I have whined before, here and on Facebook, that some of my Christmas cacti (Schlumbergera hybrids, also called zygocacti) were failing. I got plenty of advice as a result, most of which I was already following, when I happened to stumble upon an old blog post of Matt Mattus’. In it he advised to avoid using a cactus potting mix.
Dear Reader, this was exactly what I had done before the trouble started.
I had received a sample of cactus potting mix, and I asked the sender if it was suitable for zygocacti, and that person said it was. So I had repotted my two biggest plants, a Christmas cactus and a Thanksgiving cactus, in cactus potting mix, and after that they had started to decline.
I immediately repotted them in “standard, good quality potting mix” as Matt suggested. I discovered that their roots were rotting. No wonder they seemed wilted, even though the soil took forever to dry out. It seems so obvious now, but it never occurred to me that a cactus mix would have this effect on a plant.I threw out all the rotten parts and rooted the pieces that seemed in good health. Fortunately zygocacti are willing rooters. Some pieces already had aerial roots that I took advantage of. I had inherited these two plants from my late mother-in-law, and for sentiment’s sake I didn’t want to lose them. Both kinds bloomed sparsely earlier this year, and I hope to build them up to full strength.
Bloom twice in one winter!
What’s blooming right now is a Christmas cactus I got from my mom a couple of years ago. It is on its second flush of bloom. That is a trick my mother-in-law taught me. She never worried about keeping her plants in the dark. (I don’t think she even knew people did this, until I asked her about it.) She did grow them in the coolest room in her house, which was a basement family room that had horizontal windows close to the ceiling, with a convenient ledge for the plants. Once they had budded, she brought them upstairs to enjoy, and when they were done blooming, she brought them back downstairs, where they often set a second set of buds.
We have a couple of pretty chilly rooms in our house, but they don’t have easily accessible windows. I have been placing my zygocacti on windowsills in the more reasonably heated rooms, but as close to the glass as I can get them without touching. These windows are original to our 19th century house and get pretty cold.See what I mean? If you don’t have a chilly place for your plants, controlling day length or perhaps summering your plants outdoors until just before frost may be your only options.
What about those hyacinths?
In other news, the hyacinths I started forcing last month are on the verge of blooming, not quite in time for Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day. Despite coming from a bag of mixed colors, it appears they will all be pink.
Inspired by the words of Elizabeth Lawrence, “We can have flowers nearly every month of the year,” Carol of May Dreams Gardens started Garden Bloggers Bloom Day. On the 15th of every month, garden bloggers from all over the world publish what is currently blooming in their gardens, and leave a link in Mr. Linky and the comments of May Dreams Gardens.