Easter Cactus vs Christmas Cactus: Is There a Difference?

Written by August Croft
Published: September 3, 2022
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If you are shopping for a new cactus variety to join your home, you may be wondering what the differences are between an Easter Cactus vs Christmas cactus. Both of these houseplants are extremely popular for their relatively easy care requirements and beautiful seasonal blooms, but what are the differences and similarities between these two cacti? 

In this article, we will compare and contrast the Easter cactus with the Christmas cactus so that you can fully understand the differences between them. We will go over what they look like physically as well as when they typically bloom, as these are the primary differences between these two cacti. Let’s get started now so that you can find out which variety works best in your home! 

Comparing Easter Cactus vs Christmas Cactus

Easter Cactus vs Christmas Cactus
Easter cacti have oval shaped leaves compared to the square or rectangular shaped leaves of the Christmas cactus.
Easter CactusChristmas Cactus
Plant ClassificationSchlumbergera gaertneri or Hatiora gaertneriSchlumbergera bridgesii
DescriptionOval shaped leaves with rounded edges; very evenly round appearance to the leaves. Flowers are star shaped, similar to a daisy, with multiple pointed petals in a flattened or wide appearanceSquare or rectangular shaped leaves with rounded edges, ending in beautiful blooms depending on the time of year. Flowers are trumpet-shaped, with multiple layers of petals stretching long and tall, stamens protruding from the center
UsesPopular houseplant but more difficult to grow overall, making it prized by expertsPopular houseplant for its ease of growing and beautiful, seasonal blooms
Origin and Growing PreferencesNative to Brazil; requires a long period (8-12 weeks) of cold weather and dark conditions to bloom, and prefers indirect sunlightNative to Brazil; requires a shorter period (4-6 weeks) of cold weather and dark conditions to bloom, and be sure to not overwater
Blooming Time of YearBlooms in early springAround the fall and winter holiday times, with a potential re-blooming in spring

Key Differences Between Easter Cactus vs Christmas Cactus

Easter Cactus vs Christmas Cactus

The flowers found on Easter cacti are very different from the flowers found on Christmas cacti.

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There are a few key differences between an Easter cactus and a Christmas cactus. For example, Easter cacti and Christmas cacti are technically different cactus varieties from each other. The Easter cactus has oval shaped leaves with rounded edges, while Christmas cacti have square leaves with a less distinct roundness to them. In addition, Christmas cacti flowers are trumpet-shaped, while Easter cacti flowers are star-shaped. Finally, Easter cacti bloom in early spring, while Christmas cacti bloom in fall and winter. 

Let’s go over all of these differences in more detail now.

Easter Cactus vs Christmas Cactus: Classification

It’s not a secret that Easter cacti and Christmas cacti are related to one another, given just how similar their appearances are. For example, Easter cacti and Christmas cacti are members of the Schlumbergera family, but the classification of Easter cacti differs from the classification of Christmas cacti. Depending on who you ask, Easter cacti are classified as either Schlumbergera gaertneri or Hatiora gaertneri, while Christmas cacti are classified as Schlumbergera bridgesii

Easter Cactus vs Christmas Cactus: Description

Easter Cactus vs Christmas Cactus

Easter cacti are slightly more fickle and difficult to take care of compared to the average Christmas cacti.

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It can be extremely difficult to tell the difference between an Easter cactus and a Christmas cactus upon first glance. However, there are some traits you can use to tell them apart, if you look closely. For example, Easter cacti have oval shaped leaves compared to the square or rectangular shaped leaves of the Christmas cactus. Both of these cacti have slightly rounded edges to their leaves, but Easter cacti leaves are more rounded and uniform compared to Christmas cacti leaves. 

In addition to their leaf shape, the flowers found on Easter cacti are very different from the flowers found on Christmas cacti. For example, Christmas cactus flowers are distinctly trumpet shaped, with multiple layers of petals stacked on top of each other as they grow vertically, but Easter cactus flowers are star-shaped, with a single layer of flattened petals. They both come in a variety of colors, but it should be fairly obvious which cactus you are looking at if they are both in bloom! 

Easter Cactus vs Christmas Cactus: Uses

Easter Cactus vs Christmas Cactus

You will likely need to keep your Easter cactus in a dark and cold location for 8 to 12 weeks in order for it to bloom, but Christmas cacti only need 4 to 6 weeks to accomplish this.

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Easter cacti and Christmas cacti are used for the same things, generally speaking. They are both popular house plant varieties, given their relatively easy care needs and beautiful flowers. They are popular gifts, particularly around the time of year in which they both bloom. However, Easter cacti are slightly more fickle and difficult to take care of compared to the average Christmas cacti, so keep this in mind if you plan on gifting them to anyone in your family! 

Easter Cactus vs Christmas Cactus: Origin and How to Grow

Given their relation to one another, it should come as no surprise to hear that Easter cactus plants and Christmas cactus plants both originated in the same place. Native to Brazil, Easter cacti and Christmas cacti grow atop rocks and other plants in this warm and lush location. However, they have slightly different ways in which they produce flowers. 

For example, Easter cacti and Christmas cacti require a certain amount of time in dark and cold conditions in order to produce their beautiful flowers. However, the Easter cactus needs slightly more time to accomplish this compared to the Christmas cactus. You will likely need to keep your Easter cactus in a dark and cold location for 8 to 12 weeks in order for it to bloom, but Christmas cacti only need 4 to 6 weeks to accomplish this. 

Easter Cactus vs Christmas Cactus

Easter cacti bloom in spring and Christmas cacti bloom in late fall to early winter.

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Easter Cactus vs Christmas Cactus: Blooming Time of Year

The final difference between an Easter cactus and a Christmas cactus has to do with when they bloom. Their names give you some indication as to when their blooms are due, as Easter cacti bloom in spring and Christmas cacti bloom in late fall to early winter. However, Christmas cacti may bloom again if placed in dark and cold conditions once more, while Easter cacti rarely bloom more than once per year.

The photo featured at the top of this post is © iStock.com/severija


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About the Author

August Croft is a writer at A-Z Animals where their primary focus is on astrology, symbolism, and gardening. August has been writing a variety of content for over 4 years and holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree in Theater from Southern Oregon University, which they earned in 2014. They are currently working toward a professional certification in astrology and chart reading. A resident of Oregon, August enjoys playwriting, craft beer, and cooking seasonal recipes for their friends and high school sweetheart.

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Sources
  1. Growth, care and maintenance of the Christmas cactus., Available here: https://www.cabdirect.org/cabdirect/abstract/20193059745