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Holiday Cacti

Christmas vs Thanksgiving cactus

The holidays are here and so are the holiday plants! 🎄 The holiday cacti are epiphytic cacti so a lot of what we know when we think of cacti does not apply to these plants. Here are some facts and tips about the Thanksgiving Cactus, the Christmas Cactus and the Easter Cactus and how to tell them apart.

Holiday Cacti Variations
🦃 Thanksgiving Cactus (Schlumbergera truncata)

Leaves: The leaf edges are serrated or “toothed,” with pointy spines.

Thanksgiving - Leaf

Flowers: the flowers look like a flower within a flower.

The flowers come in a range of mostly pastel colors, including red, pink, peach, purple, orange, or white.

Bloom in Nov to Dec.

Thanksgiving - Flower
🎄 Christmas Cactus (Schlumbergera bridgesii)

Leaves: The leaves are “scalloped” and the scalloped points are usually alternated on each side.

Christmas - Leaf

Flowers: the flowers look like a flower within a flower.

The flowers of the Christmas cactus are usually white or fuchsia.

Bloom in Dec to Jan.

Christmas - Flower
🐰 Easter Cactus (Schlumbergera gaertneri)

Leaves: The leaves are rounded like the Christmas cactus, but the “scalloping” is much softer and even on both sides of the leaf.

Easter - Leaf

Flowers: the flowers look more tropical with the flower petals more pointy and open from a single flower.

The flowers will either be orange, pink or red.

Bloom around April.

Easter - Flower

Unlike the cacti that comes to mind, Epiphytic Cacti grow in rainforests that have shade and receive more water than normal cacti does. These cacti grow in the nooks and crannies of plants where organic matter collects and decomposes, making the soil full of nutrients.


Since these cacti live in rainforests, they thrive under bright filter light. At home, the plant can get full filtered morning sun and then shade for the rest of the day.

Too much light: Can cause the leaves to have a red/purple hue.


Well-draining potting soil (light, loose medium that allows the roots to breathe and absorb the water it needs)

TIP: Holiday cacti like to be root-bound since in their natural habitat they grow in nooks and crannies.


50-60% humidity would be great.

TIP: Use a pebble tray or a humidifier.


These plants need regular watering. They should be kept moist, but not wet. Fully water your plant and only water again when fully dried.

Underwatered: the cacti will have shrivelled/limp leaves because the roots are not getting enough water.
Overwatered: the cacti will become soft and shrivelled because the roots are damaged. Another sign for overwatering can also be leaves drooping and falling off of the plant.

TIP: Remember to adjust based on the weather.


Fertilize only during the growing season.

Fertilizing after growing season – Salt can build up in the bud, which can stop the buds from blooming or just fall off.


A lot of these holiday cacti have been part of family traditions where the plant is passed from generation to generation or the older generation shares a cutting to the younger ones so they can grow it into their own plant to pass on later.

We hope that these simple facts and care tips will help your plant be as healthy as they can be. We wish you luck and very happy holidays! 🎁🌲🥰

yellow petaled flower by elias sorey unsplash

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