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Archive for the ‘How-To Landscaping Articles’ Category

Christmas Cactus

December 17, 2010 @ 4:34 pm

I recently went to a Christmas party in my neighborhood and found a plant in the corner of their kitchen that was on a stool and sprawled out from the pot like a giant spider.  At the end of each flattened-like succulent branch was a sticky, brilliant, red flower.  From a distance, I could have sworn it was a Fuschia

This is what a typical fuschia looks like

and complimented the owner on such a healthy plant in the middle of winter (no less!).  She told me it was a Christmas Cactus which I was completely unfamiliar.  I touched the waxy branches and the flower was actually kinda sticky!  Wonderful! 

Similar to the cactus I saw at my neighbor's kitchen

The following is the care instructions from WikiHow.  I asked for one of these for Christmas :)

== Steps ==
1. A Christmas Cactus will appreciate bright but indirect light. Keep the plant in a well-lit location (like near a window) away from direct sunlight (which can stunt growth and burn the leaves), drafts, heat vents, fireplaces or other sources of hot air. Move an indoors plant outdoors in summer to a shady location. It is best to keep in a normal house temperature range (65 to 80 degrees F.
2. Provide a source of humidity if you live in a dry environment. Put a tray of water next to the plant so that the water evaporates and provides humidity. Alternatively, you can make a humidity tray by placing the pot on a waterproof saucer that is filled with gravel and halfway filled with water.
3. Water a Christmas Cactus with care. Caring for this plant can be a bit tricky as you need to take care not to overwater or underwater it:

a. Care must be taken not to underwater it, as a Christmas cactus is in origin a tropical plant, not a true cactus. Unlike many cacti, this variety cannot tolerate completely dry soil. If the soil gets too dry, the flowers buds will drop, and the plant will wilt. Feel the soil with your fingers; if it feels dry, it’s time to water.
b. Too much watering will cause spots from white rot to appear on the leaves, and the leaves will likely fall off. The soil should be evenly moist for best growth. The rule of thumb is, ” less water is better than too much water.”
c. When watering, thoroughly water the plant. Before attempting to water the plant again, check to see that the top inch of soil has dried thoroughly first. Mist leaves as well as watering the soil.
d.  Water the cactus based on your environment and the time of year. A good method is to water a cactus as follows:
c.1 ”Dry climate, outdoors”: Water every two to three days when warm and sunny.
c.2. ”Humid, cool or indoors”: Water every week.
c.3. During the fall and winter months, the plants should be watered less frequently in order to promote blooming.
Tip 1. Add fertilizer]] to assist plant growth. Plants that are  actively growing should be given a blooming houseplant-type fertilizer. Follow the label directions for how much and how often to feed. Fertilizing is important to keep the plant in good condition; the joints are fragile and can break apart if the plant descends into poor health. Generally, it should be fertilized 2-4 times a year with a 20-20-20 feed, but stop feeding about a month before the buds appear (this usually means stopping by the end of October).
Tip 2. Encourage the flower blooming for the holiday season. The key to getting Christmas cactus to flower during the holiday season is proper light exposure, correct temperatures and limited watering.
Tip 3. Because this plant is thermo-photoperiodic, it will  set buds when day length is about equal to night length and when the temperature drops to 50 to 60 degrees F for several weeks.
Tip 4. Keep in a dark bathroom for the night.  During the fall months, the Christmas Cactus should be placed in a spot where it receives indoor indirect, bright light during the daylight hours but total darkness at night (absolutely no artificial light). The Christmas Cactus requires long, uninterrupted dark periods, about 12 or more hours each night. Begin the dark treatments in about mid-October to have plants in full bloom by the holidays. Place the plants in a dark area from about 12 or more hours each night for 6-8 weeks or until you see buds forming. A closet or unused bathroom are ideal places.
Tip 5. From September and October, the Christmas Cactus should be kept in a cool room where temperatures will remain around 50 degrees, give or take a few degrees. Don’t expose the plant to freezing temperatures.  Plants should be blooming for the holidays if cool treatments are started by early November.
Tip 6. Be especially careful with watering at this time. Reduce the watering slightly. Do not soak the soil after a dry period; only moisten the top few inches, since buds, flowers and even leaves can fall off if the roots are suddenly saturated.
Tip 7. Prune the Christmas cactus about a month after blooming. This will encourage the plant to branch out, especially after a period of “rest” has been granted. It will not look very pretty after the blossoms have faded. Some people wait until March or so, when new growth begins, to prune the cactus.
Tip 8. Propagate a Christmas Cactus by cutting off sections of the stem. Each section must consist of two or three joined segments. Allow each section to dry for a few hours before pushing them into a 3-inch pot that contains the same potting soil as the parent plant. Plant halfway down the first segment. Treat the cuttings as mature plants. In about four to six weeks, the cuttings should have rooted and will begin to show some new growth. They grow quickly, and should take in about two or three weeks. You can fertilize after cutting has grown one new segment.

I read this neat article on good conditions for growing a Serbian Spruce. Not sure what a Serbian Spruce is? That’s okay…

The Serbian spruce is a tall and graceful evergreen spruce. The tree has a cone shape and can grow up to 60 feet high. If the right conditions are provided, the Serbian spruce tree will grow quickly and remain healthy for many years.

Read the full article here: http://www.ehow.com/list_6756521_conditions-growing-serbian-spruce-trees.html