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Christmas, Thanksgiving and Easter Cactus

The holidays are quickly approaching and that means the holiday plants, including the Christmas cactus are making their appearance.

I am often asked “What is the difference between the Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter cactus?”  As you have noticed there is a lot of name swapping that goes on between these three plants.

Fortunately their growing requirements and care are basically the same so the plants will do fine even if misnamed. The true Christmas cactus has small segments with smooth edges. The true Thanksgiving cactus, though often sold as the Christmas cactus, has toothed or jagged segments. Both flower with cool nights and long (14 hours) uninterrupted dark (night) periods.  The Easter cactus sets flowers in spring as the days start to lengthen.

These plants are native to the tropical rain forest, not the desert, as you may think. They all prefer bright light, high humidity and a thorough watering when the top few inches of soil begins to dry.

A bit more information:  Using botanical names can help insure you get the plant you want.  The true Christmas cactus is Schlumbergera, the Thanksgiving cactus is Schlumbergera truncata, and the Easter cactus is Rhipsalidopsis gaertneri (formerly Schlumbergera gaertneri).

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