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.