Wednesday, November 26, 2014


If you went to the stores at the moment you might be forgiven for not knowing whether we were about to celebrate Thanksgiving or Christmas. After all we have been seeing Christmas trees and hearing carols for some time now. But it seems the nurseries might have it wrong too.

I picked up this plant the other day at my local nursery and it was labeled Christmas cactus. Didn't I remember reading somewhere recently that there were two species of this plant, the Christmas cactus and Thanksgiving cactus?  So I did a little research and came up with this enlightening information.

There are two kinds of this cactus; the Christmas cactus,  Schlumbergera bridgessi, and the Thanksgiving cactus, Schlumbergera truncata. They come in a variety of colors such as red, peach, white and the pink seen here. But it is the Thanksgiving cactus which we normally see for sale around this time of the year as it comes into flower about a month before Christmas. There are two ways to tell the Christmas and Thanksgiving cactus apart. The first is by looking at the flattened stems, the phyllocades, which have 2-4 pointed projections on the Thanksgiving cactus, as opposed to more rounded projections on the Christmas cactus. But an easier way is to look at the anthers on the stamens which are yellow on the Thanksgiving cactus, seen above, and purplish on the Christmas cactus.

But there is yet another holiday cactus called the Easter cactus,  Rhipsalidopsis gaertneri, which is named so because it blooms later in the year. It has the same flattened phyllocades but they are even more rounded. I have this one, seen above, picked up at a moving sale. Last year I noticed it start to bloom in June. I now know why.
The secret to good blooming around the holiday season is to give the plants increasing darkness from September on, and to keep the temperature as close to 68° as possible, with no more than 8-10 daylight hours. Only water when the well draining soil is dry.
So check out your cactus and see which one you have. I can almost guarantee that if you bought it at this time of the year it will be the Thanksgiving cactus. Mine is.

                                                      HAPPY THANKSGIVING


  1. My vote is to call them by their botanical names. The S. truncatas that I have bloom from before Thanksgiving until January, depending on their colors and growing conditions. I started calling them all 'Schlumbergera' so I don't have to worry over any part of it.

    My Rhapsalidopsis may bloom at Easter. Sometimes it waits until Mother's Day.

  2. So you knew all about the different kinds, Jean. And here I am all these years and just earning. I shall have to blame the nurseries.

  3. I never knew there was more than one kind. I'll have to check to see which one I have. usually doesn't bloom until January. Probably, because I don't keep it in the dark enough.

    Have a Happy Thanksgiving.

  4. Botanical names do make things clearer sometimes. I inherited what I thought was a Christmas cactus from my mother-in-law but, after reading yours and other posts, I've determined that it's S. truncata. A friend recently offered me an "Easter cactus," which I accepted sight unseen thinking I was going to get a Rhapsalidopsis, only to receive a very prickly Echinopsis.

    Best wishes for a happy Thanksgiving!

  5. I've always wondered about those, and you've cleared it all up for me. Aren't garden blogs great?

    Have a lovely Thanksgiving.

  6. Ha! I had never heard of Schlumbergera bridgessi - only the Thanksgiving cactus - which, of course, everyone in my family calls 'Christmas cactus' - and the Easter cactus, which I very rarely see on sale at the nursery and which only my paternal grandmother ever appears to grow successfully.

  7. Well that is absolutely fascinating. I definitely have Thanksgiving cactus here though I'm pretty sure the original was labeled a Christmas cactus, just as you've noted. I doubt I'll remember the botanical names but hopefully I can keep the various holidays sorted out!