The Easter Cactus is a plant of the species Schlumbergera gaertneri (previously known as Rhipsalidopsis gaertneri ), sometimes also called the "Whitsun Cactus". It is related to other members of the Schlumbergera Genus known as the "Christmas Cacus" and "Thanksgiving Cactus". Together these are called "Holiday Cacti".
The Easter Cactus originates in Brazil where it grows naturally on trees.
These plants are named after the time of year when they will bloom naturally in the Northern hemisphere. Because the Easter Cactus blooms in the spring it has long been taken to be a symbol of the rebirth of life in the spring. As such it is a natural plant for Easter. It produces very attractive red flowers which emerge from the tips of the leaves. Some varieties can produce as many as 50 or 60 flowers.
The flowers open during the hours of daylight and close in the evening. The blooming is controlled in part by the length of the days and nights and this fact is sometimes used to force them to bloom out of normal season.
Easter and Christmas cacti are sometimes confused. They can be distinguished by looking at the leaves. The Christmas has rounded notches on the margins whilst the Easter Cactus has jagged, tooth-like notches.
A relative of the Easter Cactus is the Dwarf Easter Cactus, which has rose-pink flowers.