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Plantidote of the Day 2011-05-27

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christmas cactus

Schlumbergera bridgesii

Christmas cactus

Seasonably inappropriate, you say? Maybe. But, like quite a few other plants around here (Zone 10), bloom times are changing. Sometimes it's only by a few weeks. In other cases (see Exhibit A, above), plants are blooming months early or late. Other people tell me they've noticed this, too, so it's not my imagination.

Seasonal aberrations aside, if you're a houseplant person, I highly recommend adding a Christmas cactus to your collection. These plants are ridiculously easy to live with. They like rich, well-draining soil, water and frequent feeding, but other than that, they're not particularly fussy or delicate. And look at how your efforts are rewarded! The photo shows just one section of a very large plant that's entirely covered in bright red flowers that last for weeks. Who cares if it's blooming in the wrong month?

Anyway, if bloom time is a deal breaker, several sources say that keeping the plant in a cool, dark environment for 12 to 14 hours a day during November will produce Christmas blooms. Has anyone tried this, or know of other ways to time blooms to the right season?

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Readers, please send twig (twig4now@gmail.com) images and stories for the ongoing Plantidote of the Day series. In exchange, you'll win undying fame in the form of a hat tip! Plants growing in your garden, your house, or neighbor's yard, plants from the forest or farmers' market, plants you preserved, plants you prepared (wine; cider; tea; dried beans), plants you harvested (grains; chanterelles), plants you picked (flowers), plants you dried (herbs), plants you covet or hope to grow someday. Herbal remedies, propagation tips, new varieties, etc.. And if you can, include some solid detail about the plant, too -- a story, the genus and species, or where you got the seeds, or the recipe, or your grandmother gave it to you. Or challenge us with a "Name That Plant" mystery entry ... And please feel free to add corrections and additional information in the comments.

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