How to Identify a Real Christmas Cactus from a Fake One

Raul Cornelius is a Senior Editor at BalconyGardenWeb and an expert in flower and herb cultivation based in Phoenix, Arizona. A frequent speaker at horticultural events, he is also an active contributor to Facebook flower groups. Holding an MBA and a BCom, Raul blends his gardening skills with strong leadership and analytical abilities. Passionate about writing and photography, he enjoys early mornings with coffee and books, and nature bike rides during weekends.
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Not sure How to Identify a Real Christmas Cactus from a Fake One? Well, we will help you prevent buying the wrong plant!

How to Identify a Real Christmas Cactus from a Fake One

When purchasing a genuine Schlumbergera buckleyi or bridgesii, it is important that you separate it from other similar-looking plants to save yourself from buying the wrong specimen. This article will explore the key factors of How to Identify a Real Christmas Cactus in detail.

Wondering when is the right time to keep a Christmas Cactus in the dark? Click here 

Plants that Look Like Christmas Cactus But Are Not


Not all plants that look like Christmas Cactus belong to this species. 

1. Easter Cactus (Hatiora gaertneri)

Easter Cactus leaves are more rounded.

2. Thanksgiving Cactus (Schlumbergera truncata)

Leaves are more jagged and pointed.

3. Orchid Cactus (Epiphyllum spp.)

Flat, wide, and elongated leaves.

4. Zygo Cactus (Zygocactus truncatus)

Similar leaves like Christmas cactus but with smaller, less angular segments.

Find the meaning of the Christmas Cactus and what it symbolizes

How to Identify a Real Christmas Cactus from a Fake One

1. Leaf Segments

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One of the most reliable ways to identify a true Christmas cactus is by examining its leaf segments. Schlumbergera buckleyi has flattened, scalloped, or slightly serrated leaf segments that are joined together, giving them a unique, segmented appearance.

Fake or imposter cacti may have more rounded or pointed leaves, so pay close attention to this characteristic.

2. Leaf Texture

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Run your fingers gently over the leaves. True Christmas cactus leaves often have a slightly smooth, glossy texture. Fake cacti may have rougher or waxier leaves.

Is your Christmas cactus turning purple? Find solution here

3. Leaf Color Variations

Examine the color of the leaf segments. True Christmas cacti can exhibit different shades of green, but they generally have a more vibrant and uniform color. Other similar cacti may have irregular or faded leaf coloration.

4. Flower Appearance

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The flowers of a true Christmas cactus are another telltale sign. They typically have a tubular shape with multiple layers of petals, creating a distinct, ruffled appearance. The colors can vary, including red, pink, white, or purple shades.

Other holiday cactus may have different flower shapes or colors that don’t align with the true Christmas cactus.

Learn how to care for Christmas Cactus here

5. Stem Structure

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Examine the stem structure of the plant. The true Christmas cactus has flat, arching stems that are segmented. Others may have cylindrical or more upright stems, which is a noticeable difference.

6. Bloom Time

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True Christmas cacti typically bloom around the holiday season, hence the name. If you find a cactus claiming to be a Christmas cactus blooming at a different time of year, it’s likely not the real thing.

7 Unusual Tricks to Grow a Big, Bold, and Blooming Christmas Cactus

7. Growth Habit


True Christmas cacti have a trailing growth habit and are typically grown in hanging baskets. Imposters may have a different growth pattern or may be sold in pots.

8. Source and Seller

Purchase your Christmas cactus from reputable nurseries or trusted sellers specializing in succulents and cacti. Avoid buying from sources with a questionable reputation.

Distinguishing Christmas, Easter, and Thanksgiving Cacti

In the world of cacti, the Christmas Cactus, Easter Cactus, and Thanksgiving Cactus are close relatives that share some similarities but exhibit distinct differences. For the discerning gardener, understanding these subtle distinctions is essential. 

1. Blooming Seasons:

  • Christmas Cactus: Typically blooms in late fall to winter, often around Christmas.
  • Easter Cactus: Blooms in spring, around Easter.
  • Thanksgiving Cactus: Blooms in late fall, around Thanksgiving.

2. Leaf Shape:

  • Christmas Cactus: Segmented, with rounded and scalloped edges.
  • Easter Cactus: Segmented, with more elongated and pointed edges.
  • Thanksgiving Cactus: Segmented, with pointed and claw-like edges.

3. Stem Appearance:

  • Christmas Cactus: Smooth and flat stems.
  • Easter Cactus: Rougher stems with distinct bristles or hairs.
  • Thanksgiving Cactus: Smooth stems with slight indentations.

Learn all about making Christmas Cactus bloom around Christmas here

4. Flower Characteristics:

  • Christmas Cactus: Tubular flowers with a wide range of colors, including white, pink, and red.
  • Easter Cactus: Tubular flowers, usually in shades of pink or red, with smaller blooms.
  • Thanksgiving Cactus: Tubular flowers, often in shades of pink, red, or purple, with larger and more prominent blooms.

5. Growth Habit:

  • Christmas Cactus: Pendant or cascading growth habit.
  • Easter Cactus: More upright growth.
  • Thanksgiving Cactus: Also tends to be more upright but with a slight arching tendency.

6. Stem Segments:

  • Christmas Cactus: Segments are typically smoother and more uniform in size.
  • Easter Cactus: Segments can vary in size and often have a more irregular appearance.
  • Thanksgiving Cactus: Segments are usually more uniform and symmetrical.

 Quick Tips on Taking Care of Your Christmas Cactus

7. Light Preferences:

  • Christmas Cactus: Prefers slightly cooler temperatures and indirect light.
  • Easter Cactus: Enjoys bright, indirect light and moderate humidity.
  • Thanksgiving Cactus: Thrives in similar conditions to the Christmas Cactus but can tolerate slightly warmer temperatures.

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