This was the first year that the cactus didn’t flower profusely. I have always loved paying close attention to this plant’s seasons, monitoring the first appearances of new leaves during the days of long sunlight and watching for the first signs of imminent blooming during the last months of the year. As was usual in early November, the first few barely perceptible deep pink buds made their appearance at the tips of many of the plant’s shiny green leaves. But, unlike in other years, most shriveled, and only a handful of them grew in size and actually bloomed. I was chagrined. Even the ones that became flowers did so very slowly, as if they had managed to beat the odds. I surmised that even though the plants that composed my much-admired mega-plant appeared to be healthy, they were, in reality, competing for space and nutrients and struggling to thrive.
So I set to work repotting this morning. Newspapers spread on the kitchen floor, a new bag of rich potting soil at the ready, pots of many different sizes nearby, I eased my mega-plant from its familiar pot and teased apart the roots and branches of its component plants, laying each separate plant on its side. There were losses: one graceful set of curving branches became completely severed from its clump of roots, and more than a few dark, shiny leaves remained on the newspaper when I lifted each plant to repot it. Within the hour, though, I had three large Christmas cactus plants, each in its own large pot. Two of them now sit in decorative ceramic planters atop that same red bookcase; the third is ensconced in a blue wicker basket on the other side of the room.
My repotted Christmas cactus plants are far from beautiful. Not one of them has any grace of form, and one in particular reminds me of a partially plucked wild turkey. Today, they appear as shocked survivors, and I suspect that some of their leaves and branches will lose their will to live, wither, and fall away in the weeks ahead. Still, I am certain that their traumatic separations and re-establishments will ultimately be for the good. Bereft and shaken as they are today, these plants have been resettled in moist, ample, hearty earth in pots with plenty of space for their roots to anchor and spread. I believe there will be flowers next December. And if not next December, the following December.
As I undertook this repotting project, I realized the metaphorical significance of my actions. On the surface, I appear to be thriving: I communicate the exuberance and intensity of those succulent, bountiful leaves. But I am no longer blooming in my current pot. It’s time for some personal repotting. There will be dropped branches and leaves, and for a while, I will exude the same awkward displacement as my newly repotted Christmas cactus plants. But eventually I will take hold. And eventually, I’ll flower.