Posts Tagged ‘Flowering plant’

It takes time to get back in the swing after a Thanksgiving break, so while I’m gathering thoughts and thinking of blog posts, here’s one from my archives.  From December, 2007.

This time of year can be stressful on plants, and unless one is careful, the effects go beyond a mere crumpled leaf or broken branch.  So, with apologies to Clement Clarke Moore, a poem to remind us of good care:

Twas a late winter night when all through the house, chaos was brewing ‘twixt foliage and spouse.  Many plants woo us with blooms during the holidays, but before you commit to taking one home, check to make sure you have the enough space.  Dodging large floor plants or maneuvering past tabletop flora while carrying decorations can lead to stress.

The tree was purchased, dragged home in a net, on the floor a spot cleared for it to be set.   Trees should be carefully located in an area out of the way from traffic, avoiding sources of heat, fireplaces or electrical outlets.  Before bringing your cut tree inside, take time to empty a spot with plenty of space to allow for set up and trimming.

The cacti were blooming, their bright flowers cheered; on the mantle with evergreens did kalanchoe peer.  Cool temperatures are best for prolonging the bloom on flowering plants.  If possible, set thermostats at 55 to 60 degrees at night, and 65 to 68 during the day.  Choose a location with bright, indirect light – directly in front of an east or west facing window is best – or focus a grow light on them in dimmer locations.

When to my wonder guests did arrive, dragging three children, two dogs and cold drafts inside.  Cold door drafts and traffic around branches are a plant’s bane, so take care to ensure that they’re not near entryways.  When carrying items in from the car, remember that drafts from open doors can rapidly chill these tropical beauties, and close the door in between trips.

My plants were in peril, trampled leaves had big holes; the poinsettia whooshed by like a slapshot on goal.  In general, plants and parties don’t mix well.  Happy tails and incautious guests can damage leaves or knock the plant over, leaving it looking the worse for wear after the fete.  Enjoy your plant’s flowering display from a safe location, out of the way from harm.

Off by the tree there arose such a clatter, of branches and bows and bells in a scatter.  Electricity fizzled, this was not what was planned – we’d forgotten to secure the tree to the stand.  The base of the tree should be cut as level as possible, without angles or points, so that it sits firmly in the stand.  Place fresh cut trees in a sturdy, stable stand with a ring large enough to encompass the trunk, or use open stands for thicker trunk size. Pick a stand with an adequate water reservoir for the tree.

Water was everywhere, the floor was a mess – the tree dropped its needles as if getting undressed.   Pines need water to keep their needles supple and attached to the tree.  But the cut end seals off with resin, preventing water from getting to the branches.  The longer a tree stays on the lot without water, the more likely it is to drop needles early.  Look for fresh trees with a firm grip on their foliage, and preserve your tree by making a new cut one inch from the end of the tree and plunging the end into warm water.  Keep the tree in one gallon of water from this point on, without allowing it to dry out.  

But the children were safe (though the dogs they barked faster) as we rushed in to fix the yuletide disaster.    But let the lesson be learned from this rhyme with a reason – may both people and plants have a safe holiday season.

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Christmas cactus

Image via Wikipedia

Did the spiky showoff with brilliant pinks, purples, and reds catch your eye as it dangled from a hanging pot in the local greenhouse?  If you’re the proud owner of a flowering cactus, you’ll find they’re carefree plants that add color to grey winter days. 

 “The three cactus types, Thanksgiving (Schlumbergera truncata), with pointed “teeth” on the stems, Christmas (Schlumbergera x. buckleyi), with rounded tips, and Easter cactus (Hatiora gaertneri), are actually epiphytes.  They live in trees in their native Brazil like orchids, but we grow them in pots here,” says Dr. Steve Newman, Greenhouse Crops Specialist with Colorado State University Extension. 

Although they’re cacti, they don’t grow dry; water yours weekly as the top inch of soil gets dry, and provide it with half-strength fertilizer each time you water.  Every third week, give it clear water instead.  “Because no one likes to stain furniture or carpeting, most people water without letting it run out of the bottom, and salts build up in the soil.  Put the pot in the kitchen sink or bathtub every third watering and let water run though to flush salts out,” said Newman.

Avoid drafty areas for your cactus – chill blasts aren’t good for it.  “But the challenge for large Christmas cactus is keeping it out of traffic areas.  Sections fall off whenever people brush against them.”

The good news is that these sections are easy to root by placing them in a glass of water, and when the roots come out, pot up the section in sterile, everyday potting soil.  While young, the small plant should be guarded against overwatering, so before you give it a drink, check the soil to be sure it’s not wet.

To have your cactus bloom for Thanksgiving or Christmas next year and each year thereafter, mark your calendar for September 19 as the date to begin the reblooming process.  “Living around the 40th parallel as we do, that’s the date to start stimulating plants so they’re blooming in time for Christmas,” says the 25-year veteran of greenhouse growing.  “Poinsettias and cactus – two popular flowering plants – are treated this way.”

 A combination of cool temperatures and darkness is the cue these plants need to bloom, so move the cactus to a place with cool, 60-degree nights and only nine hours of sunlight daily.  After approximately six weeks, Thanksgiving cactus will flower, and after two to three months, Christmas cactus blooms. 

 The secret to eye-popping color is reducing water to the plant after flower buds have formed, says Newman.  Water weekly until after the flower buds begin to swell, then cut back on the water slightly, letting the cactus dry out between watering without getting bone dry.  Blossom color intensifies if the plant dries once flowers start, he said; many growers finish flowering plants this way during the last two to three weeks before they go on sale.

Be aware that too dry will abort the flowers, so to avoid it going too far, get to know your cactus soil by inserting your finger in it up to the first knuckle, just before watering.  Note that moisture level; as you dry down your cactus, check the soil to gauge when it’s a bit drier but not parched. “This is the best water meter ever invented,” says Newman, holding up his hand and indicating the tip of his index finger. 

As flowers unfold, move it out into the room where you want to display it, keeping it in bright, indirect light.  A cool room is best; too much heat can cause flowers to fade and drop quickly, and if the leaves wrinkle, the plant is too dry or too warm.  There’s no need to feed it during blossom, but after flowering, return the cactus to normal care of fertilizing at half strength and watering weekly.

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