Cactus Blog Archives

Cactus Blog Writers

Peter Lipson
Hap Hollibaugh

May Gardening Tasks


I have a new feature in our Monthly Email (You are on the monthly email list, aren’t you?). Monthly Gardening Tasks! Karen N. asked for it, and now you all get it. It’s for the Bay Area in particular; Northern California in general, and as far south as Southern California if you’re too lazy to look up your local gardening tips and tasks for spring. On the other hand, if you live in Minnesota or Albany, NY then you can take the task list with a grain of salt. Interestingly, we have a very similar climate to Rome, so if you live in Rome you can follow the list quite closely.

MAY

  • If you’ve already fed your bamboo early for spring, you can feed them again now and get a real boost of growth for summer. If you haven’t yet, then what are you waiting for?
  • I suspect you’ve already started your veggie gardens, since April is the top month for veggie gardening, but May brings a lot more varieties out so don’t forget to add more, spaced out through the next few months. Coming mid May – Melons! They don’t always work in the Bay Area because they need some heat, but we’re very hopeful this year. It’s warm enough to be planting Basil and the warmer climate Tomatoes. Corn! Beans, too.
  • If you have any of the Ice Plant type succulents in your garden and they’ve had their first blooms already then you should go ahead and dead-head them – which means trimming off the spent blooms – so they can rebloom later in the summer. Alternatively they have edible fruit so you can let them ripen too, however you won’t get more blooms if you do. You’ll have to watch for the ripe fruit because if you don’t pick them in time you’ll lose them to the birds. And finally, if you get them in time then you can make jam. That’s all they’re good for.
  • Olives! Now you really must fertilize your Olive trees, if you have fruiting Olive trees.
  • It’s time to start in on bloom food for plants that will bloom in July and August, so I would definitely get right onto your terrestrial orchids like the Epidendrons and the Cymbidiums. Cactus are mostly summer bloomers if they haven’t already budded out for spring, so bloom food for them now too. Lewisias, Dudleyas, Penstemons, Mimuluses….
  • As the cold nights turn warm, watch for caterpillars and aphids. Take care of them early.

On the other hand, the SF Chronicle also has a list of gardening tasks for May, and they tell you to:

– Weed.

– Continue to pursue slugs and snails.

That’s not as much fun.

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Desert Rose


Adenium somalense

We get to enjoy these rare caudiciforms blooming regularly, spring and fall, since they’re too expensive for anyone to actually purchase them at the store.

They’re mine! All mine!

I hope nobody got a picture of me taking this picture, because it wasn’t easy to get the bloom shot against the sky backdrop. I might have looked a bit “awkward”.

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Copper Shamrock


Oxalis vulcanicola “Coppertones” is faster growing and much darker colored than the species, which we also grow. In fact this is a very easy cultivar to grow and propagate and get to bloom and get to survive through the winter and come out in spring with so many bright yellow flowers that your eyes will hurt just even talking about it.

Hardy to around 25F, it is semi-deciduous, shrinking in size in the winter. It is also a nice hanging basket plant and really our best selling basket plant. In shade it goes a lot more green than this, but it gets very full and bushy. In full sun the stems are more sparse but this rich dark color is an eye popping extravaganza. A veritable festival.

Enjoy!

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Cactus Flowers


These are small flowers for this cactus.

Oroya peruviana

The buds are bright pink, as you can see behind the bloom, and last for months before finally opening. This is the first one I’ve managed to capture on film, so to speak.

They are generally solitary and usually flattened, except as they age eventually they start to grow vertical. Not too vertical, mind you, but they might even get up to 10″ tall! As compared to 8″ across, and you can see how they might be mistaken for a column cactus.

I’m going to guess from the name that it’s from Peru. In fact, I refuse to look it up to check. It might not be from Peru, and someone may have mistakenly misnamed it, but whatevah. My confidence in it’s origin outweighs my curiosity in looking it up (also known as my laziness).

We have been growing them outside for a few years, even though originally we assumed it wasn’t hardy around here, but they’ve been thriving so I think we can announce with great confidence that these are hardy here. To 28F or maybe even below!

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Alert the Local News!


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It’s an agave coming into bloom. Agave funkiana. It’s still on the floor at the nursery, but I took the price tag off and moved it out front for display. The bloom is growing fast. Soon it will finish its cycle and die. Oh how we will miss you, funkiana, my friend.

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White Witch


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Solanum “Spring Frost”

I feel like I featured this one on the blog recently. Should I go ahead and do a search? Obviously not since I’ve already gotten this far in the post and finding out that I did already post this plant recently would only piss me off.

Anyway its a low growing California native perennial that will bloom for the entire spring season and again occasionally in the summer if you water it.

Poisonous of course, being a Solanum, i.e. in the Nightshade family, so enjoy the flowers but don’t eat the leaves. I don’t know about any berries, but in general stay away from all parts of Nightshades except for tomatoes and other edible Nightshade family fruits.

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Pitcher Plants


It’s been a long cold winter for the Pitcher Plants, but they’re finally ready to come out for spring.

Sarracenia flava

These are spectacular, even if they don’t have a lot of pitchers – big and blooming too. Very distinctive. Great form! I give them a 9.6.

Sarracenia purpurea, not sure the subspecies, but they are full and very veiny. A bit more common than the flavas, but not as subtle. 8.7 is all they can garner from my scoring machine. Maybe I should revisit the point system and the computer algorithm.

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Emeryville Succulents


I see the succulent planters are growing nicely at the mall in Emeryville. And what do we have here?

Why it’s an Agave beginning the bloom cycle. Too bad, very sad. Probably Agave vilmoriana, or hybrid thereof.

Also in bloom in back are all the great looking Euphorbia characias.

And the photo does raise the question, why pay more for 4g. The answer of course is selection. So there.

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Tillandsia aeranthos


That’s a nice Tillandsia aeranthos clump in bloom. It was hanging in the Houseplant Room for ages. But it’s so nice, you might say. And I would agree. So why didn’t anyone buy it you might ask? No reason that I can think of. Glad we could have this conversation.

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Yarrow


Our first 4″ Achillea is in bloom for spring, and the cultivar is….

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“Paprika”!

I always recommend mixing in some yarrow with native grasses. They disappear into a meadow look with their rich green foliage, easy to forget they’re there and then, boom… they bloom, and these very brightly colored sprays of small blooms pop up right above everything else. Nice!

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Orchid Cactus


Here we see that our Epiphyllums are not yet in bloom.

But boy are they close. That’s a lot of buds just about to burst open. A lot of the buds have dropped already, as is the nature of Epi’s in my experience.

Too bad it’s such a crappy cell phone picture. I promise I’ll get a good quality photo when the flowers open.

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Midwest Epi's


The Midwest Cactus & Succulent Society Show & Sale is happening Saturday and Sunday. “This is a very popular weekend,” says cactus society Vice President Bill Hendricks.

Apparently they have blooming Epiphyllums for the show, or at least they would like you to think they do. Ours aren’t blooming yet, but they sure are close.

And where is this show?

When: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday and noon-5 p.m. Sunday.

Where: Cleveland Botanical Garden, 11030 East Blvd., Cleveland.

Admission: Free with regular admission: $9.50; $3, children 3-12; free, children 2 and younger; $7.50, groups of 15 or more; $6, seniors in groups of 15 or more.

Information: cbgarden.org or 216-721-1600.

Good to know.

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French Marigold


Our first marigolds of the year are called Bolaro.

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Remember to always plant marigolds with your organic vegetable garden. They attract beneficial insects, and bloom all summer long.

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Oregon Cactus


Sometimes when a cactus or agave blooms the local newspaper gets all excited and prints a whole article about it. Yay Cactus! Here we see the Oregonian getting all excited about a blooming Rhipsalis.

Genie Uebelacker of Clackamas wrote weeks ago to tell me her mistletoe cactus (Rhipsalis baccifera) was blooming for the first time in more than 40 years. That’s news…

Genie inherited her mother’s mistletoe cactus, which had never bloomed, in 1991.

“My mother acquired the plant in Seattle and had it for at least 20 years and maybe more,” Genie wrote. “I remember seeing it in a corner of their kitchen and thinking how pretty it was.”

I say it’s a success story when a family can keep a single plant alive for 40 years or more. Good job, Genie.

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Donkey Tail Spurge


Euphorbia myrsinites

That crop sold out quickly, while in full bloom. You’ll have to wait for our next crop which should be ready, though not in bloom, by May.

A really nice semi-evergreen gopher-proof groundcover spurge, though not called Gopher Spurge which is a different Euphorbia entirely and not one that I particularly like.

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Tilt-Head Aloe


Aloe speciosa blooms are amazing. The buds start out red, then turn orange and then greenish white and then finally they open and shoot out in bright red.

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Very Bright Orange Flowers


Anigozanthos “Bush Tango” is pretty much the brightest flowered Kangaroo Paw cultivar I have ever seen. I’m blinded! Fortunately it’s not one of the giant Ani’s, but only gets 2 ft, with 3 ft. bloom stalks. Just don’t look at the blooms in full sun or they will blind you. Blind!

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Prince Albert Vygie


Ebracteola wilmaniae is my favorite new mesemb. It’s easy to grow, but we think it’s not hardy so we have it indoor. Of course it’s from South Africa where it grows in gravelly soil and limestone. It can get up to 20″ of rain in habitat so it’s probably hardy here, but I’m not going to be the one to try it.

The post title is in fact one of it’s South African common names.

Usually they bloom white, so this pink flowering individual is a rarity.

And here’s what the rest of the plant looks like.

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Red Yucca


Hesperaloe parviflora “Brakelights”

They tell me this has redder flowers than the standard H. parviflora whose flowers are more of a salmon pink but that’s in the eye of the beholder. What really matters is that they bloom for most of the year.

It’s a difficult plant to photograph, unless it’s in habitat. It’s a sprawling plant with sprawling bloom stalks. Good luck with that. So I focused on the flowers.

It’s very much a full sun plant and hardy to below 0F. I don’t know how much hardier it is than that because I stop keeping track below 0F.

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Cactus Exam


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Can you name the cactus from the bloom?

How about if I show you the cactus?

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The blue stems are the giveaway. So ignore that photo. Pretend you never saw it. Focus on the bloom above.

Is there a prize for getting it right? Yes! And not just the satisfaction of a job well done. There’s also recognition from your peers. And a Lithops, to be shipped anywhere in the US except Alaska or Hawaii. Sorry for the restrictions.

Is there a clue, too? Sure! It’s not hardy in Berkeley.

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Big Aloes


Still wondering what the aloe in bloom from Tuesday’s post was?

Aloe vaombe

It’s a nice aloe and we would grow it too if we could, but it’s not hardy this far north so we don’t. Also, it’s too big around to make a good houseplant.

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