When Plant Abuse Pays Off

Several years ago a friend gave me a night-blooming cereus and told me that the plant bloomed infrequently, but with dramatic and fragrant blossoms when it did. For years (at least 10, I would say) I tended this cactus with no rewards. The plant became long and gangly, and never blossomed.

Last year's blossom.

Then in the winter of 2016-17 I kept it in a spare bedroom, and pretty much forgot about it. Yup. I didn’t water it for about 3 months. Fortunately, the plant police didn’t hear about this mistreatment, so I escaped unpunished. I began watering it regularly that spring, and in the summer I put it outside on a shady, north-facing deck.

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Much to my surprise, it developed a flower bud, and rewarded me with the most amazing, most deliciously fragrant blossom I had ever grown. I figured that having survived a near-death experience in my spare bedroom, it decided it was time to show off – and hope for better treatment.  

This year I deliberately cut off all water, starting in January and continuing until March or April. I wanted to see if similar treatment would yield similar results. It did. Last year it bloomed on August 8, under a full moon. This year it bloomed on July 12, without a moon. I brought it inside to watch it better. And this year I got two blossoms, a day apart. I was out of town for one, but spent the evening watching and enjoying the second.

The bud began to open at 7:10 pm, and I started calling friends to come see it.

Always one for a party, I called some of my gardening friends as the bud began to swell. “My night-blooming cereus is going to bloom tonight!” I said. “Come and watch. I’ve got champagne on ice!” Only a couple of people had the energy after a hot July day, but those who did, were well rewarded.

It was largely open by 8:26 pm. You could almost see the motion as it opened.

Me? I stayed up much of the night, enjoying the fragrance and staring at its beauty. 

Even after going to bed, I got up every two hours to check on it. I had pollinated it with a finger, hoping it would produce fruit – and it may. By 4:30 am it had closed, and I slept till 8.

Cereus after blooming. It hangs limply, but I'm hoping it produces a fruit.

If you’d like to join me next summer for a night-blooming cereus party in Cornish Flat, NH send me an e-mail now (henry.homeyer@comcast.net), and I will put you on the list. Whether I can find the list, of course, remains to be seen. Meanwhile, I now know how to get blossoms every year, I think. 

Beware the Lovely Daylily? Read about it by clicking here. 

Or learn how to build a nice arbor for your garden entrance by clicking here.

This simple arbor was used at a wedding celebration.

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