I’ve had one or two Christmas Cacti for about as long as I can remember. Unfortunately, despite the name, mine have always bloomed in November, leaving just a few shriveled flowers left for the end of December. I’ve since discovered, of course, that there are several types of ‘Christmas’ cacti: Schlumbergera truncata, sometimes called a Thanksgiving cactus, since it blooms in November, just in time for the American holiday, and Schlumbergera x buckleyi, a true Christmas cactus, that blooms in mid to late December. Native to Brazil, these plants have white, pink, orange or red flowers, and, like many orchids, are epiphytes; that is, they grow along tree branches in the shady rain forest. That’s likely why I’ve found them to have very shallow root systems that definitely do not like to be waterlogged.
To tell the two types apart, look at the ‘leaves’ – more correctly called phylloclades, which are flattened stem segments. Christmas cacti have dull, rounded tips on them, while the Thanksgiving cactus has sharp, pointed tips. It looks like my new plant, purchased at a grocery store a few weeks ago and now in full bloom, is actually a Thanksgiving cactus. The delayed blossoms are likely the result of a trick used by the grower to delay flowering until Christmas. No matter – I still love these creamy white flowers!