Christmas Cactus

This is a Christmas cactus that looks like my grandmother's of so long ago.

This is a Christmas cactus that looks like my grandmother's of so long ago.

It sits in my older sister’s dining room, my oldest sister’s home office, and my sister-in-law’s entry way. The biggest one resides at Kansas State University’s Gardens, probably in the historic plot with a label announcing its origin. A monster, she is, so large not one of us could contain her as a whole in our homes. Instead, she was sliced and diced into “cuts” to preserve her nobility with the family.

I’m speaking of a Christmas cactus that my generation remembers hiding out in our grandmother’s washroom throughout the year until Christmas when she emerged and claimed her place of honor in the dining room's west window. A special plant carrier complete with metal pan held her beauty throughout Advent until Epiphany when the doors to the dining room were closed once again to save extra coal from being fed into the furnace. Often, she was blooming at this time of year; but sometimes not, and that caused consternation for our said grandmother. The plant’s historic reputation was one of blooming at the right time, gracing a huge Christmas Eve family dinner, and anything short of that caused ongoing conversations with furrowed brows.

As best we can figure, this plant may have been brought from Sweden by said grandmother’s mother, which makes it at least 150 years old. It’s very possible that all of Grandmother’s sisters had “cuts” from this plant flourishing in their homes when we viewed these “offshoots” as children. After Grandmother’s death, our mother cared for the heirloom plant, and upon our mother’s death, my next older sister agreed to plant sit. She is known for her green thumb, and we trusted her to do her magic with our family treasure.

She did, and behold, the time came for this sister to make a decision. She and her family would move out of their house to make room for the plant, or she would find a loving, larger home for it. That’s when Kansas State Gardens made an appearance in this story. They saved my sister’s family’s demise and agreed to honor the plant with a place in their facility. They have the root plant; family members have “chutes” from the plant that now are vying for size in the three mentioned homes just as their parent plant did.

These beautiful blossoms speak volumes when you get down close and listen carefully.

These beautiful blossoms speak volumes when you get down close and listen carefully.

Nevertheless, we love our Christmas cactus, and I hope someone in the family makes regular visitations to the grandmother of them all.

And, I’m ready to admit to this cadre of sisters that I have attained strength enough, maturation enough, and courage enough to take on a cut from one of their roots as my own. Many stories must abound about Christmas cacti, but this is mine, and I’m sticking to it.