumbergera x buckleyi)
I've also got a Christmas cactus, although I didn't intentionally buy it. Not exactly. When I visited the Fort Wayne Home and Garden Show a couple of years ago, I bought a planter that had several succulents planted in it, one of which was a Christmas cactus - a true Christmas cactus. That one is just now beginning to put buds on and it will likely be blooming by Christmas, just as the Thanksgiving cactus is dropping its last blooms.
There's a third kind, too. Want to guess what its common name is? That's right - Easter cactus. Easter cactus blooms even later and belongs to a different genus (Hatiora gaetneri), but the foliage and blooms on all three look strikingly similar. All are native to Brazil.
Bloom times are different for each, which is how they got their common names. But don't count on the plant you see in the grocery store or the big box store having the correct common name attached to it. Most people don't really care about that, but just in case you do, now you know.