Friday, November 03, 2006

Lethal Foliage


The Cereus is Out Of Control. Believe it or not, this is after pruning. Two other cuttings are also well on their way to taking over the bathroom and the refrigerator, respectively.

Pretty Lady can see the writing on the wall. First the Mama Cereus will outgrow the largest pot obtainable at Home Depot. Then it will outgrow the largest, sunniest window. Pretty Lady will be forced to seek a larger apartment; the price of a larger apartment will bankrupt her, and she and the Cereus will be homeless. She will sit with her Cereus in Central Park, panhandling for fertilizer. Sometime in the winter of 2008, the both of them will be found, stiff and lifeless, by the frozen duckpond.

And in all that time, the Cereus will never, never, never blossom.

13 comments:

Desert Cat said...

I don't know about that plant specifically, but some plants won't bloom until they're stressed by too little room in the pot. Otherwise they pour their energy into more and more foliage, as long as root room and fertilizer is abundant.

What species of Cereus is that? I see what looks like a ficus and a schefflera in that pic, but I can't make out the cereus.

prettylady said...

Well, this one will certainly be stressed by too little room in the pot by next summer, if it isn't already.

The plant to which I am referring is the monstrosity to the right of the picture; the one to the left is certainly a ficus, somewhat damaged from when the house-sitter evidently put a pot on the back burner on 'high' for an extended period of time. I believe this is a Peruvian Night-blooming Cereus, as some of my readers informed me last February. It was grown from a cutting from a plant which was stolen in Peru, at any rate.

Desert Cat said...

Oh, waitaminnit. That's not a schefflera. D'oh! Didn't look close enough. Boy do I feel silly now.

Selenecereus grandiflora or a close relative, perhaps?

My experience with Cereus is mostly limited to the columnar types.

Desert Cat said...

Oops, posting overlap. I'll go look at that link.

Desert Cat said...

Hmm hmm...Morgan noted that it was indeed of the genus Cereus, but then noted one of it's common names to be "Orchid cactus", which would possibly make it an Epiphyllum oxypetallum (or for further confusion, a member of the Schlumbergera or Disocactus genus).

Now I am intrigued. Because we have a cactus here in Arizona called a Night Blooming Cereus, as well as some of the other appelations (queen of the night, etc), and it looks almost nothing like that plant of yours. Ours look like drab greenish sticks, until that one magical night when they burst into bloom. I've got a related species in my front yard that put on a very nice show this year.

If indeed it is an epiphyte of some sort, there may be a few cultural things you could try, to see if it made a difference toward flowering. From what I can gather they require a loose soil mix (add some sand or perlite to the mix), high in organic matter and on the acidic side. Leaf mold would be helpful. Plain houseplant potting mix probably is not acidic enough. I think they make soil mix specifically for those certain species of orchid that grow in soil rather than on bark would probably be ideal, or at least closer than common potting soil.

Maybe too late to try any of this with the big one you have, but perhaps with a cutting.

prettylady said...

Hmm. I do have a couple of cuttings which could be sacrificed to experimentation.

I am not sure it is an epiphyte, however--when I re-pot it, its roots do not look at all orchid-y, but decidedly thready and pervasive. I think it's a pretend pseudo-orchid, rather like a cyclamen.

prettylady said...

Found it.

It seems the problem is that I am taking much too good care of it; fertilizing it too well, not putting it out where it will get a healthy, withering sunburn. Witness that the leaves are wider than most of those in the pictures. What I am supposed to be doing is keeping it on a short leash, fertilizer-wise.

If only I'd known. Such a spoiler, me.

k said...

Yup.

There are many species of night-blooming cereus, and lots are epiphytes. Many epiphytes, lithophytes, etc. can also be grown in pots. I don't, largely because I can't. I'm really lousy at growing stuff in pots.

But if you do grow epis in pots, use the orchid-type mixes. Simple loose chunky stuff, like for Phalaenopsis.

Thin, thready roots are perfectly normal for epiphytic cereuses. Terrestrials too.

DC is exactly right about the stress. And one reason it happens is this: An epi is made to take sustenance from rain dripping down the bark of the host, bringing bits of food along in the process. These are slim pickings, but still, it's how the plant was made to live.

If you put it in a pot, then, it suddenly gets far more nutrition and water than it's accustomed to. Being smarter than your average bear, the plant pours this into getting bigger while it can. A bigger plant is stronger and more likely to survive. Better yet, it can make more flowers, thus more DNA, when that time comes.

Conversely, when the Great Cereus Famine strikes, the plant realizes the End May Be Near. To ensure its DNA is passed on, it's now time to reproduce before it's too late. The result? Plant sex. It flowers.

DC and I had our terrestrial Peruvian cereus (the columnar types that look like saguaro) going at the same time for a while. Several of mine have since gone through another 4 major blooms - I mean, like 20 flowers or more at once - and several smaller ones, just a few flowers at a time.

http://ksquest.blogspot.com/2006/05/battle-of-cereus-family-feud.html

http://ksquest.blogspot.com/2006/05/same-blooming-cactus-caught-in-light.html

Would I could claim this is due to my horticultural skills. But...it's really just because it's living in exactly the right place: south Florida.

My Desert Rose does the same thing as your babies are. When it gets plenty of rain, it makes a lot of leaves. When it gets dry, and especially if it's denuded of foliage by an Attack of the Frittilaries, it bursts into bloom like nobody's business.

http://ksquest.blogspot.com/2006/07/desert-rose.html

prettylady said...

Wow, k, those photos are FABULOUS. I am SICK for a real garden of my very own. SICK for one.

So that's it. No more fertilizer for this baby. I'm not sure if I can re-pot it with orchid mix at this late date, but the smaller cuttings will get it. I'll keep y'all posted. Thanks for the helpful info!

k said...

This is the first, and maybe only, house of my life. Having been enamored of real estate since around age 15, and a practioner in various forms since I was of legal age, still, my only actual real estate purchase was when I was 38 years old. My Social Security settlement was part of the *down payment* - and at that, it was still a 100% LTV HUD mortgage. (Florida closing costs are killer.)

And being able to put my plants in the ground - and on the trees! - was a driving force behind that purchase.

To have raised such a crop as you have, in a small urban space with limited choice in sun direction, etc., is really phenomenal. You're doing yourself proud, there.

Good for your health, too.

I know we've just ridden up one of those periodic economic RE mountains. But there's still possibilities out there. With your focus and understanding, if you want to and make it a goal, I've no doubt you can buy something of your own. Absolutely no doubt.

I knew buying a house would make me a happier and healthier person. I had no idea just how great it would be.

prettylady said...

Thanks, k.

I DID once 'own' a house. The trouble was, 1) it wasn't legally mine, and 2) I couldn't afford to live in it. So I rented it out and moved to Mexico, then sold it, netting a nice little profit. I intended to use this as a down payment, but it then went up in smoke in the subsequent economic downturn (and an investment in a seriously bad relationship.)

Since then I'm simply doing my best and trusting. I'll hopefully be able to buy another one someday, when it's time. Till then, I'm incredibly lucky to be on the top floor, with southern exposure.

k said...

Such bad news-good news contrast there! ;-)

and what a feeling of *been there done that* it brings...

Yes. The right time has such a fine way of showing itself, when it does come.

And I bet that great location you're in now had a little more than luck behind it.

k said...

Such bad news-good news contrast there! ;-)

and what a feeling of *been there done that* it brings...

Yes. The right time has such a fine way of showing itself, when it does come.

And I bet that great location you're in now had a little more than luck behind it.