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Easter Cactus: A Succulent with Springtime Flowers

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Easter Cactus: A Succulent with Springtime Flowers

March 29, 2021

After years of coaxing a Christmas cactus to bloom on schedule, you may be surprised to learn there also is an Easter cactus that flowers in springtime. I know I was when I came across a small potted plant with irresistible, tiny flower buds at a local nursery.

Rhipsalidopsis gaertneri, as Easter cactus is called by horticulturalists in the know, differs from its cousins the Christmas cactus and the Thanksgiving cactus mainly because of the time of year when it blooms and the shape of its leaves. But these different plants also have much in common—they can be finicky, demanding, and recalcitrant when it comes to blooming on command unless their demands are met.

Here are tips to keep a holiday cactus alive—and blooming on cue for Easter.

Photography by Mimi Giboin.

Easter cactus cultivars mostly bloom in shades of red or pink. Hybrid Rhipsalidopsis gaertneri &#8
Above: Easter cactus cultivars mostly bloom in shades of red or pink. Hybrid Rhipsalidopsis gaertneri ‘Sirius’ has white flowers.

Care and Feeding: Easter cactus will thrive in bright, indirect light (sun or shade) and to get it to bloom on cue, put it in a spot where daytime and night temperatures fluctuate by as much as 20 degrees. Water it when the soil feels dry to the touch and give it a balanced fertilizer twice a month.

Before it bursts into bloom with white, star-shaped flowers, Easter cactus forms buds that look like tiny light bulbs on the tips of its leaves.
Above: Before it bursts into bloom with white, star-shaped flowers, Easter cactus forms buds that look like tiny light bulbs on the tips of its leaves.

Design Tip: Pair a white Easter cactus with a creamy pot similar in color to its flower buds. A Ben Wolff White Clay Pot With Saucer similar in shape to mine is $62.50.

Easter cactus versus Christmas cactus; what&#8
Above: Easter cactus versus Christmas cactus; what’s the difference? You can tell Easter cactus apart from its cousins, the Christmas and Thanksgiving cacti, by the shape of its leaves. Look closely and you can see bristles on the edges of Easter cactus leaves.

After its flowering season ends, Easter cactus will not bloom again until next spring. In the meantime, you can repot it if it’s root-bound and prune it as you’d like.

Native to Brazil, tropical Easter cacti are epiphytes that grow in the canopies of trees.
Above: Native to Brazil, tropical Easter cacti are epiphytes that grow in the canopies of trees.

See more indoor gardening ideas in our curated guide to Houseplants 101 and don’t miss:

Finally, get more ideas on how to successfully plant, grow, and care for christmas cactus with our Christmas Cactus: A Field Guide.

Finally, get more ideas on how to plant, grow, and care for various houseplants with our Houseplants: A Field Guide.

Interested in other succulents or cacti? Get more ideas on how to plant, grow, and care for various succulents and cacti with our Succulents & Cacti: A Field Guide.

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