Feb 27, 2020 – The Suicidal Tendencies of Cacti & Orchids

I am embarrassed by the growth of my cacti and orchids. I have been growing plants forever. Indoor plants. I’m not much of an outdoor grower because my back has been in pretty bad shape most of my life. I had surgery on it when I was 19 and it has not improved with the years. The bending over needed for successful outdoor gardening has never worked for me.

I have grown enough indoor plants to make up two full-size nurseries. Not here in Massachusetts. I don’t have the right light here … or for that matter, a place to put them. As it is, I have more plants than I planned to have. People give me plants. All the plants I have were gifts. I didn’t buy any of them. The ones I had bought years ago got too big for this house.

My Dracaena Marginata was almost 10-feet tall before I finally rehomed it to someone with a tall green room. I grew another dracaena and when it got to about 9-feet tall, it too was rehomed.

That was “it” for boughten plants. Since then, I was given two Christmas cactuses — a pink one and a red one. A big philodendron. A small, but rapidly growing Jade tree. A Norfolk Island pine. And a pot of mixed plants that included orchids which regrew and flowered once, then died on round two. It turned out I was overwatering them and didn’t give them any fertilizer. Oops.

Until I moved to Massachusetts, I never convinced anything to flower. My plants grew huge and I had to move them to houses that had more space for them, but they never flowered. Then, finally, we settled here and I put my couple of plants which had survived my many moves into the only room with a big window and a place to put plants stands … and flowers grew. Suddenly, the Christmas cacti bloomed like mad and even the orchids grew. Orchids? I had been told orchids were impossible and needed special growing conditions.

I feel a little out of my league, florally speaking. The plants grow, but I don’t feel like I’m doing anything much to make that happen. I put them in the window. I water them when they are dry. I stick some 10-10-10 fertilizer in the soil, find a few ice cubes. Buds turn into flowers and everyone congratulates me like I did something special.

Trust me. I didn’t do anything special. Mostly, I didn’t do anything at all.

I put the plants in the window and every now and then, watered them. I know what conditions seem to work, but they aren’t necessarily easy to replicate. It’s a room where most of the light comes from the window and where the lights in the room are rarely turned on. I know that’s what helps the cactus to bloom. The room is cool, around 65 degrees in the winter, maybe 70 in the summer. It’s a northeast window. Sun in the early morning, bright light without sunlight the rest of the day. As little water as I can give them. And very little fussing with them.

Is there more to it? I don’t know. That more or less sums up my knowledge of my current plants, which are very different than the plants I used to have. I have never been able to grow a Norfolk pine before. They always died on me. I never got a Christmas cactus to flower or even considered the possibility of flowering my own orchids.

It’s probably why I’m so astonished that they are all flowering. It isn’t the pride of craft. More like amazement at my sheer good luck.


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