There are three varieties of holiday cactus; the Thanksgiving cactus (Schlumbergera truncata), the Christmas cactus (Schlumbergera bridgesii), and the Easter cactus (Rhipsalidopsis gaetneri). These three plants all look alike, and they require similar care, but there are differences that you should note. Let’s take a more in depth look at each variety.
The Thanksgiving Cactus (Schlumbergera Ttruncata)
The leaves of Thanksgiving cactus plants are broad and flat with small serrated edges. These plants often bloom in shades of pink, yellow, white, or red, which adds a bright contrast to your traditional fall décor. The blooms of this plant typically last two to four months, but in order for them to bloom again the following year, you need to trick the plant into entering a dormant stage by providing it with less light and colder temperatures.
One of the most important aspects you need to consider when caring for a Thanksgiving cactus is the amount of water you need to give the plant. It needs to grow in soil that is moist, but it cannot be dripping wet because these plants are used to the tops of the trees where there is less moisture and more sun. These plants do like sun, but direct sunlight is not necessary. Humidity will also help this plant thrive as that is the way that these plants naturally wet their roots in nature.
These plants should be pruned during the summer months, and prepared for their Thanksgiving blooming period in September. During this time, the plant needs 12 hours of darkness a day. Propagation of these plants begins with a stem that has a few leaves attached. Allow the stem to callus, and then plant it in soil and tent the plant to keep the humidity level around the plant up. Allow the cutting to have an hour of fresh air each day, and in three weeks, the cutting should take root. It will take a few years for the Thanksgiving cactus to bloom.
The Christmas Cactus (Schlumbergera Bridgesii)
Christmas cactus plants are very similar to Thanksgiving cactus; in fact, they are often mistaken for them, but there are differences that appear mainly with the stems, leaves, and the blooming period. This variation of holiday cactus has very flat stems and broad leaves that have rounded indentations. They are still segmented leaves, but they actually look quite different when you look at the foliage.
Blooms are typically red and white, but yellow and white is also pretty common. The plant needs to be grown in a temperature of about 68 degrees Fahrenheit, and it requires a lot of light, but indirect sunlight is best. Make sure to keep the soil moist, but do not over water the plant; just water when the top of the soil feels dry to the touch. Make sure the soil is well-draining because these plants do not like to sit in water. Mist the leaves to give the plant the tropical feel that it would receive in nature as well.
Since this is a Christmas cactus, it is meant to bloom near the Christmas holiday. To make sure that this occurs, you may need to force the plant into a dormant state This means that the plant will need at least 12 hours of darkness each day, less water, and temperatures of about 55 degrees Fahrenheit. This dormant period should begin in October and last for about four to five weeks. When this is done correctly, you will have beautiful blooms for Christmas that will last for a period of eight weeks.
The Easter Cactus (Rhipsalidopsis Gaetneri)