Like the Children’s Game: Are These The Same?



Perhaps you can tell just by placement on the table that these two plants are not the same.  But it goes beyond that.

These are two different  schlumbergeria cultivars. The top one is called ” Scarlet Dancer.” The bottom one is “Dark Marie.”

And there are obvious differences. Despite its name, Dark Marie has more white in its flower. It also has a very subtle fuchsia edge on its petals.


You can see the distinct fuchsia tinge on its buds ( no, that’s not a reflection from the house plant next to it–it really is fuchsia tinged).

This isn’t true for Scarlet Dancer.  Its buds are just plain red with a hint of fuchsia only at the base. 20171119_114551

Maybe this isn’t so much like the children’s game after all if you learn how to look at flowers and buds.








Thank You, Santa


Okay, you knew this was coming, right? And I confess. Santa didn’t really come early to my house. It was our friendly mail carrier, David, who brought me these zygocacti. (Of course, the decorative outer pots are mine.)

And yes, of course they come from Logees. After rhapsodizing about some of those descriptions, how could I resist when they had a sale?

Now, while I have been assured that they will bloom this year, I do expect to lose some, if not most of the buds. These plants have just come from a toasty greenhouse, been sent through the mail (admittedly only overnight but still) and they have now arrived at my Siberian-like home. If you were a plant, wouldn’t you protest?


Here are the plants, with others I already own, nicely nestled into the window where I grow these. I may not be able to grow those tropical, heat loving poinsettias, but these I can grow!

You may see evidence of spectacular blooms later this season. You will definitely see them in years to come.

Merry Christmas to me.



Amaryllis flower

No, this lovely amaryllis is not blooming in my house at the moment. At the moment, all I have are some slumbering pots from last year’s bulbs and some new bulbs waiting to be potted up.

I do not often pot up amaryllis before New Year’s. Part of that has to do with the timing. It’s difficult to get the lovely bulbs to bloom “right on schedule.” It’s that old “plants can’t read” thing again. And even though I usually have the bulbs in hand in plenty of time to give them the theoretical 6-8 weeks that they need to bloom for Christmas, there are those variables like temperature and the  like and who knows what else?

The way I got this bulb to bloom “on time” last year was by keeping its pot in a room with our furnace until the stalks with the bulb were almost ready to open. That’s just silly. Why do that?

And if the bulbs are “late” and bloom too much after Christmas, the only one enjoying them will be our dog sitter. And while I am always grateful for his services, I don’t really want to miss my amaryllis blooming while I travel.

So I pot them up when I return. It gives me something to look forward to over the 3 long and dreary months of January-March.

But it’s the amaryllis after care that I get lots of questions about. So here are some answers about that!

Amaryllis usually take about 6-8 weeks to flower after potting (depending on variety). They will bloom more quickly in the spring, and, in succeeding years after forcing, they will bloom naturally in spring or summer.

Conventional wisdom for keeping amaryllis from year to year is to cut off the spent bloom(s), and put the bulb in a sunny window until it’s warm enough to summer it outside. Around Memorial Day, put it outside and feed the living heck out of it with a commercial fertilizer. Once Labor Day comes, stop the food and water and put it in a cool, dark place so it will bloom again for Christmas or the holidays.

I generally stop the food (organic of course) and water at Labor Day and bring the bulbs to my basement where I promptly forget all about them until mid-January at least. Then I begin checking on them. I find mine will bloom anywhere from late January to April the following year. That’s fine for me.  That’s a time when I’m starved for color anyway and the boldness of Amaryllis is very welcome!

“Holiday” Cactus

"holiday" "cactus"

Another holiday plant some have trouble with is the poorly named Christmas Cactus.  For one thing, the genus schlumbergera is neither a cactus nor does it naturally bloom at Christmas.  It is a succulent, which means it needs a little more water than a cactus.

Originally, these are native to Brazil, and there, they grow in humid, shady regions in the trees. They are epiphytic, like many orchids.

Plants should never dry out completely (they are not cacti); and they should be kept in a fairly shady window. Bright indirect light–just like the poinsettia likes–is great for them.

They set their buds in relation to day length and temperature so again, a darker, cooler window is better if you want them to bloom earlier, or a brighter, (but not sunny) warmer one is better if you want them to bloom later. I find that as soon as we turn the clocks back in November, mine form buds.

Holiday cacti in bloom

And, of course, because we keep our house very cool, they bloom shortly thereafter. Here is my west window  this Thanksgiving weekend. If it has been a particularly cool and dreary October, I may have one or two in bloom by Halloween. But it is rare that I still have a plant in bloom at Christmas, unless I buy it that current season as I did with the one in the cream colored pot.* It’s no matter. There are enough other lovely things decorating the house at Christmas.  The house plants are often over looked at that time anyway.

*Cute story about the Spoiler. I walked into his den carrying that plant just after I had put it into the cachepot. He asked what it was. I think I replied “Christmas cactus.

“Oh, no water?” he asked. You see how pervasive the myth of these things are–or perhaps it’s just the problem of its common name “cactus.”