What holiday gift can you give that gardener or plant lover on your list when it's the middle of winter? Loretta Aaron, one of Oklahoma City's most legendary gardeners, had the perfect idea — a Christmas cactus.
Christmas cactuses are in good supply now at supermarkets, florists, and garden centers. Many are at peak bloom. Christmas cactuses are easy to grow and to keep blooming each year. Called Zygo cactuses, they do not require direct sunlight. In fact, direct sunlight would harm the plant, especially if placed close to a south window. Christmas cactuses bloom between Thanksgiving and Christmas. This cactus is a true epiphyte, which in its native habitat grows wild on trees, deriving sustenance from the decay of leaves and other plant debris, and by aerial roots.
The best place in the home for a Christmas cactus is in an area of indirect light. The temperature in most homes would be satisfactory. They do not like sudden temperature changes, especially after buds are formed. When you find one you cannot live without, and the temperature outside is a chilly, windy 15 degrees, ask the sales person to place it in a paper bag for the trip to the car. Just a few minutes of exposure to temperature changes could cause the buds to drop after you get it home.
Keep the Christmas cactus away from hot air registers or cold drafts. After the bloom period is over, treat as any other house plant. Water when dry, as they put on new growth during the winter months. These are so easy to bring into bloom the next year. In late April, after danger of frost is past, the plant is taken outdoors, and placed on a concrete block, on the north side of the house. Nearby plants protect it from wind. It is watered when the other plants are.
In mid-October, the plant is brought back indoors, and the buds are already visible. It is placed in an area of good indirect light, and quickly comes into full bloom.
For 21 years, Loretta Aaron, an Oklahoma City gardening expert, was a beloved and well-known gardening columnist for The Oklahoman. Loretta died in 2009. Her cousin, Carla Sharpe, an OKC Beautiful board member and avid master gardener, copied and indexed Aaron's articles spanning many years. With the permission of her family, we will reprint some of Aaron's gardening wisdom each month.
• A.R.T. “Art in. Recycled. Trash” Exhibit — now through Feb. 15. Sponsored by OKC Beautiful and Science Museum Oklahoma, this is the second recycled art show in which participants collect items that would normally be trash to create sculpture and works of art. Go to www.
• North Pole Winter Wonderland Holiday Exhibit — Myriad Gardens, through Jan. 1.
• Opening Night — Myriad Gardens, Dec. 31.
Go to www.myriad