Care for Christmas cati [UPDATED]Published 8:58am Monday, November 12, 2012 Updated 11:00am Monday, November 12, 2012
If you have a Thanksgiving cactus, it is probably beginning to think about flowering. Your Christmas cactus will not be far behind. If you have never had one of these flowering beauties, or if yours doesn’t bloom, here are a few tips.
To start with, if you don’t know the difference between the two types, look at the “leaves” — actually it’s a stem.
The lobes on the Thanksgiving cactus are pointed, the Christmas are more rounded. It will bloom six weeks later.
Now as to why they bloom at those times, they are photoperiodic, that is they initiate flowers in response to shortening days of summer and fall, making them short–day plants.
The critical photoperiod for a short day plant is the length of the day. If the plants’ critical photoperiod is 12 hours, when the day (hours of light) is 12 hours or shorter, the plant will flower. To achieve this in our well-lighted homes, put your plant in a room that doesn’t have the light turned on before sunrise or after sunset.
Actually, the plant can be forced to bloom any time of the year if you have the discipline. Stick the plant in a dark closet when you get home from work and bring them out when you leave so they get 13 to 16 hours of dark each night. Remember, the dog goes out, the plant goes in. Never, never get the two confused as you are staggering around getting ready to leave for the day.
Light isn’t the only thing important to blooming, however. They like heat saving house temperatures, from 65 to 74.
They like east or west windows best. Older houses had leaky windows, this is why gramma had such good luck with her cactus. If you would like to hasten blooming, put your plant out in the shade for the summer and don’t bring it in until the night time temps are in the 50s.
Or, leave it in the three-season porch or by a cold window until it is well chilled.
These are easy plants to propagate. A four-inch pot and some soil-less potting mix, the end of a leaf/stem that is at least one inch long and you are in business. Stick the segment about half its length in the damp mix, then put the whole thing in a plastic bag and seal the bag.
Put the apparatus in a sunny window, keep it damp and, while it may take a while, you will soon have a new baby plant to share with your brown-thumbed friend. They are tough as woodpecker lips.
Bev Johnson is a master gardener in Otter Tail County.