How to Tell the Difference Between a Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter Cactus

Thanksgiving cacti should be in full bloom right now. Here’s how you can identify and collect all three so you can have cacti blooming for every holiday season!

If your “Christmas Cactus” is already blooming in November, chances are you actually have a Thanksgiving Cactus.
And if your winter-blooming cactus always seems to flower early, you might have an Easter Cactus.

Christmas Cacti are the most well known of the holiday cacti, probably because of their unique ability to brighten up the darkest, coldest time of year with their holly-red flowers. But we should not overlook the also gorgeous Thanksgiving and Easter Cacti.

Below, we’ll tell you how to tell them apart so you can enjoy holiday cheer at the right time of year… or you can get all three to keep them blooming in waves from fall to spring.

The three main ways to tell them apart is when they bloom, what their flowers look like and the shape of their leaves:

Blooming Season

The most obvious clue is what time of year the plants start to flower, but this can be a bit tricky.

Thanksgiving Cacti start to bloom in late October/early November. Christmas Cacti begin to bud in late November/early December. Easter cacti, as you probably guessed, bloom in the spring. The tricky part is sometimes, Christmas and Thanksgiving Cacti also have a second round of blooms in the spring. Easter Cacti only ever bloom in the spring though, and some years don’t bloom at all, according to


Thanksgiving Cactus flowers are are pink, red, white or yellow, with asymmetrical petals that stretch out horizontally.

Christmas Cactus flowers are usually a reddish magenta or white (occasionally yellow). The flowers have symmetrical petals and hang straight down, as if they are drooping.

Easter Cactus red, pink or purple flowers are brighter than those of the cold season cacti and star-shaped.


The leaves of the Thanksgiving Cactus have jagged or serrated edges with 2-4 sharp points on each side.

Christmas Cacti are tear-drop shaped with, rounder, scalloped edges

Easter Cacti also have rounder, scalloped edges, but also have little bristles on the end.

Where to find them

While Christmas Cacti have been around the longest, they are the least commercially available. What most nurseries advertise as “Christmas Cacti” are actually Thanksgiving Cacti. To find a true Christmas cacti, you may have to ask your grandma or one of her friends.

If you find one simply break off a Y-shaped branch and plant it in a pot of wet soil. It will root in no time, The Old Farmer’s Almanac says.

Christmas Cacti can live for over 100 years, so you can share yours with your grandchildren too!

The Old Farmer’s Almanac offers several helpful tips on how to care for your holiday cactus.

RELATED: 7 Reasons To Get a Christmas Cactus Instead Of — Or In Addition To — A Christmas Tree