The first time I saw my mother’s Christmas cactus, it was standing in a pot beside her breezeway door. And she told me the story about it–how her friend had given her a start of the plant. The friend also told her she should keep the plant outside during the warm months and bring it inside in the fall.
“That’s the only way it will bloom,” the friend told her.
So Mom followed her friend’s instructions, and the plant bloomed beautifully over the holiday season.
The following Christmas, I received a picture of her plant covered with beautiful pink blooms. And her letter included a question:
“Would you like a start of this plant?”
Well, I guess so, I thought. I recalled all my episodes with the English Ivy I carried in my wedding bouquet. Mom rescued the sprig–rooted it–planted it–and had it thriving. The start she gave me did well while we were living in Missouri, but it failed miserably in ultra-dry Colorado. But I would be willing to give the Christmas cactus a try. And when we visited Iowa the following May, Mom gave me my start of the plant.
“Remember to keep it outside from April or May until late September,” she reminded me. “Otherwise, it won’t bloom.”
I’ve enjoyed my mother’s Christmas plant over the years. There have been a few calamities, however. One summer night about three years ago, I was awakened with a loud noise. The next morning, I found my plant all over the yard–the result of a battle between two cats who included the plant in their chaos. I had to reroot it and repot it. Amazingly, the plant survived. But after that experience, I kept it inside the house in the basement during those warm months. The plant didn’t like the basement at all. It did not bloom last Christmas. So now, it is outside once again from spring to fall. I also learned how to fertilize it. And this year, it is loaded with buds that will open by Christmas.
Since acquiring my mother’s plant, I have added two additional Christmas cacti to the collection. Howard gave me one about three years ago–a multi-colored variety. He found it in the grocery store–the last one on the shelf. They sold it to him for a dollar because they thought it wouldn’t live very long. He brought it home to me, and I worked my magic with it. It only produced white flowers previously. This year, it also began producing a coral flower with the white and is so full and beautiful.
Then yesterday I added my third cactus plant. Our super market had a variety of colors on sale, and Howard bought me a red one.
I will work my magic with it this spring.
My mother received her start of the original Christmas cactus years ago in the 1980s. We moved to Colorado in 1980, so I probably received my start from her in the late 1980s. I know I have had this plant a long time. And look at it now!
My mother must be smiling!