Saturday, 1 December 2007

Saturday Photo: December 1? It Must Be Time for Christmas Cactus

The end of the year is fast approaching, and my Christmas cactus is in bloom. Or rather, one of them is. I have two, one of which blooms before the other. The second has set buds and I’ll bring it up to the sunlight soon.

The plants are quite old: the first was a cutting from a neighbor at least 15 years ago, and the second my sister and her family gave us as a present perhaps 8 years ago. They’ve bloomed every year, and now I think I’ve got the trick down pat.

At first I followed Thalasso Cruso’s advice, which is to put them in a dark closet without water for the month of October and then bring them out into a sunny window. But then I learned that in the wild they bloom in response to length of day, the way chrysanthemums do. Now I wait as long as possible to bring them in: this year it was the third week in October since we didn’t have frost before then. One plant was ready to bloom at that point, but I stalled it by putting it in a room with less sunlight for a week or so. By the first of November it was bursting into bloom, though. The flowers were riotous for nearly three weeks, and a couple remain even now.

Next week I’ll switch plants, bringing the second one up from the basement to the living room. The first I'll put in a sunny window in a bedroom where electric light is on infrequently. Last year, it bloomed a second time, responding, I guess, to the length of day it perceived through the window.

They are lovely plants, whether they bloom once or twice, with their flowers that look like miniature fireworks displays.

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