Monday Memories 11-23-2015

How to Care for Your Thanksgiving / Christmas Cactus

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Thanksgiving cactus (Schlumbergera truncata) with its pointy leaves.

christmas cactus

Christmas cactus (Schlumbergera bridgesii) with its rounded leaves.

The Thanksgiving cactus (Schlumbergera truncata) and Christmas cactus  (Schlumbergera bridgesii) are popular winter-flowering houseplants native to South America and come in many colors: red, rose, purple, cream, white, peach and orange. The Schlumbergera species grow as epiphytes (non-parasitic plants that grow upon others) in the rain forests.

To distinguish the difference between a Thanksgiving and a Christmas cacti, look at the shape of the flattened stem segments called phylloclades. On the Thanksgiving cactus, these segments each have saw-toothed serrations or projections along the margins. The stem margins on the Christmas cactus are more rounded and less pronounced.

Since flowering plants sell better than nonflowering, merchants tend to fill their shelves with Thanksgiving cacti.

How to Choose, Care For, and Rebloom Your Poinsettia

image

Choosing Your Poinsettia:

  • Choose a plant with dark green foliage. Avoid fallen or damaged leaves as this indicates poor handling, fertilization, lack of water or a root disease problem.
  • Avoid plants with too much green around the bract edges, as this is a sign of insufficient maturity.
  • Be sure to check the underside of the leaves for insects.
  • The colorful flower bracts should be in proportion to the plant and pot size.
  • Little or no pollen should be showing on the actual flowers, the red or green button-like parts in the center of the colorful bracts. This indicates a younger plant.
  • If you are planning on reblooming your plant for next year, examine the branching structure. If the plants are grown single stem (non-branched with several plants per pot), these cultivars do not branch well and will not form attractive plants for a second year.

Propagating Woodies in the Midwest

woodie cuttingsAutumn is the best time to propagate woody plants via cuttings in the Midwest.

There are many benefits to cuttings such as instant maturity, faster growth, and easier transplanting.

The first step would be to find a healthy specimen from which to obtain the cutting. You should scout for plants while they are still actively growing and mark healthy branches, as when they are dormant, it will be hard to tell healthy from not.

Auxins or growth hormones are of great help to the success of cuttings. Note that there are different strength suggestions for different types of wood.

Prairie Fires – Cleansing the Midwestern Landscape

imageFire has played an instrumental role in affecting many of the prairies in the Midwest.

Historically, tall grass prairies are shaped by one of three types of disturbances;

  • Drought
  • Animal grazing
  • Wildfires

There are many misconceptions that if the prairie (or other natural area) was left alone, it would revert to native. In the absence of disturbance, prairies often revert to either poor quality grasslands or thorn woodlands.

Native American Indians were keen on this information, observing what Mother Nature did naturally to herself to cleanse her skin, fire. They learned that fire removed the thorny brush, which gave access to animals and hunters alike. The open areas were also available to grazing animals and native plants that equal medical supplies and food to the Indians.

 November is the Time to Protect Shrubs for Winter

Scan_Pic0003November is the time for Midwesterners to protect their vulnerable shrubs from winter damage. A little protection from cold winds and snow is all that many cold-sensitive shrubs require. There are several methods available to provide shelter.

 

Smaller shrubs like rhododendrons, will benefit from using fresh cut branches of conifers [spruce, pine]. Direct the thick end into the ground near the crown of the plant, and intermingle the branches together. This will provide a windbreak and help stop branch breakage from the weight of snow. If the shrub is taller than the conifer branches, tie them together at different heights to protect the whole shrub.

 

=-) Ilex Farrell

8 thoughts on “Monday Memories 11-23-2015

  1. I am happy to see a “Poinsettia” here (never knew the english term) – as I am a collector of Euphorbiaceae (and Poinsettia is part of that large family: Euphorbia pulcherrima being the latin botanical term, pulcherrima meaning: The beautiful one). Cheers, Matt

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