A Gardening Year

The adventures and misadventures of an heirloom gardener

Friday, January 14, 2005

Weird Timing

This certainly seems to be the year for plants blooming at weird times. The snowdrops are still going strong out by the birdbath. Then this afternoon, I noticed that my Christmas cactus is budded. I've heard of Christmas cactus' (cacti?) and Thanksgiving cactus', but I have never heard of New Years cactus'. Christmas cactus' are photosensitive, i.e. they need a certain number of hours of darkness for a certain number of days to bloom. This plant is getting neither. Nor has it bloomed since I bought it in bloom years ago.

I originally placed it in the large window in my living room which gets lots of sun all afternoon. My thought was that plants often do not get enough light indoors. I also pull the shades each evening when the sun goes down. By keeping it behind the shades, I thought I could give it the hours of darkness it would need in the winter to bloom. But the poor thing languished for years, neither blooming nor growing.

Last year, I decided to move it into the kitchen which gets early morning sun only. It perked right up. Its leaves were a healthier green color. I didn't expect it to bloom because now it was exposed to light almost constantly. On my nights off, I keep a light on in the kitchen all night. It should not be about to bloom.

Many years ago, I tried to get a poinsettia, another photosensitive plant to bloom. I had managed to keep it alive after Christmas. I researched the exact number of hours of darkness and the exact number of days needed to get it to bloom the second year. I was living in a tiny apartment at the time, but had a small storage closet that was perfect for the experiment. Every evening I faithfully placed the poinsettia into the dark closet. And every morning . . . I forgot to take it out again. After a week or so, I realized the poor plant was spending more time in the closet than out of it. I decided to stop torturing the poor thing and end the experiment.


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