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December 2020 Gardening Tips

2 December 2020

A Garden Tip from Helen...

‘Tis the season when cacti – next to pine trees and maybe poinsettias – are everywhere! Like everything herbaceous, this has been a banner year for Thanksgiving and Christmas cacti. Did you know that there is an Easter cactus, too? It is a bit different from the other two. The leaves or branches, however you delineate the greenery, are very similar, but the flower is very different – kind of star-shaped. Below is a diagram with the Latin names of the three varieties showing how the leaves (branches) differ.

Three Types of "Holiday" Cacti *

(* Illustration from the Iowa State University Reiman Garden Pamphlet, RG 308, Thanksgiving; and Iowa State University, Extension and Outreach, Gazette Article by Judy Stevens, Copyright 2021,

The Thanksgiving cactus has vey pointed and claw-shaped projections on the edges of the leaf. These are known as phylloclades. The Christmas Cactus has leaf projections that are more scalloped or teardrop shaped. The Easter Cactus has very rounded edges that are centralized on the leaf. Also, the pollen bearing anthers are trademarked on the two most popular varieties. Thanksgiving anthers are yellow while Christmas anthers are pink to purplish brown.

All three cacti are known as short day plants. To induce a plant into bloom, it must have 12 to 24 hours of darkness and cool temperatures for about six consecutive weeks. The Easter Cactus requires 8 to 12 weeks. The easiest way to accomplish this is to simply leave the plant outside until temperatures drop to around 40 degrees or until you see buds beginning to form. Be careful to catch this quickly. Once the buds are set and the plant is moved, the buds will drop!!!

The cactus below on the left is more than 50 years old and originally grown by my mother-in-law. I’ve had it for years now, and it is still in the same pot! Talk about forgiving. The cactus on the right is one that I started three years ago from a plant I had grown for more years than I am willing to divulge!

There is nothing like flowers in December and January to make one smile! Heather (shown in the photo on the left) is great for this!

Wishing you a very Merry Christmas from the Chesapeake Bay Garden Club. We hope you will consider joining us at our next meeting in January.

Happy holidays and happy gardening,



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