April 06, 2021
I have mentioned before what a hard time I have had trying to grow a Christmas cactus. I have purchased a plant four of five times around the holiday. They always had good blooms in the store which would last for several weeks and then the blooms would fall off and the plant would die. I finally gave up, admitting I did not have the insight or time to care for them. When Melissa bought several varieties of the species they behaved similarly, producing wonderful blooms over the holidays. Like mine, the blooms fell off and the plant began to die. The difference was Melissa knew how to revive them by taking the stems off the original plant, allowing them to create epiphytic roots (air roots), and then planting them in another pot. Now they have all reset and are growing well.
The Christmas cactus (Schlumbergera x buckleyi) do not live in the hot, arid environments common to many cacti. Instead, they are native to the tropical rainforests of southern Brazil, where they grow on tree branches and thrive in the high humidity, dappled sunlight, and warm temperatures. That means these plants need to be treated differently than other cacti. They need to be watered regularly, but still avoid keeping the roots too wet. There are three main types of “holiday” cacti: the Easter cactus (S. gaertneri), Thanksgiving cactus (S. truncata), and Christmas cactus (S. x buckleyi). Each typically blooms closest to the time of the holiday it is named after. Most “Christmas cacti” sold today are Thanksgiving cacti, which tend to bloom from November through February. They bloom early and keep their blooms throughout the holidays. Most do not know the difference, and they pass unnoticed as Christmas cacti.
The aerial roots that the holiday cactus grow naturally help attach the plant to the branches in their native habitat. This is not a parasite species, because it does not depend on the tree for food and water. The aerial roots let the plant reach sunlight and absorb necessary moisture and nutrients from leaves, humus, and other plant debris that surround the plant. Melissa told me she has two of the three varieties of holiday cactus, the Thanksgiving, and the Christmas. She also has both the red and white varieties of the Christmas cactus. That means next year we should have holiday cactus flowering in the house throughout most of the winter. Perhaps had I had the insight or time, mine would still be alive.
Thoughts: One of Melissa’s transplanted cactus has decided it is time to bloom this week. However, there is only one bloom rather than the entire plant. I was told this is called a “one-off” bloom. When I looked the term up in Merriam-Webster I found it refers to anything “limited to a single time, occasion, or instance.” This is a British expression that is creeping into American usage recently. It originally comes from manufacturing and foundry work where items were cast using a pattern. A one-off meant the mold was only used once, as with a prototype. It seems ne branch of the cactus decided this was the right time to bloom. It is also the right time for the people of America to decide it is not a good thing to lead the countries of the world in the number of covid-19 deaths. The current administration has made a commitment to make the change. Now the people need to do the same. Follow the science. Change is coming and it starts with you.