{ Posts Tagged ‘christmas cactus’ }

‘Tis the season for holiday plants

With Remembrance Day behind us and Halloween firmly in the past, it is time for many of us to get into the full swing of all things Christmas.

I’ve got my poinsettia going, and my baby rosemary plants are putting on new growth. Now it’s time to try something else: forcing bulbs.

I’ve never grown an amaryllis or anything like that, but this year I thought I’d try paperwhites. I’m a die hard daffodil fan, so these cousins (Narcissus papyraceus)¬†aren’t too far outside my comfort zone.

The little gift pack I stumbled across at Walmart for five bucks actually came with a pot and a disk of compressed coir, but many people plant the bulbs in a dish of water topped up with pebbles or marbles for stability. My kit says to plant them six weeks before you want blooms; most people on the Interweb say three weeks, so I’m doing it today and we’ll see.

I decided to ditch the coir and pot that came with the kit and do something prettier.

I put a shallow layer of stones in this (plastic-lined) dish, placed the bulbs, then covered them up to their "shoulders" in more stones and added just enough water to keep their bottoms wet.

I did find an intriguing tip for keeping blooming paperwhites from getting top-heavy –get them ever so slightly drunk. But as to why paperwhites are thought of as a Christmas flower, I couldn’t find any clues other than they bloom in December in warm climates. There doesn’t seem to be any special symbolism.

Poinsettias symbolized purity to the ancient Aztecs, and there’s the usual holly and ivy to represent eternity and resurrection. Evergreen trees fall into the same category. But amaryllis? Christmas Rose (Serissa or Helleborus, depending on who you ask)? Christmas cactus? We just seem to be looking for something alive and lovely in the dark winter months.

Fair enough. We were pretty excited when Chris got a zygocactus (Schlumbergera) blooming again.

Rosemary babies in the background!

At least, he’s the one who rescued the poor little guy. It was languishing in a corner after being relocated during the ever-present renovations, and he moved it to his studio where it gets bright, indirect light. He’s taking full credit for the transformation; I think he accidentally did exactly what it needed.¬†

But I’m not complaining. It’s pretty exciting to have so many things growing when there’s carols on the radio and four inches of snow.

My lonely Christmas cactus bloom

One of my favourite holiday plants is the Christmas cactus. When in full bloom, they are an absolutely gorgeous contrast of colour and interesting leaves. I've had mine now for a few years and the last two, I got one lonely bloom. So I asked Anne Marie what I can do to bring back that riot of colour next year. Here is what she had to say:

Christmas cacti are plants that respond to cooler temperatures and the length of the day (short days and long nights) to trigger them to flower. Keeping them slightly dry in the fall may also help, too.

To get them to form buds in early winter or late fall, put them where they will get night temperatures near 15 deg. C (55 F) and day temperatures below 18 deg. C (65 F). After about six weeks at this temperature, buds will form at the end of the branches. Placing the plants where they can get 13 hours of uninterrupted darkness each night also helps bring on the flower buds. Once the flower buds are formed, the cooler temperatures and long night darkness can be stopped.

But, don't let the plant get too hot, too dry, too cold or experience a sudden change or else the flower buds might drop off.

It's going to be a long wait, but I look forward to the challenge to bring on the blooms!