HORT NOTE

NOVEMBER 2020

How to Resurrect an Ugly Christmas Cactus

 

Many of us have a complex love-hate relationship with our Christmas Cactuses.  We love them while they’re in bloom but after a while they can become unlovely embarrassments, relegated to the far corner of our living rooms or worse!   But there is a solution and it’s so easy even the most horticulturally challenged can have success with ease. 

 

All you need is:

  • a pair of sharp pointed scissors or garden clips

  • a plastic pot with holes in the bottom

  • a deep saucer to hold the pot

  • 1 piece of newspaper

  • horticultural vermiculite (not the stuff they blow in your attic!)

  • rooting hormone powder (available at any Agway or garden center)

 

To start, first take a critical look at your plant.  If it looks healthy and not too woody you might opt just to trim it back.  Use your scissors to cut the leafy branches back at any leaf junction point.  This will encourage new growth and make the plant stronger and bushier.    If the cuttings are long enough you can also use them to start new plants to share with friends and family.  But if the center of the plant is old and woody you’ll want to start a completely new plant, so be sure that your cuttings are at least 4-5” long so you have enough to work with.  It’s best to use the newer growth and not the older woody part.

 

To proceed:

  • Cut a circle of newspaper and place in the bottom of your pot.  This will prevent the vermiculite from sifting out through the holes

  • Fill the pot with vermiculite to within 1” of the top.

  • Saturate the vermiculite with water by placing the pot in the sink and watering until the water comes out of the bottom.  The pot will now be MUCH heavier!

  • Select cuttings that are full and a nice shiny green

  • Dip the bottom of the cuttings in water to moisten, then in rooting powder to a depth of one inch

  • Insert the cuttings into the wet vermiculite to a depth of at least one inch and press the medium lightly to compact and hold the stem securely.

  • Place the pot in a deep saucer, place in a sunny window and keep constantly moist by adding water to the saucer as needed.  After 6-8 weeks roots should have formed.  A very gentle tug on the stem will confirm if they are ready for potting.  My plant was so delighted it even formed new flower buds in celebration!

  • Carefully remove the rooted cuttings by dumping the contents of the pot onto a work surface so as not to damage the new roots.  Prepare a fresh pot with your favorite potting medium about 2/3 full.  Arrange several cuttings around the pot and add additional potting medium to cover the roots and support the cuttings.  Water so as to settle the soil.  Put back into a sunny window and watch it grow! 

 

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The Purposes of the Worcester Garden Club Are:

  • To promote the knowledge and appreciation of gardening, horticulture, flower arranging, and all phases of conservation;

  • To educate the community in the art of gardening, in the science of horticulture and in the conservation of all our national and local resources;

  • To encourage and develop civic planting throughout Worcester County.

A member of The Garden Club of America and National Garden Clubs, Inc. 

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