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Looking forward to Christmas

As I was cleaning up the patio this weekend, my Christmas cactus made me think about its pending holiday bloom cycle.

These are easy plants to grow, but sometimes tricky to encourage bloom. Medium light and a soil high in organic matter are recommended and only water when the soil surface begins to feel dry.

The bloom cycle is related to day length and night time temperatures. The temperature range for flower development is between 55 and 60 degrees for a period of six weeks. As long as the temperatures stay within this range they will develop buds regardless of day length.

If temperatures climb above this range, then a period of 13 hours of uninterrupted darkness for six weeks is required. Place it in a closet or other completely dark place then remove it each morning.

I keep my Christmas cactus outdoors in a semi-shady location until danger of frost. Night time temperatures are generally in the preferred range and buds develop without my manipulation.

A Christmas cactus can live a very long life. My mom has one I gave her when I was fifteen years old. I’m thinking it could be classified as an “antique!” If you don’t have one of your own, check with your local nurseries. They will be available in a few months.

If you have an “antique” like my Mom and me, place it outside until buds develop. Bring it inside before frost and enjoy the orchid like blooms during your holiday.

Rebecca Bates is director of the Lincoln County Cooperative Extension Service. To contact her, call 601-835-3460