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What's causing bracts to fall from Christmas cactus?

Wrinkles could point to excess water, fertilizer

Q: I have a Christmas cactus that is showing blooms. In the past years, just before blooming, the bracts would start to dry out and fall to the ground. I've tried to put them back in the dirt, but this doesn't seem to work.

Is there a deficiency or reason for the bracts to dry out just before they bloom?

B. Jachim

A: I am not sure what exactly you are calling bracts on your Christmas cactus, Schlumbergera spp. A floral bract is a modified leaf that has color such as the red of a poinsettia or the colorful leaves that hide the bougainvillea flowers.

If it is the stem that resemble leaf-like pads joined one to the other and flowers that appear from the joints and tips of the stems, then we are on the same page.

The most common reasons for the pads to appear to be wrinkled and dried out looking is too much water, which causes root rotting diseases. Too much fertilizer can cause the plant to dehydrate giving the stems the same wrinkled appearance.

Publication will help with growing roses

Q: We have 15 roses planted this spring and want to protect them this winter. We live in Pasco County. Should we mulch up to the stalks or leave some space? We sure don't want the root systems to freeze. Will the tops likely freeze back, or would it be best to prune them back, or simply let them alone? Is there a preferred mulch for roses? Lowell Peiffer

A: Roses are very cold hardy and the ground doesn't freeze in Pasco County, at least not yet, so don't worry about the cold. A great publication, "Growing Roses in Florida" can be found at and will walk you through all of the culture and care of growing roses in Florida. Organic mulches such as FloraMulch, recycled yard waste (if it is available in your county or city), pine straw or compost among others work well in helping to build soil. Apply 2 to 3 inches deep and keep it a few inches away from the stem to help discourage disease.

Need help? Dr. Hort (Greg Charles) answers questions about garden problems. Email him at or mail questions to HomeLink, Features Department, St. Petersburg Times, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731. Describe problem in full, and include your name, city of residence and contact information. If possible, include a good-quality photo. Fuzzy ones won't do. Photos cannot be returned.

What's causing bracts to fall from Christmas cactus? 12/03/11 [Last modified: Saturday, December 3, 2011 3:31am]
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