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The Rolla Daily News - Rolla, MO
  • Gardening to distraction: Learning about the Thanksgiving cactus

  • You've heard of Christmas cactus. Did you know there is also a Thanksgiving cactus?
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  • You've heard of Christmas cactus. Did you know there is also a Thanksgiving cactus?
    I didn't either until I was researching whether it's true that one can "force" a Christmas cactus to bloom in different colors.
    I heard this from a lady at a garden center check-out. She claimed by depriving a Christmas cactus of light for longer periods of time, the cactus would bloom different colors from pink, white and yellow to even green. One of the reasons I have "Christmas" cactus is that they are very easy to grow.
    My first plant came from a St. James friend who has the most beautiful, HUGE plant - easily 4-feet wide, of a pink variety.
    I just planted a 3-inch broken piece in new potting soil, watered it, and periodically checked to see that roots had developed. Within weeks a new pad formed off the original one.
    If you do a search for Christmas cactus, you'll find extensive directions about sticking them in a closet in September to make sure they are in total darkness for 12 hours a night for several weeks.
    I'm sure that's how nurseries get these Brazilian jungle natives to bloom for our holidays.
    Except for not exposing them to direct sunlight, over the years I've done no such thing. My little pots have either sat off a western window sill in my basement or on a shady window sill facing east in my office. I do let them go dry but not usually on purpose. Luckily they prefer dry conditions so they thrive being left in a cold office over a long weekend.
    About two weeks ago, several of my cactuses started to bloom. The two in my office are a light peachy orange color; the one in my den is white with pink edges. Another small one in my bedroom is blooming red.
    They are all Thanksgiving cactuses. The way you can tell is that Thanksgiving cactuses have pointed ends on their pads, or leaves.
    A Christmas cactus, really a hybrid, has rounded leaves, as does the Easter cactus, which has little tufts of hair between rounded pads, and more daisy-like flowers.
    I have a few more just setting buds. They've been in the basement, being naturally deprived of light as we go into longer, darker days. I can't wait to see if any of them bloom green!
    Charlotte Ekker Wiggins shares her gardening tips at http://www.gardeningcharlotte.com. Copyright 2012 used with permission by Gatehouse Media. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. Contact Charlotte at 4charlottewiggins@gmail.com.
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