Garden Dilemmas, Delights & Discoveries, Ask Mary Stone, New Jersey Garden blog

Christmas vs. Thanksgiving Cactus

a Christmas cactus on a table with hot pink blooms

Hello fellow readers, Not a single write-in this week, but I won’t take it personally.  No doubt you’re up to your eyeballs in the fa la la la la of the holidays, so if I may ask a question about the timing of my 15-year old Christmas cactus, which has bloomed well before Thanksgiving the last few years.

Christmas vs. Thanksgiving Cactus

I researched the characteristics of Schlumbergera, which is a small genus of cacti categorized into two groups; Truncata and Buckleyi.  The Truncata Group has stem segments with pointed teeth, asymmetrical flowers held slightly above horizontal and yellow pollen. They generally flower earlier than members of the Buckleyi Group and are often called Thanksgiving cactus, Crab cactus, or Claw cactus.  I never heard the common name Thanksgiving cactus, have you?

The Buckleyi Group has stem segments with rounded, more even teeth and symmetrical flowers with pink pollen that hang below horizontal. They generally flower later than members of the Truncata Group and hence are more likely to be called Christmas cactus.

Christmas Cactus

My Christmas cactus bloomed on Thanksgiving.

So I examined my cactus and looked at her “personal parts.” Despite her Thanksgiving bloom and other characteristics of the early blooming Buckelyi Group, she has pink pollen, a key feature of the Truncata Group.  An oddity, or is she a Christmas cactus from the land of misfit toys? Well maybe.  But the truth is there is much to be thankful for; hence flowering in time for Thanksgiving is perfect.

You see, my cactus came into my life by way of adoption. The previous parent (that would be the ex) had no idea if she had ever bloomed.  Christmas Cactus are tropical cactus, not desert cactus, and therefore cannot tolerate parched soil.  It was easy to determine that the dehydrated plant didn’t have enough moisture or nutrients to put energy into flowering. Poor thing was neglected rather than nurtured and encouraged to flourish.  Thank God for the gift of recovery, forgiveness, and the joy of new beginnings.

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Column Updated 11/14/21 

Learn about the second recovery of my Christmas Cactus in the Benefits of Watering with Rainwater. 

Mary Stone, owner of Stone Associates Landscape Design & Consulting. As a Landscape Designer, I am grateful for the joy of helping others beautify their surroundings which often leads to sharing encouragement and life experiences. These relationships inspired my weekly column published in THE PRESS, 'Garden Dilemmas? Ask Mary', began in 2012. I dream of growing the evolving community of readers into an interactive forum to share encouragement and support in Garden and Personal Recoveries - seeking nature’s inspirations, stimulating growth, weeding undesirables, embracing the unexpected. Thank you for visiting! Mary

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