What are the Different Types of Holiday Cactus? How to Distinguish Your Easter Variant from Your Festive Foliage

You've heard of the Christmas cactus, but have you heard of its closely related holiday-themed cousins?

A Christmas cactus with red flowers
(Image credit: Getty Images)

By now you've probably heard of the Christmas Cactus - in fact, you may even have one as part of your holiday decor right now. We love how it adds a unique festive feel to your home compared to more traditional plants like the poinsettia, and these bright bloomers last you right through the winter, too. 

What you might not know, however, is that there are other holiday-themed out there that are closely related to the Christmas kind, and plant experts are quick to point out that they're often overlooked. Decorating with plants is one of our favorite pastimes, and if we can incorporate them seasonally based on the upcoming holidays, it's a win in our books. 

If you want to discover which cacti are missing from your holiday cactus collection, then we have the answer. Here, houseplant professionals take us through the different varieties out there and the unique qualities that each one can bring to your space.

1. Christmas Cactus

A Christmas cactus in bloom

(Image credit: Thom GourleyFlatbread Images, LLC/Alamy Stock Photo)

The Christmas cactus is a well-known plant during the festive season, and it's had a particularly vibrant year for flourishing foliage so far. If your house is already covered in poinsettias, this plant is a welcomed alternative. 

'This cactus blooms just in time for Christmas,' says florist and CEO of Bloomsy Box Juan Palacio. 'It has smooth, round leaves, and its flowers hang down like lovely chandeliers, usually in shades of pink.' This cactus is a fan favorite and it is easy to see why. The cheerful blooms, ranging from pink and red to orange and white, are a glimpse of joy amongst an otherwise dull winter color palette.

2. Thanksgiving Cactus

Thanksgiving cactus

(Image credit: Getty Images)

If you want to brighten up your fall decor next Thanksgiving, let us introduce you to the lesser-known Thanksgiving cactus. 'It's often mistaken for the Christmas Cactus, but it's actually quite different,' says Juan. According to plant expert Zahid Adnan from The Plant Bible, to identify a Thanksgiving cactus, you should look out for distinctive features including pointed, claw-like projections along the leaf edges. 

'Among these wonderful cacti, my personal favorite is the Thanksgiving Cactus,' says Zahid. 'The cactus typically graces us with its beauty in late fall, close to Thanksgiving, and witnessing its vibrant blooms during the fall season brings a burst of color and festive spirit to my gardening space.'

Fortunately, the care for all the holiday Cacti is pretty similar. 'It likes bright but indirect light, and you should water it when the top inch of soil feels dry,' says Juan. 

3. Easter Cactus

easter cactus

(Image credit: Getty Images)

So now you have a holiday cactus for the fall and winter, but what about spring? This season is always a busy season for blooms and while we love daffodils and tulips for the Easter table decor, it's nice to have something a bit different to mix up the seasonal display. 

That's where the Easter cactus comes in. 'This cactus blooms in the spring, around Easter, and its leaves are typically more rounded with small bristles at the tips,' says expert gardener Lindsey Hyland from the Urban Organic Yield. 

Contrary to what you might think, this plant prefers cooler temperatures compared to the other holiday cacti listed here. 'It also likes slightly more light than the Christmas and Thanksgiving Cacti,' says Juan. 'The top quarter of the soil should be allowed to dry out before watering.' This is important as overwatering can lead to root rot, a common problem among these cacti.

Ready to introduce some season foliage to your space in line with these popular holidays? Switch out your holiday cacti for constant blooms all year round.  

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Amy McArdle
News writer

Amy recently completed an MA in Magazine Journalism at City, University of London, with experience writing for Women’s lifestyle publications across arts, culture, and beauty. She has a particular love for the minimalist aesthetic mixed with mid-century furniture, especially combining unique vintage finds with more modern pieces. Her previous work in luxury jewellery has given her a keen eye for beautiful things and clever design, that plays into her love of interiors. As a result, Amy will often be heard justifying homeware purchases as 'an investment', wise words to live by.