Thursday, November 17, 2011

Thanksgiving or Christmas? Which Kind of Cactus Do YOU Have?

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)

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.

Thanksgiving cactus


Jennifer said...

Beautiful photos! I seem to have a New Year's or January seems to go into bloom right after the new year. :)

Kylee Baumle said...

Jennifer ~ I would say yours is likely a Christmas cactus. Sometimes mine doesn't bloom until January. That's what it did last year.

myomyohi said...

My has been blooming at Thanksgiving. It started last week, so I assume I have a Thanksgiving cactus.

Kylee Baumle said...

myomyohi ~ You can tell for sure by checking the foliage! :-)

Janice said...

I have a Christmas Cactus. Three years ago it was absolutely lovely at Christmas, lots and lots of blooms. I am so glad that you taught me about the difference in the foilage, now I know for sure that I have a Christmas one. Only since I repotted it and seperated it into two pots it doesn't know when to bloom. Last year it bloomed in the middle of the summer. This year it started blooming around New Years and still has some blooms and buds. Maybe the snake that was in the pot I transferred it to scared it! (you can read about this here:
I love your blogs and I think I'm going to start at the beginning and spend the day getting to know you better.

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