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  • What do Christmas cacti have in common with rhodies?

    They will both benefit from some TLC in May, and so will other spring-bloomers
  • Although talking about caring for your Christmas cactus at this time of year might seem a bit odd, it serves as a reminder about after-care of other plants and shrubs that have already bloomed.
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  • Although talking about caring for your Christmas cactus at this time of year might seem a bit odd, it serves as a reminder about after-care of other plants and shrubs that have already bloomed.
    Let's talk about the Christmas cactus first. Pruning it after it blooms will encourage the plant to branch out. If yours seems "stuck" and is not showing the vigor and blooms it once did, this may help it a lot. These cuttings can be rooted in moist vermiculite if you want more plants.
    While you are at it, you might consider repotting your plant. Use a commercial mix for succulents or combine two parts potting soil with one part sand. It's easy to forget to fertilize the Christmas cactus, but it should receive feedings of 20-20-20 fertilizer about three times a year.
    Your Christmas cactus will be happy to spend the summer outdoors in its pot, in a shaded place. Despite its name, the Christmas cactus is a tropical, not a desert, plant. That tells us it likes to be in the shade of a tree or under a shrub, which helps keep the humidity higher. If the leaves begin to turn red, it is receiving too much light — direct sun will actually burn the leaves.
    Check periodically to be sure the plant is moist. Bring your Christmas cactus indoors in mid to late October or when there is a threat of frost. The cool temperatures and longer nights it experiences outdoors in the fall will help it set buds when you bring it indoors.
    This is the time of year to prune spring-flowering shrubs, too. Some that I have in mind include forsythia, daphne odora, lilac, rhododendron, azalea and spirea. All of these should be pruned soon after they finish blooming, as they will begin to set next year's buds in early summer. If you wait too long, you will trim off some of next year's blooming power.
    If there is one error I frequently observe when people prune these shrubs, it is the tendency to give it a "haircut" instead of really pruning. Pruning encourages new growth. If this practice of just giving it a trim is repeated for several years, new growth will only be on the outside, and the interior will begin to die because it is shaded out.
    Instead, look closely at the shrub and determine where it could be thinned on the interior. Be a bit aggressive, because once these shrubs begin to die on the inside for want of light, they are hard to rehabilitate.
    Learn about your plant, too, so that you are more knowledgeable about where and what to prune. Read a book, take a class or go to a university-based source online to increase your know-how.
    Coming up: On Thursday, May 23, landscape architect Bonnie Bayard will answer the question "No lawn! What then?" as she shares design ideas for transforming all or part of your yard into a lawnless landscape. The class will be held from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Southern Oregon Research and Extension Center. The cost is $5. Call 541-776-7371 to register.
    On Sunday, May 26, mycologist Eric Cerecedes will give a short lecture and a hands-on mushroom cultivation workshop about simple, low-tech methods of growing gourmet mushrooms at home. The class will be held from 12:30 to 5 p.m., at the Southern Oregon Research and Extension Center. The fee of $25 includes an oyster mushroom grow bag for each participant. Pre-registration is required. Call 541-776-7371.
    Carol Oneal is a past president of the OSU Jackson County Master Gardeners Association. Email her at diggit1225@gmail.com.
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