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December 31

The Extension Connection Column by Jeff Stachler

Pesticide Application Certifications and Growing Holiday Cacti

Hello!!  I hope you had a great Christmas!  Happy New Year!!  Blessings to all of you for a great 2021!

Do you have an expired 2020 Pesticide Certificate?  On March 30, 2020, Governor Burgum instituted Executive Order 2020-17 which suspended the expiration dates for livestock auction licenses and pesticide application certifications.  As of December 18, 2020 Executive Order 2020-44 states ALL pesticide application certifications bearing an April 1, 2020 expiration date are now INVALID!  For those of you that have an expired certification the only option you have is to take the pesticide applicator exam.  To take the exam, schedule an appointment with our office.

The 2020 crop variety trials are now available.  Stop by the office to pick one up.  We currently have sunflower, soybean, flax, dry pea, dry bean, and canola in the office.  This information is critical to making decisions on what varieties to purchase for 2021.

In case someone gave you a Christmas cactus, I thought I would let you know that there are more than just a Christmas cactus.   There are actually three different holiday cacti, Thanksgiving (Schlumbergera truncata), Christmas (Shlumbergera bridgesii) and Easter (Rhipsalidopsis gaerternii).  Holiday cacti have no leaves just stem segments.  The Thanksgiving cactus has two to four sawtoothed stem margins pointing upwards, the Christmas cactus has two to four stem margins more rounded, and the Easter cactus has four to six rippled stem margins and brownish hair-like bristles at the stem tips. Thanksgiving cacti flower from Thanksgiving to Christmas and has the greatest variation in flower color.  The Christmas cacti flower from late December to March having rosy-red flowers.  The Easter Cacti flower from March thru May having pink or red flowers.

Holiday cacti are native to Brazil.  They grow among tree branches in shady rain forests.

Holiday cacti are relatively easy to grow.  If purchasing new plants keep the potting media evenly moist to encourage additional flowers.   Holiday cacti need more water than most cacti, but do not saturate the potting media!  Water plants when the potting media is dry to the touch.  Fertilize plants monthly from the time new growth starts in late winter and until August with a 20-10-20 or 20-20-20 soluble fertilizer at half strength.  Holiday cacti require high levels of magnesium during the growth phase so apply magnesium monthly by applying Epsom salt at one teaspoon per gallon of water, although not the same week as the other fertilizer.  Keep plants near 68 degrees F when flowering to encourage additional flowers.  Plants can be grown between 70 and 80 degrees F during the growth phase which makes them great house plants.  Keep plants in full sun during the fall and winter.  During the summer months keep the plants in partial shade, especially if placed outside to grow.  Pinch back the stems in early June to promote branching and to have more terminals for production of flowers. 

To get a cactus to flower next year involves temperature or light.  Plants must be held at a nighttime temperature of 50 to 55 degrees Fahrenheit for six to eight consecutive weeks prior to when you want them to flower.  If placing outside during the night do not let the temperature get below 40 degrees.  Place the cactus in 65 to 70 degree F temperatures during the day.  The other method involves light.  Place plants in a dark area or room for a period of 14 hours each day and allow plants to be in bright to medium sun for the other 10 hours of the day.  It is extremely important when using the light method to get the full amount of 14 hours of darkness that is uninterrupted.  Just a glimmer of light one time during the six to eight-week period will stop the plant from flowering.  Individual plants do vary in the requirements to flower.  It is possible to get some flowers doing nothing, but they will be few and most plants will not flower on their own.  Enjoy these beautiful flowering cacti for years to come as they will grow for many years.

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