The Suburbanite
  • Green Space: Holiday plants are fun, beautiful and rewarding, but very fickle

  • The hope is our Christmas plants will bloom by Christmas. There’s a chance they will, with a little help. Here’s a look at what may be ahead.

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  • The hope is our Christmas plants will bloom by Christmas. There’s a chance they will, with a little help. Here’s a look at what may be ahead.
    Note: These plants are fickle. There’s no blooming guarantee. That’s up to mother nature. Each plant will be different.
    Perhaps that makes the blooming more interesting. Remember, in the plant world, if it were easy, it would not be any fun.
    Placing in a cool, very dark area from 8 p.m. to 8 a.m. will help force blooming by Christmas. Keep damp but allow soil to dry before lightly watering. Do not fertilize. That benefits plant growth but not flowering.
    Note that the darkness should be uninterrupted. Our windows with traffic passing and streetlights won’t work. A cool, very dark closet is best.
    First, check what kind of holiday cactus you have. Not all are Christmas blooming:
    •Easter cacti: Rounded teeth along branch segments, bloom in spring but might flower at other times.
    •Thanksgiving cacti: 2 to 4 pointy teeth along edges of sections. Left to natural day light, they bloom earlier than Christmas cacti.
    • Christmas cacti: Scalloped stem segments with blooms at the tips.
    Force blooming by placing a lightproof, black plastic bag over entire pant from 5 p.m. to 8 a.m. until the week before Christmas. Keep at room temperature (70-75 degrees). Water only when the soil is dry. Try to avoid temperature extremes. Place in a sunny window. Treat once a month with a water-soluble houseplant fertilizer. Blooming will last longer if kept in a cooler place at night. Avoid radiators and furnace registers, along with door drafts.
    Prune branches with berries from your bushes or purchase at a gardening center. Immediately soak in a bucket of water overnight.
    Form your decoration — wreath, garland, table centerpiece, whatever. Place in an area that does not receive direct sunlight. Good choices probably are fireplace mantles and dining rooms.
    Check daily for dehydration, removing any dried leaves and berries. Replace spent branches with fresh holly.
    Repot bulb. There should be at least an inch of space on all sides. Place no more than three-fourths of the bulb under the soil. Keep lightly watered and in a sunny location.
    To restart blooming, keep bulb in a dark space for two months. Bring out, water and keep in a sunny location.
    To prolong blooming, place in a cool (60-to-65 degree) area. If necessary, support the pot to prevent tipping.
    Pot bulbs in good growing soil. Place close together in a clump and sink bulbs half way, root end down. Water well and keep in a sunny location.
    Page 2 of 2 - Note: For gifts, plant bulbs in a glass container half filled with marbles. Water to one-half inch of the top of marbles and insert bulbs half way, root end down. Place in a sunny location. Flowers appear in 30 days.

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