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Thanksgiving Cactus, Christmas Cactus, Easter Cactus: Do You Know the Difference

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Did you know that the 3 plants are different?

The Christmas cactus (Schlumbergera bridgesii), the Thanksgiving cactus (Schlumbergera truncata), , and the Easter cactus (Rhipsalidopsis gaetneri) all look alike but completely different plants, one a completely different Genus!.

The Schlumbergera is a genus of about 6 species of bushy, ephohytic or rock dwelling cacti that are native to the tropical rain forests of S.E. Brazil, and the Rhipsalidopsis genus has 2 known species that are native to the natural forests of Brazil.

These Holiday cactus look different as well. The Thanksgiving cacti has joints (cladophylls) with margins that are serrated 2 to 4 times, and the flowers have yellow anthers. Christmas cacti have joints with 2 to 3 rounded teeth on the margins and purple anthers. The teeth on the Easter cactus are more rounded, but they also have 2 of three of them, bristles at the apex, and have golden yellow anthers.

The largest difference between the Holiday cactus is their blooming period. When grown under normal daylight conditions, the Thanksgiving cactus bloom around November, the Christmas a month later and the Eater cacti around February and sometimes again in the summer.

Want to be sure your Holiday cactus blooms? These cacti respond to cooler temperatures and the change in daylight. Thanksgiving and Christmas cactus do best when set outdoors away from artificial light until temperatures start to drop into the 40s. When this happens, bring them inside. They do better when temperatures are consistently 50 and 65 degrees. Bring them in and place them in a cool area that gets little or no night time light. They need weekly watering. and keep them away from they drying effects of heat vents.

Easter cactus need to be treated differently. Care for them just as you would the other holiday cactus but water very sparingly in October and November as they need this dry period to flower in the spring. Remember, they are not from the rain forest as the other Holiday cacti are, and require this dry period to produce flowers in the spring. If your plants don't bloom it is due to lack of cooler temperatures and poor lighting treatment.

They all should be grown in epiphytic cactus potting mix and like a moderate amount of humidity. To fertilize, apply a high-potash liquid fertilizer every 4 weeks when in growth. Repot every 3 to 4 years. Buds may drop in very dry conditions or if there is a sudden environmental change.

To propagate, sow seed at 66-70ºF in spring, or take cuttings of stem sections in spring or early summer.

Watch for mealybugs.

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