How to tell the difference between Christmas Cactus & Thanksgiving Cactus

Hi Guys 🙂

In this Blog I will be explaining the differences between the true Christmas Cactus ( Schlumbergera buckleyi and the more commonly seen for sale Thanksgiving Cactus ( Schlumbergera truncata ).

Now that we are into Fall / Autumn and it’s getting very near that time of year when our favourite Schlumbergera cacti are starting to come into bud again ready to surprise us all by blooming their lovely flowers, and from now until January everywhere you look the garden centres and Supermarkets will be full of these wonderful and extremely beautiful flowering plants that produce flowers of all colours imaginable, especially now that there are many different hybrids of Schlumbergera on the market 🙂

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My Schlumbergera truncata Cactus ( Thanksgiving Cactus ) a hybrid with beautiful pink and white blooms.

in this blog I am going to show the difference between the two different types of commonly grown Schlumbergera, Most people know that there are two main types of these very popular Winter flowering Epiphytic cacti, and they are the Thanksgiving cactus that flowers around the mid October to late November time, and the Christmas Cactus that flowers slightly later around the mid to late December early January time, I wanted to make this blog explaining the differences between the two so you can tell which type of Schlumbergera cactus that you have in your collection, or that you are about to purchase.

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My over 50 years old Schlumbergera truncata ( Thanksgiving cactus ) cactus full of buds this year October 2016

Understandably most people would think that the only difference between the two is its flowering period, and in fact most people would commonly call both by the same name either Christmas cactus or Thanksgiving cactus and I know that many of the garden stores and Supermarkets here in Ireland call them all Christmas cactus regardless of their variety because we do not celebrate Thanksgiving here like they do in the U.S.

Although there are many different hybrids of Schlumbergera and there are six different species in total, there are two main groups of them and these are Schlumbergera truncata, and Schlumbergera buckleyii

Schlumbergera buckleyi is also known as Schlumbergera bridgesii and less commonly known as Schlumbergera rusellina.

Below I will explain the differences between the S. truncata and the S. buckleyii and I will reveal the real Christmas cactus haha! 🙂 also check out this video below that I have made for my You Tube channel Desert Plants of Avalon explaining in detail the differences between these two 🙂

Schlumbergera truncata

The Schlumbergera truncata is the true Thanksgiving cactus, and the easy way to tell if it is a Thanksgiving cactus is that it has pointed edgings on its leaf segments almost like a crabs claw, this often gives these Cacti the nickname of ‘Crab Cactus ‘see photo below

Thanksgiving cactus Schlumbergera truncata leaf segment

Thanksgiving cactus ( Schlumbergera truncata) leaf segment with crabs claw like leaf edgings

The flowers on the Schlumbergera. truncata ( Thanksgiving cactus ) variety come in a range of colours and you will also notice that the flowers grow in a horizontal way shooting straight out from the stems just like in the photo below

Schlumbergera truncata red flowers

The Flowers of Schlumbergera truncata ( Thanksgiving cactus ) are horizontal in their appearance.

The Christmas cactus on the other hand at first glance may look the same but there are a few telltale signs for easy identification listed below.

Schlumbergera buckleyi

The Schlumbergera buckleyi is the true Christmas cactus and if you notice its leaf, unlike the Thanksgiving cactus which has pointed leaves the Christmas cactus has scalloped rounded edges around the leaf segments with the rounded edges going towards the tip just like the photo below.

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Christmas Cactus ( Schlumbergera truncata ) has leaf segments with rounded edges

The flowers on the Christmas Cactus ( Schlumbergera buckleyi ) hang down like bells just like in the photo below, unlike the Thanksgiving cactus which its flowers go straight out, so look for rounded scalloped edges around the leaf and flowers that hang down and you have got yourself a Christmas cactus.

Sclumbergera buckleyi

The flowers on Christmas Cactus ( Sclumbergera buckleyi ) hang down like Bells.

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The difference between the Leaf edging between the Thanksgiving cactus and the Christmas Cactus

I should also point out that the Easter Cactus Rhipsalidopsis also has a rounded scalloped edge and it is very similar in appearance to the Christmas Cactus  ( Schlumbergera buckleyii ) and they can be very difficult to tell apart when not in flower.

Easter cactus, Rhipsalidopsis, Easter cacti,

The Easter Cactus ( Rhipsalidopsis ) can look very similar in appearance to the Christmas Cactus when not in flower.

The way you can distinguish between the Christmas and the Easter cactus is that the Easter cactus although it has rounded edges, it’s curve on the edges of the leaf is not curving towards the tip like the Christmas cactus (see comparison photo below) instead the Easter Cactus’s roundness is centralized down the edge of the leaf, unlike the Christmas cactus that has an almost teardrop curve and of course the Easter cactus flowers in Spring instead of Winter also the Easter cactus has star shaped flowers very different in appearance to the Christmas Cactus.

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The Easter Cactus ( Rhipsalidopsis ) can look very similar in appearance to the Christmas cactus when out of flower with its similarity with the rounded leaf segments, however Christmas cactus has more tear drop shaped leaf edges than the Easter cactus.

So then will the REAL Christmas Cactus please stand up haha!

So guys the REAL Thanksgiving cactus is the Schlumbergera truncata 🙂 and the REAL Christmas cactus is the Schlumbergera buckleyi also less commonly known as Schlumbergera bridesii and Schlumbergera ruselliana 🙂

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Schlumbergera buckleyii is the true Christmas cactus with its rounded leaf segments.

Hope this clears up any confusion between the two and I bet you will agree with me irrespective of which type you have the blooms on each is a true gift to us and I am wishing all of you a BLOOMING LOVELY Fall / Autumn time of year 🙂

One thought on “How to tell the difference between Christmas Cactus & Thanksgiving Cactus

  1. Hi Lyn

    Love your videos,and you cover the Christmas and Easter cactus very well, my question is I have beautiful large flower and when they go over there are small buds left and I think I will get a second flowering but the come to nothing and fall off I have tried removing the first flowers when they have finished but neither seems to work, so is there an answer or is this just normal, hope you can answer this question.

    Many thanks Elizabeth