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Zygocactus Vs. Christmas Cactus: What Are The Differences?

There are different types of cactus, although they may look similar. Knowing their differences can help you in growing them, as some need specific practices to thrive. What's the difference between the zygocactus and the Christmas cactus? We have researched this question and laid out the facts for your convenience. 

There are more similarities than differences between the zygocactus and the Christmas cactus, so it can be difficult to tell which one is which. The easiest way to differentiate them is to observe their leaves. The Christmas cactus has smoother leaves than the zygocactus.

Also, the Christmas cactus blooms in November, while the zygocactus blooms in October and well into December. 

The zygocactus and the Christmas cactus have many uses. Keep reading to learn more about these interesting succulents, how to grow them, and how you can protect them from unstable weather conditions. 

Zygocactus Vs. Christmas Cactus: Similarities and Differences

Zygocactus vs. Christmas cactus similarities and differences, Zygocactus Vs. Christmas Cactus: What Are The Differences?

These two cacti are very similar. Because of this, the ways in which they've been marketed are confusing.

The names zygocactus and Christmas cactus have been used interchangeably, which has caused a misconception. To ease the confusion, the zygocactus has been named the "Thanksgiving cactus."

The Christmas cactus typically blooms in November and December, while the zygocactus may bloom from October through December. 

Since they can bloom around the same time, many people have mistaken one for the other. We have gathered their similarities, but more importantly, their differences to help you understand why they are not the same. 

Here are the similarities and differences between the zygocactus and the Christmas cactus. 

Similarities

It's not surprising that the cacti look similar since they come from the same family. The zygocactus and the Christmas cactus come from the genus Schlumbergera, which includes six species that are generally native to Brazil

Cacti from this genus are known for their vibrant pink blooms, which the Zgyocactus and Christmas cactus both have. 

Both thrive in warm, humid conditions. However, for the flowers to bloom, you will need to water about two inches of their soil. 

Since they bloom close to the holiday season, they are both known as holiday cacti. 

Differences

Although they look similar, they have distinct qualities that separate them from one another. One of their most notable differences is the texture of their leaves. 

The leaves of the Christmas cactus have smooth edges, while the leaves of the zygocactus have textured, jagged edges. 

Aside from their leaves, the stems of the Christmas cactus tend to droop and creep over the pot until they hang, whereas the stems of the zygocactus tend to curve.

You'll know it's a Christmas cactus when the stem looks like it's crawling out (almost like a potted vine) of the container, and you'll know it's a zygocactus when it simply arches. 

What Can You Use These Cacti For?

Both the zygocactus and Christmas cactus are popular holiday succulents. They are typically used as small gifts and home decorations. They can add visual appeal to your garden, even if you plant them in a pot or directly in the soil. 

Here are some ways to add beauty to your home using the zygocactus and the Christmas cactus.

Put the Christmas Cactus in a Hanging Pot

Blooming christmas cactus with a backdrop of backlit white curtains

One of the most popular ways to plant a Christmas cactus is to put it in a hanging pot. It creates the visual illusion that the succulent is spilling down. The cactus looks even better when the flowers bloom, making the succulent more vibrant. 

Check out these hanging pots on Amazon.

Put the Zygocactus or Christmas Cactus in a Handheld Pot

You can put these succulents in small, handheld pots and place them in front of your west-facing window (note that these succulents don't do well in direct sunlight), or you can give them as gifts during the holiday season. 

You can personalize the pots to add visual appeal to the succulents or use plain pots and let the pink blooms shine.

Make sure to add holes to the bottom of the pots so the soil can drain well. 

Check out these pots on Amazon.

Should You Have a Cactus?

Zygocactus in a plastic brown pot on the window

There are many benefits to owning a succulent, particularly the zygocactus or Christmas cactus.

Both have unique, vibrant blooms that can add to the cheerful atmosphere of the holidays and brighten up any space, regardless of the interior design. 

Aside from their visual benefits, succulents are also reported to purify the air indoors. Having plants or succulents can also improve your mood and mental health.  

Caring For Your Cactus

If you want your zygocactus and Christmas cactus to thrive and bloom on time, you must take care of them throughout the year. They have similar requirements since they come from the same family and genus, so having both of them should not be a hassle. 

Here is how you should take care of your holiday succulents. 

Soil Requirements

Both of these succulents need well-draining soil. They prefer rocky soil that's rich in nutrients since the root system will likely be shallow. Make sure the soil has a neutral pH (around 5.5-6.2). 

Water Needs

Woman's hand sprays cactus Schlumbergera in flower pot

These succulents need frequent watering while they're developing. Generally, you can water them after one week.

You can leave the soil to dry before each interval, but make sure not to let it dry out completely since it won't be good for the growing plant. 

Adjust your watering habits as necessary. If the cacti are in a humid environment, you can water them less frequently. If the cacti are in a dry environment, water them more. 

Make sure that you don't overwater the cacti since this could lead to root rotting, blackened stems, and mushy leaves. 

Environment

If you notice the blooms dropping, it may be because the cactus is not used to unstable temperature conditions and cold drafts. You can transfer the cactus indoors for a more controlled environment. 

Fertilizer 

Applying mild fertilizer to these succulents can help them grow, but it should only be applied during their active growing period. You should also only do this every two weeks. Here is how you should apply mild fertilizer to your cacti:

  • Get a low-balanced fertilizer for houseplants, 
  • Dilute half a tablespoon of fertilizer in one gallon of water
  • Apply the diluted fertilizer on the soil

The fertilizer is best applied during the summer. During the blooming season, fertilizer won't be necessary. 

Sunlight and Humidity

The Christmas cactus and the zygocactus prefer warmth and humidity, but they don't like being under direct sunlight. This is why their ideal location is bathrooms, kitchens, and greenhouses. 

You can install a humidifier near the succulents so the soil won't dry out. You won't need to water them as frequently, and it would ensure that the succulents would remain in their preferred environment. 

Make sure to place them in a north-, west-or east-facing window so the sun won't turn the leaves brittle and dry.

The succulents need at least 12 hours of darkness and coolness during their flowering season to trigger the blooms. Then, you need to place them in a bright room with indirect sunlight. 

Check out this humidifier on Amazon.

How To Repot Your Cactus

Repot of decorative houseplants Christmas cactus in white flowers pots

Repotting a zygocactus or Christmas cactus can be challenging, so you'll need to be careful. The ideal time to repot them is after their blooming season.

Here's how you can repot the Christmas cactus (these steps can also be applied to the zygocactus). 

  • Prepare a larger container, about twice the size of the current pot.
  • Make sure the pot has drainage.
  • Prepare a succulent mix and put it in the new pot. You can also mix 2/3 of regular soil and 1/3 sand. 
  • Taking care of the root ball, grab a spoon and remove the entire succulent. 
  • Place the succulents in the new soil. Make sure you plant it about 1/4 inch deeper than its previous depth. 

Check out the instructional video below for more information on repotting.

How To Propagate A Cactus

Propagating a Christmas cactus or zygocactus is easy. Simply take a Y-shaped cutting from the stem tip, then push the cutting halfway down the new soil. Make sure the cuttings have three nodes to ensure that it thrives. 

Check out this instructional video for additional information on the process.

Final Thoughts

The Christmas cactus and the zygocactus (or Thanksgiving cactus) are sometimes confused because they look similar. Yet they have distinct qualities.

For instance, if you want a cactus that droops down, go for a Christmas cactus. However, if you want a cactus that arches and doesn't droop, go for the zygocactus.

Both types of cactus have vibrant blooms and will look good in your home or garden. 

If you found this article informative, check out our other posts:

Is Christmas Cactus A Succulent? [What’s The Difference?]

How Large Do Christmas Cactus Grow?

68 Cactus Landscaping Ideas That Will Inspire You