Christmas Cactus Vs. Thanksgiving Cactus

CHRISTMAS CACTUS Gabriel VanHelsing, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Decorating your house before the holiday season is one of the oldest traditions across the world. People not only clean their houses, but they also decorate them with flowers and other decorative materials. These decorations for the holiday are incomplete if you have not selected holiday plants. There are a lot of plants that are used as holiday plants. There are specific cactus plant species that are associated with the holidays such as Easter, Thanksgiving, and Christmas holidays. Each of these plant types is grown for these holidays specifically.

THANKSGIVING CACTUS Judy Gallagher, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

As you may know, most of the cactus plant species look similar, especially the ones that are used for these holiday events. For example, the three most commonly used species for Easter, Christmas, and Thanksgiving have a lot of common features. Such as similar color, size, shape, and flowers. They also have some differences and these differences help us properly identify these species and their purpose. Below is a complete guide about how you can identify these plants and grow them in your home for the holiday season.

Identification

To identify these plants, you should first know their characteristics. You can learn about their characteristics by learning about the individual plant species. Each species has its properties. Some of its properties and characteristics can match other species but most of them are distinct. This distinction helps you easily identify these plants. For example, the species of plant that is widely used for the Christmas holiday has smooth edges, meanwhile, the thanksgiving plant has edges with small pointy ends. Below are the examples of species of these two plants and how to differentiate between them.

Example Species

  • Schlumbergera bridgesii – Christmas Cactus

The Schlumbergera bridgesii plant is also known as the Christmas cactus. It has smooth edges on the sides and light pink flowers. Their stem is small and wide. They have small thorns all over the plant. They grow flowers on the top of the stem. These flowers have multiple long petals. These petals circle in an upwards direction. Each flower may have three to four different layers of petals surrounding the ovary of the flower. This flower is almost odorless and has no scent or smell. You can grow it anywhere in the world with proper care.

  • Schlumbergera truncata – Thanksgiving Cactus

The Schlumbergera truncata plant, which is also known as the Thanksgiving cactus, is also a small and beautiful cactus plant. It is also a flowering plant that produces flowers during the blooming season. This plant may look similar to the Christmas cactus, but it is an entirely different plant species. It has a different texture, stem color, and flower. Its flowers have pinkish-red petals that surround the ovary. The stem of this plant has rough edges with thorns, which makes it easier to identify this plant. It is also a drought-tolerant succulent plant that you can grow anywhere in the world with proper care.

Differences

Both of these plants may look similar if you are not paying close attention to the details, but if you look closely, you will be able to find a lot of differences in almost every part of these plants. These differences can help you identify these plants and classify them as Christmas cactus and Thanksgiving cactus. Read the observational differences below with care as these will help you identify the plant and choose the right one for your holidays.

Stems

Stem difference is one of the first things that you will notice between these plants. They are different species, so they have different stems. The texture and feel of the stem would help you identify them separately. The Christmas cactus plant has a flat stem, its stem is divided into smaller sections like leaves. But these sections are a part of the stem and not leaves. It grows small leaves on separate sides. Its stem has a smooth texture and edges.

The Thanksgiving cactus plant also has a flat stem, but its stem is wider as compared to the Christmas cactus. It has rough edges with pointy ends. Its texture is also not smooth. It has a lot of small thorns that are spread across the entire stem.

Flowers

Apart from their stem differences, you can also find differences in their flowers as well. Both of these are flowering plants, but their flowers have different colors, placements, sizes of petals, and arrangements of the petals as well. These differences are also helpful in identification. The Christmas cactus plant grows pink flowers. These flowers grow on the tip of a branch that extends from the stem. The texture of its flowers is smooth. Fresh pink-colored flower petals surround the ovary. This flower has multiple levels or layers of petals that are arranged in circles.

The Thanksgiving cactus plant is also a flowering plant. It grows pinkish-red flowers. Their color can be separately identified with ease. Their petals are also different. They have thin and wide petals. These petals have pointy ends. These petals are also arranged in a layered circular formation.

Leaves

Another important difference that you can find between these plants is the shape and size of their leaves. Some people consider their stems as their leaves, which is a wrong concept. These plants have chlorophyll in their stems, which makes them photosynthetic, but they also grow small leaves. The leaves of the Christmas cactus can be seen during the blooming season. These leaves are smaller and usually grow on the edges of the plant. The Thanksgiving Cactus plant also grows small leaves. These leaves are small and grow on specialized branches, and sides of the stem. These leaves also turn into a part of the stem over time.

Shape and Size

Their size and shape can also help you identify these plants with ease. The Schlumbergera bridgesii or Christmas cactus plant has a larger size. It can grow up to 10 inches high and 24 inches wide. This plant can also grow like a trailing succulent plant. Mostly they are kept in smaller pots, and they outgrow these pots and start trailing outwards. They grow extensions of their stems. These extensions can also be used for propagation purposes as well.

Meanwhile, the Thanksgiving cactus plant can grow 6 inches high and 12 inches wide. It is much smaller as compared to the other plant. It also grows small extensions of the stem. These extensions can also be used for propagation purposes. If your plant is not reaching the potential growth size, you should change your care guidelines and start using the ones that are recommended by the experts.

Blooming seasons

These plants mostly bloom in the same season, but the Christmas cactus may also bloom during march. This blooming habit is common in the thanksgiving cactus as well. The thanksgiving cactus plant blooms during November. Meanwhile, the Christmas cactus blooms between December and January. This difference in flowering season can also help you identify these species and use the one that you need.

Genus and Species

Both of these plants are from a separate species but have the same genus. Both of these belong to the Schlumbergera genus of cactus plants. They belong to the same genus, that is the reason that these plants have many similarities. But if you look at the species name, you will be able to find the differences. So, you should look at the label before buying any of these plants. You should check the species names, if the species name is Schlumbergera bridgesii, it will be a Christmas cactus, but if the name of the species is labeled as Schlumbergera truncata, it will be a thanksgiving cactus plant.

These were a few points that would help you identify the plant. You can use these points to select plants for your holiday season.