As Thanksgiving arrives, you'll see the Schlumbergera truncata, or Thanksgiving cactus. It's similar to the Christmas cactus (Schlumbergera x buckleyi) but they are indeed different plants.
The Thanksgiving cactus comes in purple, pink, red, yellow (less common) or white and produces a beautiful cascade of exotic blooms dripping from the stem tips. Thanksgiving cactuses have two or three jagged soft points on each stem segment, while the Christmas cactuses have smooth points on each stem segment. Typically, Thanksgiving cactuses flower from late October through November, and Christmas cactuses flower from late December into February.
Most people get their plant from a florist or garden center when it is covered with buds ready to burst with color. Keep your plant in a cool yet sunny (not bright sun) location and water weekly to keep it blooming for up to six weeks. If you use it as a centerpiece, give it a pedestal to take full advantage of the cascading effect.
After the holidays you can keep your plant growing inside until the frost days have passed. As the weather warms, move it to a shady location and give it regular fertilization and watering until next fall, when it will be ready to bloom again with the shortened days.
Q: I live here in town and have been enjoying City Park for many years. I am very impressed with the tulip display. I've done some research to try and plant tulips in my front yard but have very vague information to go by. Would you be able to share some of your resources with me, such as planting times and places to acquire the bulbs? — John
A: Tulips are beautiful flowers but are unfortunately one-time bloomers for us in the New Orleans area. Dan Gill, our state horticulture specialist, has a nice article on the LSU AgCenter website. There were also two recent articles by us in the New Orleans Advocate on bulbs, now available online.
Tulip bulbs are still available online at a multitude of places. Many garden centers and big-box stores in town still have some, though the selection is probably getting thin. I’m not trying to discourage you from planting tulips but just want to reemphasize that in this area they have to be considered annuals. If you want to get them to bloom again, the bulbs have to be dug up, refrigerated and replanted each year when January rolls around.