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Want Your 'Holiday Plants' to Bloom ON the Holidays?

You may not be thinking about the Christmas season yet, but it IS time to start planning! There's cards to get ready, gifts to assign, and holiday plants to trick into flowering! That's right, if you're one of the many listeners with a so-called 'Christmas cactus' that never seems to bloom on schedule and/or you kept your amaryllis bulbs handy hoping to get them to rebloom in time for the holidays, now's the time make it happen, because if you wait for those holidays, you'll just be disappointed again. But if you do a little bit of work now, there's a darn good chance you can 'trigger' those blooms to emerge on time, two months or so from now.

Your "Christmas Cactus" Probably Isn't!
Now, if your so-called Christmas cactus always seems to flower a little too early, and its branches have pointy teeth-like projections, congratulations, your Thanksgiving cactus is blooming right on schedule! Surprisingly, more people have these types of 'holiday cactus' plants than the true Christmas cactus, which has scalloped edges, no 'teeth', and likes to bloom from December thru March. There's also an Easter cactus, which typically blooms in Spring, and flowers periodically throughout the year a lot more often than its cousins; it has 'teeth', but they're much more rounded than the Thanksgiving type.

Whatever Kind You Have, Here's How to Make it Bloom:
You have two choices here: Dark treatment or cold treatment.

  • Dark: Cover the plant with a box around 6 in the evening and take the box off around 8am the next morning for the next six weeks; during the day, the plant should receive normal light. If you keep it in the dark correctly, it should produce big fat flower buds that will open in another six weeks or so.
  • Cold: Simply keep the plant in a very cool place; 55 degrees is ideal, for the next six weeks; this should form those big fat buds no matter how much light it gets. Just don't let the temperature drop below 50 degrees or those buds could be damaged.

Amaryllis Instructions:
Want to get that giant amaryllis bulb from last Christmas to bloom again? You can, if you allowed those green leaves to linger on the plant after its last flowering, they're what fuels the growth of the next set of blooms. (If you DID cut them off right after the flowers faded, you may as well toss that bulb, and don't cut the greenery next time!)

But if you DID 'leave the leaves', remove any faded foliage now, take the potted bulb to a cool, dry spot out of direct light and just let it sit there, no food; no water. After about a month to six weeks, new shoots should start to appear. When they do, put the plant back in a warm sunny spot, give it a little feeding of compost and bone meal, and begin watering it again. Your flowers should appear right on schedule!

Your Weekend 'to do' (and NOT to do!) List:
Summer is now officially over (not that it ever 'officially' ARRIVED to begin with, but that's another story). Anyway, the onset of Autumn means that prime time is here for many gardening chores. Right now, for instance:

  • It's time to plant garlic, overwintering pansies, lettuce, spinach and other cool-weather greens; to repair damaged lawns, plant new ones, aerate your turf and give your grass its biggest feeding of the year.
  • It's the best time to plant new shrubs and trees and divide crowded perennials.
  • But it is NOT yet time to plant Spring-blooming bulbs, you can buy them now, but don't put them in the ground till after Halloween.
  • And it is NOT the time to PRUNE anything. You'll stimulate new growth at the worst time of the year and could end up killing your poor plants!

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