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'It's Mid-November And My Holiday Cactus Isn't Blooming!': Learn How To Encourage Yours

Pink christmas cactus flowers
Karen Black
A Christmas cactus blooms. Read on for tips to take care of yours.

Now that we're all nestled in our homes staying warm, we might have noticed a few things about our houseplants. For instance, why isn't the cactus blooming? That all comes down to the cactus variety you have.  Some are budding or blooming now, while other varieties are just green and doing nothing special. We'll learn about the different varieties of  cactus, why and when they bloom and how to encourage yours to bloom this winter!

The blooming cactus can be fickle but the key is knowing which variety of cactus you have! Here's how to tell which of the three you've got in your home:

Blooming now? Yes: It's a "Thanksgiving Cactus," called thus because it blooms close to the American holiday and was marketed as such. Another way to tell is if the cactus has spikes on the ends of its leaves.

Blooming now? No: It's either a "Christmas Cactus" or an "Easter Cactus." (Again, these plants were given these names due to the time of year they tend to bloom and the marketing that helps to sell them to consumers. These cacti are, in fact, probably pretty secular.)

More from All Things Gardening: Digging Up And Curing Flower Bulbs For Winter

The Christmas variety will bloom toward later December and it has more scallop-shaped leaves. The Easter Cactus variety has rounded leaves with small hairs coming out of them.

The cacti are in a group of plants known as epiphytes, which are native to the jungles of Brazil and typically bloom in the crotches of trees, higher up from the ground. In your own home, they will grow easily in a bright room but not in direct sun. Keep these house plants happy by mimicing conditions they are use to, like well-drained soil and temperature changes. You can even let it dry out in between waterings.

To encourage blooming, move them to a cooler room, between 50 and 60 degrees Fahrenheit, or you can even place them in a dark room. This change in light conditions will signal the plant to  set flowers. 

Q: ‘How can I prevent deer from devouring my yews and arborvitae in the winter?’ — Jean, in Essex

You may think that deer nibbling on your plants and shrubs is more of an issue in summer and fall but they will also eat the twiggy growth on blueberry bushes and overwintering arborvitae. One method to keep your plants and shrubs from becoming a deer's salad bar is to put up a barrier. This could be erected of wire or mesh or even burlap.

Just pound four wooden stakes into the ground around the shrub or bush, then wrap the burlap around the stakes and not around the shrub itself. This will also keep the the cold winter winds away from your plant.

More from All Things Gardening: Pumpkin Planters Perk Up Porches And Holiday Tables

Another method is to try Plantskydd, which is made from slaughterhouse waste. Sprinkle this around your shrubs and trees for maximum deer-repelling powers! The strong odor and coloring properties will fade after a day or two but it will be detectable to deer and they'll stay away, as they do not like the smell.

All Things Gardening is powered by you, the listener! Send your gardening questions and conundrums and Charlie may answer them in upcoming episodes. You can also leave a voicemail with your gardening question by calling VPR at (802) 655-9451.

Hear All Things Gardening during Weekend Edition Sunday with VPR host Mary Engisch, Sunday mornings at 9:35 a.m.

Have questions, comments or tips?Send us a messageor get in touch by tweeting us @vprnet.

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Mary Williams Engisch is a local host on All Things Considered.
Charlie Nardozzi is a nationally recognized garden writer, radio and TV show host, consultant, and speaker. Charlie is the host of All Things Gardening on Sunday mornings at 9:35 during Weekend Edition on Vermont Public. Charlie is a guest on Vermont Public's Vermont Edition during the growing season. He also offers garden tips on local television and is a frequent guest on national programs.
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