Thursday, August 15, 2013

Are you cereus?!

If you live anywhere near the upper Texas coast and you're looking for a foolproof but exotic flowering plant, this one might be a good choice (search string: best patio plants for Houston).  A six-year-old could coax this easy plant to flower.  As a matter of fact, a six-year-old did bring this specimen to flower, with the help of a three-year-old, in that it was two neighboring children who took care of my entire gardening empire when we were all out of town for ten days recently.
Night-blooming cereus.  I got this one last year at Maas as a hanging basket for less than twenty bucks.  It grew like a weed and quickly became too large and heavy to hang, so I set the basket on a small patio side table and allowed the "arms" to both cascade over the side of the table and reach upward as shown here.   
It's actually a species of cactus but it has no spines and it's not to be treated exactly like a stereotypical cactus.  It requires very bright but not direct sunlight (hence it works well on covered or partially-covered patios, such as under an arbor).  Being a cactus, it can withstand considerable neglect and lack of watering, although I've found that it will refuse to flower in overly-dry conditions.  It will also readily accept profuse watering, which is what brought on this riotous display of flowers (I suspect the six-year-old erred on the side of caution where water was concerned). 
As the name implies, it blooms only at night and each flower lasts only one day, but they will persist until mid-morning before wilting.  It's sort of like an amaryllis where the flowering experience is one of quality rather than quantity. 
Even when it's not in flower, it's a primal, tropical-looking plant that lends a lot of visual interest, and it's a very fast grower.
Transplanting is easy - you just snap off a piece and stick it in some potting soil.  This is a miniscule pot in which I had begun a small transplant to give to one of my neighbors, but then I neglected it and let it get too large for that pot.  And still this flowering thing happened. 

I set this little pot in a holding area on the east side of my house.  This one is more exposed to the sun than its patio parent, but it's shaded from the most intense sun of the day by the house and other surrounding plants. 
These species can also be grown indoors, as this blog post describes.  Reportedly, cereus won't tolerate colder temperatures, but thus far, mine have remained outdoors year-round.  Happy growing. 
Cereus the mysterious. 

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