You might have heard of the Christmas cactus, the one that blooms in cold weather. The infamous leaves are delicately connected, one to the other, and they form those elegant arms. When the weather is right, the cactus blooms.
Typically the flowers are a mix of orange, pink, and red, but what other types of Christmas cactus plants are there? What varieties and colors exist and what is the difference between these plants? Keep reading to learn more.
3 Different Types of Holiday Cacti
The three common holiday cacti are the Christmas Cactus, Thanksgiving Cactus, and Easter Cactus. They are given these names because they bloom around these holidays.
All three plants are native to Brazil. They grow from trees, and are known as epiphytes. Traditionally speaking, the flowers would be pink, scarlet, and magenta, but nowadays, you can find holiday cacti with blooms of yellow, purple, orange, apricot, salmon, and white.
The cacti can be differentiated by the shape of their leaves, which are the flat, plump stems that hold the blooms. The Thanksgiving cactus, also known as the lobster cactus, has claw-like leaves where the edges are hooked. Christmas cactus leaves are smaller than Thanksgiving cactus leaves, and they also have smoother edges. The Easter cactus leaves have a bristled appearance.
All of the holiday cacti need to be watered regularly, as they are not drought resistant like regular cacti. When the plants are growing, they need to be watered whenever the surface of the soil is dry. They should not, however, be sitting in water, so ensure that the pots drain properly.
After the cacti flower, they enter a dormant period, during which you can water more sparingly. The Easter cactus especially need this period of relative dryness. Once you see new growth, however you need to start watering again.
You should keep your holiday cacti in a cool place, preferably between 50 and 65 degrees Fahrenheit. They prefer dark nights.
You can easily share your holiday cacti by breaking off a Y-shaped stem, so long as it has two to five segments. Leave the stem on the counter. Once the wounded end forms a callus, you can put the stem in a pot that has a drainage hole in the bottom. Fill the pot with a mixture of sterile potting mix and sand. Allow the stem to root, and you will have another holiday cactus blooming in no time.
The Christmas Cactus
The scientific name for the Christmas cactus is called Schlumbergera bridgesii. The plant lives for a very long time, and many people pass the same plant down to future generations by propagating the stems.
The Christmas Cactus blooms from late November through early February, and the flowers hang down. The flowers are typically red or white, and sometimes yellow. Its anthers are a purple brown, and the symmetrical flowers are evenly distributed around the flower tubes. The plants drop down, so the plants work best in a hanging basket.
The Thanksgiving Cactus
The scientific name for the Thanksgiving catcus is Schlumbergera truncata. The leaves are square-shaped with pincers along the edges, making it known as the “crab cactus” or lobster cactus. Hummingbirds pollinate its two to three inch long satiny flowers.
The Thanksgiving cactus blooms between mid Thanksgiving to late December, and occassionally in January. The flowers grow a little more out to the side than the Christmas cactus. The flowers come in yellow, white, red, and pink, and its anthers are yellow. Unlike the Christmas cactus, the Thanksgiving cactus flowers are assymetrical, and they grow horizontally from the stem segment tips.
The Easter Cactus
The scientific name for the Easter cactus is Hatiora gaertneri. The flaring flowers are shaped like trumpets and the petals are pink, red, and pointy. The plant normally blooms in the spring in April and May, and it sometimes blooms once again in the fall around Halloween.
These flowers can be red, pink, or royal purple, and they are considerably brighter than the Thanksgiving and Christmas cacti flowers.
The Easter cactus is the most difficult out of all the holiday cacti to grow and care for. It cannot be overly watered. It also cannot be underwatered. If it is just a little too dry, it will shed its phylloclades. If you have an Easter cactus, you should invest in a soil moisture meter. Otherwise, you may never see your Easter cactus bloom.
You can find holiday cacti in red, white, yellow, orange, pink, and purple. Here is an explanation of the different color varieties.
The red against the green creates a showy appearance, perfect for the holiday season. The “Dark Marie” plant is an especially gorgeous plant with purple buds that bloom red and white. It is an early bloomer, much like the “Kris Kringle” plant, which has true red blossoms. Kris Kringle grows more upright compared to the others. The “Thor Carmen” plants are strong and grow fast, and bloom later.
Yellow and White
These flowers may have hints of other colors, like gold, in the petals. The “Thor Britt” has white flowers with pink stamens and pink in the center. The “White Christmas” has creamy white flowers that are small. The “Christmas Gold” has purple buds, and when it blooms, the flowers are gold and have dark purple stamens and blush centers. Then the “Gold Charm” is a yellow variety and has large gold flowers. It is a more vigorously growing plant compared to the others.
Orange is a perfect color for fall, and luckily, many orange varieties bloom in October and November. The “Malindi” cactus has purple buds that turn into bright orange flowers. The “Xmas Fantasy” has more of a peachy color bloom with hints of purple. The stamens are also purple. The “Madslome” plant is similar to “Malindi,” except it has a slightly darker flower, and the center is creamy white. Another plant to consider is the “Peach Parfait,” which blooms a little later on in the season. The flowers are peach or orange, and they have purple stamens.
Purple and Pink
Most Christmas cacti varieties are pink and purple, and the colors range in hue from a very pale pink to the deepest dark purple. The variety, “Nicole” is a late bloomer, the flowers are lavender, and the centers are a creamy white. Then there is “Thor Rit,” which is a trailing variety and does best in a hanging basket. The flowers are large and bright pink. The “Dark Eva” plant is an early bloomer. The buds are dark purple and the flowers are white, and they have a beautiful lavender tip. Then “Thor Tina” is like “Thor Rit” in its trailing characteristics, but it is a late bloomer and the blossoms are pink.
Holiday cacti are a truly beautiful and festive way to celebrate the holiday seasons. Aptly named after the holiday around which they bloom, the cacti are sure to bring joy and color to the home.