Spindly Christmas cactus won't look better unless light
I have several leggy Christmas cactus plants. I would
like to start new plants from them as gifts to family and friends.
They're healthy, just not as dense as ones I see at nurseries. What
should I do?
Start new Christmas cactus from cuttings two- to three leaf
segments in length. Air-dry these for a day in a cool, dim spot so
callus forms on the cut surfaces, then stick them in potting mix.
This is best done in early spring.
Density is a product of high light. Your new plants will
be as leggy as their parents unless you give them more sun or grow
lights -- light that's brighter, for more hours per day.
Professional growers know light is essential and provide lots of
it. Without a greenhouse plus supplemental light you may never
produce plants as dense as the pros do.
I brought my plants indoors last fall. They are doing
very well. My miniature rose is blooming beautifully but I notice
it has white dust all over it. What home remedy can I use to spray
Also, my ivy is getting aphids. I have rinsed them off
but am not sure what to treat them with. I used to have a recipe
for insecticidal soap and cannot find it now.
Dust? Or powdery mildew? Cornell University tested and saw
satisfactory (though not stellar) control of mildew and blackspot
on roses using baking soda, soap and water. Use a tablespoon of
baking soda in a half-gallon of water, plus a teaspoon of oil-based
soap such as Murphy's Oil Soap.
No fungicide, from kitchen or store, can fix leaves already
infected with a fungus. Those may yet die. Fungicides protect
still-healthy leaves and emerging foliage from infection.
Outdoors, this spray must be reapplied after every rain but
indoors you can spray every few weeks or as new foliage
Fungicides can burn. So move plants out of bright light while
you spray and until the solution dries on the leaves.
Put your rose in better light. A rose in good light can fend off
some fungi on its own.
You may be able to control aphids by simply flushing them away.
Being knocked off its plant is almost certain death for an aphid,
as each individual did not and cannot "find" a feeding site on its
own. Each aphid was laid in place as an egg, by a winged adult that
did have that ability to locate a good leaf, or it was birthed live
by an aphid already in place on a succulent shoot.
You can add soap to your spray -- 1 to two teaspoons per quart
of an oil based or citrus-based soap -- Murphy's, Lemon Joy, etc.
Soap is a drying agent that can kill aphids and other soft-bodied
insects. If you use soap solution, cover the soil surface so soap
can't soak into the potting mix.
Rinse more than once to control an aphid infestation. Eggs can't
be washed off or killed so easily as insects can. Eggs left behind
after the first rinse have to be knocked off after the young
emerge. If you rinse the plant well, three or four times at five
day intervals, you may beat the aphids.
Let soapy solution sit on the foliage (and the insects) for 20
minutes. Put the plants in a bathtub to spray them, or spread a
drop cloth below them so they can drip all they must. Then rinse
the plant and put it back in its place.
I learned this from Jane Suhail, who has done wonders in her
career at Planterra Greenhouses in West Bloomfield, caring for
interiorscapes with just such simple, effective tactics.
You can transplant that live Christmas tree to the
Yes, M.K. it can be done. Dig the hole now -- the ground
is not frozen in many places under the insulating snow. Then
acclimate the tree to the outdoors before you plant it. Put it in a
cold room for a week, then in an unheated building for a week or
more, all the while keeping moist rags around the root ball.
Groundhog Day might be your planting day.
Some problems have no solution. I can't provide much help to
those who pose a "stumper" such as:
Why does the branch that needs pruning or weed that needs
pulling show itself only as we are backing out of the driveway, on
Green thumbs up
to fragrant plants. I shovel the walk, bump the feverfew and
thyme, and my nose knows spring.
Green thumbs down
to Home Depot for selling houseplants without providing a way to
keep them alive as they leave the store. They'll die on the trip
home unless you wrap or bag them to trap some warm air around them.
Plastic bags can't do it. Kudos to the manager who offered to cut
down a yard waste paper bag for this purpose and assured me it can
always be done if the buyer asks. Yet that presumes the buyer knows
to ask and can't excuse that cashiers aren't trained to offer.
Originally published 1/15/05