Thanksgiving cactus color

Holiday cacti bloom at different times

March 19, 2014 – 01:01 am

I have four diff. colors on

The Christmas cactus is a popular winter-flowering houseplant native to Brazil.Shutterstock photo

By Susan M. Dollard

Q: What is the difference between a Thanksgiving cactus and a Christmas cactus? How do you get them to bloom? — Sara, Eldred

A. The Thanksgiving cactus (Schlumbergera truncata) and Christmas cactus (Schlumbergera bridgesii) are popular fall- and winter-flowering houseplants. Both are native to Brazil.

They are available in a wide variety of blooming colors including red, rose, purple, lavender, peach, orange, cream, and white.

To distinguish between the Thanksgiving and Christmas cacti, look at the shape of the flattened stem segments and consider their blooming times.

The Thanksgiving cactus generally begins flowering in mid- to late November and continues into December. Common names for this cactus are the crab cactus and claw cactus. These names come from the pointed "teeth" that exist on the flattened, jointed stem segments. On the Thanksgiving cactus, these stem segments each have two to four saw-toothed projections along the stem.

The Christmas cactus normally begins to flower about Christmas and continues flowering into January. The stem segments of Christmas cactus are more rounded and do not have the forward-pointing projections.

Both plants have a drooping characteristic, but Christmas cactus, particularly as a young plant, tends to hang downward more than Thanksgiving cactus. You will often see the Christmas cactus sold as a hanging plant because of this.

Another way to distinguish between these two species is based on the color of the pollen-bearing anthers. The anthers of the Thanksgiving cactus are yellow, whereas the anthers on the Christmas cactus are purplish-brown. Otherwise, the flowers of both cacti are very similar.

Light & temperature

During the fall, the Thanksgiving and Christmas cacti depend upon shorter day lengths (8 to 10 hours) and lower temperatures to set their flower buds. Do not let temperatures rise above 90 degrees F. once the flower buds are set in the fall. Continuous warm temperatures can cause flower buds to drop. Do not leave these cacti outside when temperatures will drop below 50 degrees F.


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