KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — This peculiar holiday house plant has been interesting people recently, as it’s almost time to see the cacti in their full color.

Many people are familiar with the Christmas Cactus, but the better known holiday plant has three cousins, the Thanksgiving cactus, the Easter cactus, and a second Christmas cactus that grows in a different pattern.

This plant has been garnering some attention recently. In the last month, “Thanksgiving cactus” has been one of the most searched terms related to the Thanksgiving holiday. One of the more more fascinating facts about this cactus is that it can be tricky to find in stores as it is typically an heirloom.

Thanksgiving Cactus photo via Wikimedia Commons. (Wikimedia Commons)

For anyone wondering why these cactuses are named after holidays, look no further. Under ideal conditions, all four strains in the Schlumbergera family bloom bright pink or red flowers around the holiday season that they are named after.

When procuring a holiday cacti, its important to pay attention to the shape of the phylloclade, which is what cactuses have rather than leaves. This is the quickest way to know what type of cactus you have found. Below is a chart explaining the Phylloclade shape of each type of holiday cactus.

Scientific NameCommon NamePhylloclade ShapeFlower Shape
Schlumbergera truncataThanksgiving cactusOval shaped phylloclade with flattened stems and pronounced points along the edges. While most holiday cactuses will have a line down the center of the phylloclade visible, the thanksgiving cactus has the most pronounced line.Tubular
Schlumbergera brigesiiChristmas cactusAlmost a reverse spade shaped phylloclade, which start from a point and angle out before rounding to a flattened end. It still has a textured side, but it is not a pronounced point like the Thanksgiving cactusTubular
Schlumbergera buckleyiChristmas cactusThis variation shares the above Christmas cactus phylloclade description, but the cactus appears to grows in a more flattened direction. The brigesii variation grows upward similar to what might expect with a common cactus.Tubular
Schlumbergera gaerteriEaster cactusThis has the most rounded phylloclade of all, with a pronounced oval shape. The side of the phylloclade is textured, but does not have clear points. This texturing might be described as almost scalloped.Star shaped

Some people find that their holiday cactuses are not in bloom during the appropriate season, and this is often because of their environment. According to some sources, to encourage Thanksgiving or Christmas cacti to bloom, they need cool evening temperatures, around 50-55 degrees Fahrenheit, and 12 to 14 hour long nights. The flowers take a while to from, typically around three months, so if your Thanksgiving cactus is barren, it might be best to let it rest until next year.