Is It Really A True Christmas Cactus?

Why is it flowering now & not at Christmas Time?

When the infamous Christmas Cactus blooms outside of our celebratory season, is it really a true Christmas Cactus?
There is only one True Christmas Cactus; Schlumbergera bridgesii, (S. x buckleyi). A cross between S russelliana & S truncata.

Is it really a true Christmas Cactus?
Schlumbergera truncata, also known as the Thanksgiving cactus is very similar to our true Christmas Cactus & because of this similar appearance, Thanksgiving cactus are often sold as the true Schlumbergera bridgesii (S. x buckleyi), our True Christmas Cactus.

Upon close examination of the stem sections (joints), the direction of the flower blossoms as well as the overall size of a mature plant will help differentiate between the two genus of Schlumbergera.

Christmas Cactus vs Thanksgiving Cactus Comparison
Christmas Cactus Schlumbergeria bridgessii, (S. x buckleyi) 6″ mature height x 9″ wide
Flat joints up to 2″ long on branching stems. Joints mid green, un-toothed & with rounded indentations on the margins 2-3″ long flowers

Thanksgiving Cactus Schlumbergera truncata 6-12″ tall x 12-15″ wide. Branching, jointed stems, Light green, turning red. 2-3″ long flat joints with 2-4 well defined notches on each side. The upper notch more prominent  than the lower


Schulmbergera truncata notched edges shown at top

Schulmbergera bridgesii rounded edges shown at bottom






S. truncata Thanksgiving cactus

Schulmbergera truncata

grows 6-12″ tall x 12-15″ wide & has flat, 2-3″ long sections with 2-4 well defined notches on both sides that taper to a point

Schlumbergera notched edges

The upper most notches being longer than the lower.
Light green colored sections that turn red. Horizontal Flowers.

When you see a 6″ mature height x 9″ wide, 2″ long mid green sections with rounded edges rather than notches & with downward flower, you know you have found a True Christmas Cactus.

Both Schlumbergera’s have a similar blooming period although the Thanksgiving Cactus begins blooming a little earlier than the true Christmas Cactus.

Why is it flowering now & not at Christmas Time?
Many possible reasons why your Christmas Cactus is flowering not at Christmas time. Consider the usual variants; media, moisture, fertilizer & location but most importantly for a Christmas Cactus is light & temperature.

S. bridgesii is often found flowering outside of Christmas time. After all it is only a small three day window. You can expect Schlumbergera bridgesii to flower in late Fall & or Winter.

There are Christmas & Thankgiving Cactus here that flower from November until long after Christmas time. How we have an ongoing performances from them is because there is more than one, creating better odds that one or more will flowering at Christmas Time.

If you want to see your True Christmas Cactus blooming within the three day Christmas Time window, have more than one. Have many. Grab yourself a few more & experiment. Schlumbergera is super easy to propagate. Fun to share different colors with friends too.
Learn how easy it is to propagate Schulmbergera here.

Out of eight or ten, one or more will surely be flowering at Christmas Time.

How to have your Christmas Cactus flowering at Christmas time
With so much varying information, it is best to just dive in & don’t fuss. Focusing on just one plant increases odds so start with six or more small plants. Learn everything you can about the care of the Schulmbergera. These plants prefer to be root bound. Transplant every three years or so. Thrive on neglect & dislike being moved.

There are different techniques said to force Christmas Cactus to be flowering at Christmas Time. None of which I have ever done & out of eight, S. truncata & S. bridgesii, there are those finished blooming & forming new buds, some in full bloom & those yet to flower. Four are of same young age & in 10″ pots, S. truncata is older & almost fully mature & three S. bridgesii in 5″ pots, one flowering, another just starting & one yet to.

Culture is nothing special but ours are placed in permanent (indoor) position in a sun room out of direct sunlight. The sun room gets piping hot in the summer time & very cool in the winter time. Theses plants seems to love the environment & react well. Basic requirements these plants get is plenty of water but allow to dry to touch between watering, well drained soil & other than that, neglect.
Our Schulmbergera don’t get deadheaded, put outside in shady, high humidity position in the summer or intentionally kept in 12 hours or more of PM darkness in cool area as been suggested. Meanwhile there is a Schulmbergera blooming in the house from November to January, sometimes longer. Months to bloom can vary dependent on climate

One fully mature S truncata that is placed outside in a cool position for the summer & brought back in before first frost. This plant has not flowered yet & no buds.
Transplanted a year or so ago. Perhaps it takes a while to spring back? Feeding schedule may be a bit early, therfore sending energy to foliage rather than buds?

How to tell if you really have a true Christmas Cactus or it’s parent S. truncata is by section (or joint) formation, mature height & width as well as flower direction. Since both S. bridgesii & S. truncata have a similar flowering season is why you may see it flowering now & not at Christmas time.