Friday, September 28, 2012

Night-Blooming Cereus

I received a few small clippings of this plant, from a friend, several years ago.  My instructions were to put the cuttings in water until they grew roots and then pot it.  I had never heard of a night-blooming cereus (SEER-ee-us), but all things green are special to me, and I welcomed my new plant.  I let the cuttings sit in a cup of water all summer, potted them just before fall, and hung the plant in the sun room for the winter.  That was several years ago.  Every summer it moves outside to enjoy the dry western air and intense summer heat. 
On the Cornell University site, I learned that a mature night-blooming cereus, (4-5 yrs old) will bloom at two week intervals from midsummer through autumn.  The first year it blooms, it might produce as few as two or three blossoms.  But blossom numbers and frequency usually increase dramatically the following years.  This month, for the first time, I've had three blossoms and as luck would have it, the first one bloomed while I was out of town.  The second one is about to bloom, so I'm watching it like a mother hen with her chick. 
These extremely fragrant blossoms will not open until after sunset, and it may be midnight before they achieve full display.  The blossoms are magnolia-like and quickly close at dawn, never to reopen again.  Cereus plants are happiest with eastern exposure and when midsummer temperatures rise above 90 degrees.  Their main requirement is direct sunlight for part of the day and well drained cactus type soil.  Living in Denver, I need to move this plant indoors before first frost, where it will continue to grow well, when placed near a sunny window.
On a trip to Florida, a year after acquiring my first night-blooming cereus cuttings, I was given a clipping from another friend.  In South Florida the Cereus grows as an ornamental vine upwards of 40', clinging to trellises and rooting almost wherever it touches the soil.  This second plant is a year behind it's Denver cousin, but still a vigorous grower.  Just knowing there will be a dramatic increase in blooms next year makes my heart sing.

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