Gardener’s almanac (Dec. 15)

12/15/2012 7:49 AM

12/15/2012 7:56 AM

Very cold, then nicely warm – It got cold enough last weekend to finally deflate the giant red leaves on my Snowflake oakleaf hydrangea – but not wintery enough, yet, for real snowflakes.

The return to warmer weather has me outside happy to be filling the birdbath and feeding the birds, sweeping the porch and making sure the leaves are tucked in where they’re supposed to be. And praying for rain. I hope the heavens have watered the earth by the time this is in print.

Christmas cactus – I have never gotten into Christmas cactuses, but a lot of people grow them. A friend of mine recently and easily propagated one to make lots of plants. I’m still waiting for my baby plant.

Horticulturist Ward Upham writes about holiday cactuses in this week’s Horticulture 2012 from K-State.

“Christmas cactus (Schlumbergera bridgesii) and Thanksgiving cactus (Schlumbergera truncata) are epiphytes native to the jungles of South America,” Upham writes. “Epiphytic plants grow on other plants and use them for support but not for nutrients. Though these cacti are different species, they will hybridize and produce varying stem shapes. Christmas cactus normally has smooth stem segments, and Thanksgiving cactus has hook-like appendages on each segment.

“Both of these cacti prefer bright indirect light. Too much sun can result in the leaves turning yellow. Common household temperatures are fine. Soil should be kept constantly moist but not waterlogged. Give them a light fertilization every other week. Blooming will normally cease in late winter to early spring, but continue to keep them moist and fertilized until fall. During the fall, stop fertilizing, and give the plants only enough water so the stems do not shrivel, in order to encourage flower bud formation. Though these plants seem to flower best if kept a little pot-bound, flowers will diminish if they are too crowded. If you haven’t repotted in several years, or if you notice a decrease in flowering from the previous year, move the plant to a larger pot in the spring. If possible, move the plants outside for the summer. Choose a shady spot because these plants will not tolerate full sun. Leave the plants outside until frost threatens.

“Normally, the plants will have received enough cool nights in the 50- to 55-degree range that flower buds will have formed. However, if they haven’t, subjecting the plants to nights greater than 12 hours long and temperatures between 59 and 69 degrees can also generate flowers. Twenty-five consecutive long nights is enough for flower initiation. Place the plants in an unused room or cover them with a dark cloth or cardboard box to insure that they receive uninterrupted darkness. After the flower buds have formed, it takes an additional nine to 10 weeks for flowers to complete development and bloom.”

Garden events

WSU men’s basketball team to be at Illuminations – The Wichita State men’s basketball team will meet with fans from 6 to 7 p.m. Monday during Illuminations at Botanica. The team will be promoting its game on Dec. 22 at Intrust Bank Arena against Southern Mississippi by giving away posters in exchange for a can of food for the Kansas Food Bank. Some posters will include a free pair of tickets to the Dec. 22 game.

The food drive will pick up again Dec. 26 to 30 when adults will be able to pay kid prices for Illuminations if they bring two cans of food to Botanica for the food bank.

The gardens of Botanica are alight seven nights a week for Illuminations, from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. through Dec. 30 (excluding Dec. 24 and 25). Tickets are $7, $6 for Botanica members, and $5 for ages 3 to 12. Tickets are available at the door or in advance at area QuikTrips and Botanica, online at botanica.org, or by contacting Kathy Osler at 316-264-0448, ext. 107, or via e-mail at kosler@botanica.org.

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