Monday, November 17, 2008

Well It's About Bloomin Time!

Ah, the Christmas cactus. Every year about this time, you see them in the stores with bright green foliage and beautiful red, pink or white flowers in full bloom, and think “They’re so gorgeous, I just have to have one”. You buy it, take it home, and a few days later all those pretty flowers have fallen off and are strewn all over the floor, and that bright green foliage is now starting to look a little brown and curled. I’m not totally surprised because all plants do that when moved from the perfect environment of the greenhouse to the dry, unappealing atmosphere of my home, but I nevertheless feel disappointed and let down, and I try to console myself with the thought that it will get used to the stale air in my house (hey, I survive in here okay), and will soon perk up and make itself at home. And next year it will again look beautiful with an abundance of red blooms just like it did when I bought it.

So all year I took care of this baby, waiting for the amazing transformation that would occur in the fall. Buds started forming in early November and started falling off a week later. Little unopened buds littered the floor. What the heck? What went wrong? After ending up with only about 5 flowers, I was determined that next year would be different. Next year it would be loaded with blooms! I figured maybe now would be a good time to actually read the instructions for growing this cactus.

So after reading about light/dark periods, wet/dry periods, fertilize/don’t fertilize periods (jeeze, what a pain in the butt), I set about to do the right thing and nurture this finicky plant to it’s final beauty. Being careful to follow the directions about watering and fertilizing all spring and summer, it was finally the time to start it’s dark/light cycle. I would take it upstairs to the closet at 6:00 p.m. and bring it back down at 6:00 a.m. Needless to say, after a few days I got pretty tired of hauling this now rather heavy pot up and down the stairs, so I decided to leave it downstairs and put a garbage bag over it’s head for the required 12 hours of darkness, and although this is a practice that is not recommended for people, I think I have read somewhere that it is acceptable for cacti. I did this until little buds finally formed. Lots of little buds. A few days later I noticed a couple of buds on the floor. A few days after that a lot more buds on the floor and a lot less on the plant. After all my caring and diligence I ended up with the same amount of flowers that I had the year before. What a waste of time. What a poor result after a lot of work. What a stupid cactus.

Okay, that’s it, buddy. You’re on your own. No more coddling or attention. You want to stick around, fine. You want to be tossed out, that’s fine too. And all this year I ignored it. Watering only when I happened to notice the foliage was hanging down like some over-cooked spinach lasagna noodles. No more dark/light schedules, or bags, or trips to the closet. Whatever happens, happens. I could care less!!

Maybe I will keep it around for another year.


Susie said...

I think it must of been trying to tell you, you were smothering it with love. It's funny how we can love our plants too much!

I need to send my Christmas cactus up to you. It really looks so pathetic I thought about chunking it too.

T said...

Well, we give you an E for effort and a P for perseverance! :))

You have done far better then me, I gave up with plants a long time ago, they don't last a month in my house.

But, you have inspired me, maybe I will try again this year.

Muddy Boot Dreams said...

There are people whose Christmas cactus bloom every year on schedule. I am not one of them. But they do wonderfully if you put them outside for the summer, and bring them back indoors when it is time to wear a sweater outside.
Of course, mine is still outside. Hey it is time to wear a sweater inside, right?

Try leaving it in very bright filtered light, and moving it less. It may take a few years, ha ha, but once it starts to grow is should be covered in blooms. It also likes a slightly cooler place, not too stuffy, hot, or bright. Or you can just do like I do, buy a new one every Christmas!

Good luck, maybe try Amaryillis?


Rudee said...

Sometimes, it's the ultimatum that gets them.

flydragon said...

I think it was trying to tell me I was smothering it with that garbage bag:) And don't be sending me any more pathetic plants. I have enough already.

Hi t,
And don't forget DD for dumb dodo, for going through all that rigmarole. If your "inspiration" ends up with another dead plant, don't be blaming me.

It's time to wear sweaters, sweat pants, socks and scarfs. And that's inside!! Oh, and thanks for some more instructions on it's care. Like I'm really going to go through that again:) Any work involved with Amaryillis? On second thought, never mind, don't bother telling me.

Got that right. A threat works much better than kindness. I'll have to remember that for a few other things, too.

Anonymous said...

You tried that threat crap on me and see what happened?

Fla Brat

flydragon said...

fla brat,
Yep, and I think it worked pretty good on you.

Anonymous said...

I couldn't wait to get to the end of this 'story' because I just KNEW you'd have a picture of something beautiful--which you did:-) You sure did hang in there!

PS--there are a couple of stores in town that have Christmas cactus in their front windows all year long that cover the whole window. But I don't know how old they are. They face East, though, if that helps:-)

flydragon said...

You probably couldn't wait till the end of the story because of boredom, not anticipation.
And this crabby cactus is sitting in a west window this year. It does have more flowers than ever before so I guess it's happy there.
Either way, that's where it's staying.

Far Side of Fifty said...

Well I really enjoyed your story! Muddy Boots Jen had great advice! My only observation is this..the more that you want flowers on Christmas Cactus..the less you will get. Yours is beautiful, they do so love the old fashioned fern stands too! All my Aunts have them on fern stands! :)

Anonymous said...

I use to put my cactus out in the summer but they got to big to pick up, so I just leave them by the window all year long. Do have to turn them once in a while. One of the smaller ones has a lot of white buds on them. I try not to water it to much. I found if I water it while it's budding that they have a tendency to fall off. The big ones are just starting to bud. I never cover them of put them in the dark. I know how I would feel in a dark closet for twelve hrs. Middle sis P.S. Your's sure looks like your doing something right or doing nothing at all.

flydragon said...

Rats!! Now I have to get a fern stand too?

Show off. I know your's always bloomed. And ignoring mine did help. I plan on doing a lot of nothing again.

Anonymous said...

Can't believe that Betty actually DOES NOT water the plant very much!!! hee, hee, hee
You all know what I mean!!

flydragon said...

You and I both know she's over there with that little watering can at least twice a day.

Di said...

Your friends are right, they require very little watering. I leave mine outdoors all summer in a semi shaded spot away from afternoon sun, bring it into the garage in mid Oct., when little buds start setting. There it gets very little daylight. There is a window on the north side but it doesn't get very much light from it. It stays there till 2 weeks before Thanksgiving when I bring it in and voilla! - blooms by Turkey day. Yours, turned out very pretty. Did you know you can start new plants by sticking the leaves in the soil? I usualy do it in the spring. For a very striking "friendship" plant. Take leaves from your friends plants and put them in one pot, the more different colors the prettier.

beckie said...

Flydragon, benign neglect. That's what most of my hose plants survive on. You are learning!

flydragon said...

Well I see you've got it down to a science. That method wouldn't work for me since I don't take mine outside, (never want to bring bugs and spiders in) and I don't have a garage to put it in for it's dark period. Great idea for a "friendship" plant, though. Never thought of that.

It took me awhile to figure that out, but now that I know, all my house plants are going to get the same treatment. Those that are left, anyhow.

Not Very Anonymous Mom said...

that curly hoya loves benign neglect, obviously. is it "benign" if there's cussing involved? i think not.

loved this post. you sure know how to tell a tale.

flydragon said...

I think it depends on how loud the cussing is. And how is your teeny, tiny, itsy, bitsy hoya coming along:)

Dog_geek said...

My mother-in-law has a whole army of these things that bloom beautifully every year. She makes it look so easy, I had no idea that those things were so touchy! And of course, that is where Mr. Geek gets his green thumb from - if things were left to me, our flower beds would look like barren wastelands.

oldcrow61 said...

Looks like it just wanted to be left to do it's own thing, lol.

flydragon said...

Lucky for you that at least one of you has the green thumb. I'm going to pick a gardener for my next husband. That is if I were to pick another one, which I'm not.

sounds a bit the way my kids used to act.

KALI said...

that is what we call - reverse psychology!!! :)

flydragon said...

It evidently works on plants just as it does on people. Well, at least sometimes.

Not Very Anonymous Mom said...

my teeny tiny hoya is just bobbin' along, doin' it's own thing...

Shady Gardener said...

What a funny story... although, I know it wasn't funny at the time! I've Never tried that up the stairs, down the stairs, in the dark, in the light with anything except the poinsettia I've just tried saving from last year (the up/down effort only lasted about 6 days this month! ha). Perhaps I'm just neglectful enough that my poinsettia responds.(!)

flydragon said...

Your 6 days of up/down was twice as long as mine. And if the neglect doesn't work, try the "If you don't perform, you're outta here" trick.