Christmas cactus will bloom next year

Backyard Q&A

December 27, 1998

Q. My boyfriend gave me a Christmas cactus that I'll probably kill before next Christmas. If it lives, will it bloom again?

A. Yes, it will bloom again. If you keep it outdoors in the summer, the flower buds will form when temperatures drop into the 50s at night. Bring it indoors by late September.

If you keep it indoors, you'll have to provide 13 hours of artificial darkness (6 p.m. to 7 a.m.) in early fall. You can do this by covering the plant with a paper bag or piece of heavy cloth. Continue this treatment until the new flower buds form.

Cactuses are not fussy plants. Don't move your plant around a lot. Keep it in a sunny window and water enough to keep the soil and roots moist. Fertilize every two to three weeks with a liquid houseplant fertilizer, except when the plant is setting flower buds in late summer and fall.

Q. I have some very old junipers growing along my driveway that are producing a large amount of what looks like sap. The trees pTC look healthy. Is this some kind of new disease? The pine trees behind them look fine.

A. What you're observing is, indeed, sap. But it's probably dripping down from your pine trees, not coming from the junipers. Smell the sap and you may detect a piney aroma.

Q. I'm one of those lazy people who never got around to raking leaves. I'll be overjoyed if they kill what's left of my lawn! My wife has other plans, however. Can I rake and dump the leaves on top of my vegetable garden and till them under in the spring.

A. Yes, but it would help to shred the leaves beforehand and apply them no more than 8 inches deep. You'll need to incorporate a source of nitrogen in the garden when you turn the leaves under in the spring to prevent the decomposition process from using up available nitrogen in the soil.

This Week's Checklist

1. Don't neglect your Christmas tree's water needs just because the holiday is over. Never allow the reservoir of your tree stand to dry out. The tree may not be able to reabsorb water. Check water levels daily. Trees may drink up to 1 gallon of water each day.

2. Do not fertilize most houseplants during the winter months. They are growing slowly and don't need a boost. Note: Cyclamens are an exception.

3. Remove bagworm bags from evergreen trees and shrubs. Put them in the trash.

Garden tips are provided by the Home and Garden Information Center of the Cooperative Extension Service of the University of Maryland. For additional information on these questions, or if you have questions of your own, call the center's hot line at 800-342-2507, or visit its Web site at www.agnr.umd.edu/users/hgic.

Pub Date: 12/27/98

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