So, let’s get this out in the open right away shall we? A Thanksgiving Cactus is not a Christmas Cactus is not an Easter Cactus. Though, oftentimes for simplicity's sake they’re lumped into the same category. Why? Well, that’s a long story regarding botanical nomenclature and a bunch of French dudes and other botanists (but, do please let me know if you’re interested!) who basically created the lasting confusion to this day by categorizing and labeling them differently….for DECADES. It’s not your fault it’s confusing! It’s actually a pretty complex history. Here we’ll help you understand and distinguish the difference between a Christmas and Thanksgiving Cactus.
Here is the simplest breakdown:
So, Schlumbergera Truncata (Thanksgiving Cactus) is the plant PARENT to Schlumbergera buckleyi (Christmas Cactus) meaning a Christmas Cactus is a hybrid of Schlumbergera Truncata and is a huge reason you’ll see them labeled together.
“Wait, I thought Christmas Cactus was called ‘bridgesii’. Well, it was… mistakenly in the early 1900’s (again….mistakes for DECADES). It has since been relabeled accurately as buckleyi. But, much like a Thanksgiving cactus it is still mislabeled to this day. So, let’s adapt and accept that when you see Schulmbergera bridgesii or buckleyi you're looking at a Christmas Cactus.
So the issue of mislabeling prevails to this day and you’ll likely continue to see holiday cacti mislabeled into the future. Be kind, it’s understandably confusing and simplicity prevails. Instead, let’s look at how you can tell the difference yourself!
Hopefully this helps clear up the naming confusion! Each one of these are epiphytic cacti, meaning they grow on other plants in the wild - think orchids. So, they have similar features to each other. It's the family lineage, lets say, that puts them into different categories!