Posts Tagged: christmas cactus

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.

Sensational Cosmos and Enchanting Christmas Cactus

Author’s Note:

First, please forgive the amount of time since my last post. Next, as you will soon read, this post was written in late March. I have many more things to write about but wanted to get this posted. Thank you so kindly for reading.

30_Apr_2015Despite the cold winter, there has been a lot of indoor gardening, and the idea of this particular article has been floating around since November when the Christmas cactus proliferated in bloom. It truly was enchanting but more on that in a bit.

Spring EquinoxIt is the eve of the vernal equinox and I am taking pause to allow for some rumination. In my last entry I spoke of summer giving way to autumn and the eventuality of winter. Not only is autumn over but winter is also officially over as well. Five months, just like that. An equinox and another solstice, finished. I love all the seasons as each provides nourishment for the soul, but I suppose my order of preference would be the autumn equinox, the winter solstice, the vernal equinox, and then the summer solstice. I love cold and the peace that accompanies the short winter days. I love the snow and how it provides the perfect blanket for the slumbering plants. And now, today, a new season is about to begin. The snow has receded and all around, the soil is bursting forth with life. I shall devote an entire entry to the celebration of the vernal equinox but for now I wish to share my thoughts on two incredible plants that deserve celebration.

sensational_cosmos
Drifting oceans of pink sway in the wind as the sun glances upon their perfect flowers. Immediately and significantly the swathes of cosmos sensation I planted from seed have lived up to their namesake by inducing a sensation of appreciation of their old world beauty.

The back border makes one perfect home for this plant, or if you have the space, you could incorporate this into your wildflower patch. Regardless, this for me is one of the more friendly summer annuals. I have seen these naturalized in fields as well as in the English cottage garden and in either setting, they stand tall begging to be noticed but are not so imposing as to overshadow the other beautiful plants and flowers around them.

I am instantly attracted to any flower that has an open face similar to a daisy, and couple that with the fern-like foliage and you have a plant that is a must for the summer border or grown en masse on their own. These flowers greeted me in the garden until the first hard frost came and I shall be forever thankful for blessing me with their beauty throughout the season.

Photos of the incredible, versatile Cosmos Sensation. I have applied some artistic filters to these images and I hope you like what I have done. Any and all of the images on this site can be purchased. For details, please email webmaster (@) bennysplace (dot) com and indicate what photo you are interested in, size, etc.

Christmas Cactus

Admittedly, I have not had much luck with growing Christmas cactus indoors. For whatever reason, previous specimens became unwieldy and tattered looking. Worse yet, once the initial bloom had finished, I rarely saw flowers again. Fast forward a few years and I was given a combination of different colors in one pot. The specimen was indeed beautiful and full of gorgeous blooms but previous experience prevented me from becoming overly attached to the plant.

After its initial bloom, I repotted it, removed the spent flowers and thought to myself, well, let’s see what happens. As winter faded into spring and spring into summer, the plant itself thrived and I allowed myself to become hopeful.

Then, it happened . . .

Just before Thanksgiving the following year, there were buds abound on this lovely plant and I let my excitement get the better of me. I had a thriving Christmas Cactus! It is important to note that in its native habitat, Christmas cacti grow within rock crevices and on tree trunks and branches, so a large pot is not needed but moisture is. In my previous attempts at growing this plant, I treated it as a succulent that required little to no water. Also, because in their native environment, they are shaded by a canopy of leaves, I moved my thriving specimen out of the direct sun and now I think it is perfectly content. So much so that I am about to get some more blooms! This time, white.

The enchanting Christmas Cactus gallery. Enjoy!

As time passes I hope to write more features on specific plants. I thank you all for reading, and until next time which I promise will be very soon – Happy Gardening!