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CCFB News» December 2019

Ag Lit bit"Holiday Cacti"

12/02/2019 @ 8:00 am | By Diane Merrion

Upon return from a quick November weekend to visit family in Utah, I checked on my houseplants and to my surprise our Christmas Cactus was bursting with pink buds.  This crazy weather has confused the cactus as much as me. I was rather excited to see the cactus blooming as we had missed the beauty of the desert flowers out west.


Of course, no vacation could be complete without connecting back to the farm which came up as we strolled around the Red Hills Desert Garden in St. George.  I wasn’t expecting to see a Cow’s Tongue Cactus (native to central Texas) an Artichoke Agave (evergreen family) or a Dinner Plate Cactus. I didn’t know such things existed.


I took a particular liking to the Pine Cone Prickly Pear as I love pinecones and had never seen this plant before.  These unique varieties were being adorned with lights in anticipation of the holiday season. Different climates, different traditions.


There wasn’t, however, any Christmas cactuses out in the desert which I came to discover are not really grown outside in dry, arid environments. Turns out they originate from the rain forests of Brazil and prefer a humid indoor climate.  So, as I’m thinking my cactus is confused, I come to find out how to tell holiday cacti apart through The Old Farmers    


How to tell holiday cacti apart

There are several types of holiday cacti: Easter, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. They typically bloom closest to the holiday that they’re named after. For simplicity’s sake, we refer to all three as “Christmas cacti” in the Planting and Care section.


To tell the three cacti apart, pay attention to their leaf shapes and flowers:


  • Christmas cacti have flattened leaves with rounded teeth on the margins of the leaves.
  • Thanksgiving cacti have flattened leaves with pointed teeth.
  • Easter cacti also have flattened leaves with rounded teeth, but their flowers are broader and almost daisy-like, whereas the flowers of the other cacti are more tube-shaped.


To confuse matters further, most of the Christmas cacti sold are actually Thanksgiving cactus. If you find your Christmas cactus blooming near Thanksgiving, guess what?  You learn something new every day.

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