Friday, November 6, 2015

Bloom or Bust

“How do I get my Christmas cactus to bloom in time for Christmas?” Sorry, I can’t help. It’s too late. This is really not the best time to offer solutions to the big question. Early fall might have been a better time to bring up the subject, but no one was thinking about Christmas cactus in September. You might be thinking about it now, but the time to do anything has passed.

This all came about as I was wandering around my local monster hardware store last week during a family excursion to buy paint. I don’t know why, but going there always seems more like a visit to a popular tourist attraction than a shopping trip — crowds, long line-ups, and hot dog vendors.

While we were in the store waiting for the paint to be mixed, I wandered over to a nearby rack that had caught my attention — it was full of bright red and green items,  more colourful than the pastel paints I’d been staring at for twenty minutes trying to decide between blue, blue, or a different blue. And no, it wasn’t an early shipment of the Poinsettias, it was a large  display of Christmas cactus plants. They were all in bloom doing their darnedest to entice shoppers to buy, a classic case of plant marketing -- sell while in bloom and let the petals fall where they may. 

Sadly, the ambient temperature might have been fine for keeping the paint flowing, but it was much warmer than these plants prefer. They were being subjected to a lot of movement, too, as shoppers picked them up and sorted through them, looking for something that wouldn't clash with the new wallpaper they'd just purchased. And they were under lights that hardly ever turn off — all the wrong conditions to promote blooming. However, at a buck fifty each they were a deal for those wily gardeners who are able to restore life to a dead stick.

Fortunately, the Christmas cactus (CC) is a resilient plant, and with a little care can potentially outlive the average shopper, but the plants I saw on display will likely have dropped all their blooms by Christmas day, and consequently far too many will go out with the wrapping paper, just like the other red and green Christmas plant, the one that every year is looking more and more like Christmas wrapping paper. But, with a little care, a CC can live for years and produce a show of blooms that the P plant can only ever dream of.

So buy now while the plants are on sale, but don’t worry about whether it will be in bloom this Christmas. We’re thinking about next year, we’re planning ahead. 

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