The Gift of a Christmas Cactus

For Linda

Winter will soon be here and the garden for the most part has gone dormant. I have failed to keep this blog up to date and for that I sincerely apologize. I have so much to share but it is just a matter of taking the time to sit at my desk and write. Easier said than done so it seems.

With not much that needs doing outside, my energies are devoted once again to the indoor (winter) garden. For this post’s inspiration, my Christmas cactus has once again put forth a profusion of blooms.

Meet Mary

Preface:
As it turns out, I have written about my Christmas cactus previously. That only confirms my sincere infatuation for this plant. You can read that post from nearly five years ago here where I not only share my thoughts on the Christmas cactus but the wonderful Cosmos plant.

Christmas cactus in full bloom

A profusion of blooms on my beautiful Christmas cactus

I love to name my specimen plants and I do not think I am alone. This beautiful Christmas cactus was given to me by mother-in-law Grace. In her honor, we have named her Mary which is not only Grace’s middle name but also her mother’s name.

Each year, around this time (which I suppose technically would make this a Thanksgiving cactus), I am blessed with a sudden burst of abundant red and fuchsia colored blooms. As the outdoor garden sleeps, this magnificent display of color is definitely most welcome… particularly this year.

It has been a very challenging year for everyone and now more than ever, it is vital to appreciate anything that provides joy. My gardens, both indoor and outdoor, provide an abundance of simple joy. It is this joy that I love sharing with anyone who will listen or in this case read.

If you are able to visit your local garden center (please try and avoid big box stores and it is so important to support small, local businesses right now) I recommend treating yourself to the beautiful and easy to care for Christmas cactus. Given the right conditions, this plant will provide years of happiness. I promise.

Some intimate shots of Mary’s beautiful flowers taken a couple days ago:

Christmas cactus macro bloom

Christmas cactus macro bloom

The Secrets to My Success

I know there are some out there who have a difficult time getting their Christmas cactuses to rebloom. For all those people, I will share with you what I do. This is really a very undemanding plant and if you follow these guidelines, you too will be greeted with a plethora of blooms just in time (or slightly after) Thanksgiving.

Water and Fertilization

Do not let the name cactus catch you off guard! This is a tropical plant from Brazil. They are actually epiphytes and their native habitat is within the rainforest tucked into trees or rocks. So, they like water and humidity. Because of this, I do not let the soil go dry. I also am careful not to overwater. I find that in the summer maybe a thorough watering twice a week is sufficient. In the winter, just once a week.

When it comes to fertilizing this plant, I mix in some orchid fertilizer with my water. Just to make things easier, I mix in a pinch or two of Flower Fantasy Fertilizer granules from Fantasy Orchids, fill with very warm water and use that to water my Mary, the Christmas cactus. She seems to like that.

Light

My Christmas cactus is near a window that has a southeast exposure. It seems this is sufficient for what it needs to thrive and of course continually bloom. Oh yes! Speaking of this. Once the primary bloom of November ends, don’t be surprised if you see subsequent blooms even into summer!

Pruning

I never really pruned this plant until it grew so much I could no longer close the blinds. So, last September, I took my garden scissors and gave it a massive haircut. What happened next is why I will forever and always prune this plant in September.

The blooms had multiplied 10-fold! I was always so blessed with a decent amount of blooms but after pruning, every single stem had blooms. This year, I pruned again and had the same result. Based on this, make a note on your garden calendar to give your plant a trim in September before flower buds form.

Final Thoughts

As mentioned above, this has been a difficult year and any one thing that can provide joy is so appreciated. If you are reading this blog, you are one of those people that gain joy from gardening. I have always thought that if every single soul on the planet took the time to grow something, anything, the world would transform into something amazing.

As I close this post, I want to thank you so kindly for reading. I truly appreciate it.

There is one thing I failed to mention. All those stems you end up with after pruning can be planted directly in soil and they will make a new plant (rather quickly I might add). So, if you cannot get a plant this year, would you like me to start one for you? Just leave a comment or send a message and I will be happy to share a cutting from my plant.

Thank you again and I wish for you the best in health and all things.

Until next time, happy gardening!
Benny

As always, here are some photographs taken toward the end of this year’s gardening season. Enjoy!

A volunteer sunflower most likely planted by my bird friends. This sweet little bloom lasted months. It stood in solitude near the fence and brought me joy each day.

Ami blooms. You can barely make it out but there is a native bee on this cluster of flowers. I started these indoors but next year, I will probably just plant directly outside.

It rained and then the rain froze. This viola bloom became frozen in time as a result.

This is a beautiful variety of snapdragon called Night and Day from Botanical Interests. SO beautiful.

Seed pod clusters on the Norway maple.

A Swenson Swedish pea bloom. Sadly, there was a hard freeze not long after this photo was taken so I could not take part in enjoying a second crop of peas this year.

Special Notes:

If you too want to grow what I grow here are some links you may find helpful.

You can purchase the astoundingly beautiful Night and Day snapdragons from Botanical Interests.

If you would like a very dependable, robust pea, I cannot recommend the Swenson Swedish pea more. You can purchase this seed variety from Seed Savers Exchange.

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