Cactus Blog

French Marigold

Our first marigolds of the year are called Bolaro.


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

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.

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.

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.

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!

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.

Reblogged! (White Evening Primrose)

I blogged this plant last week, but it was a cell phone photo. So here’s a portrait for you.

Oenothera caespitosa

They bloom through the night and are fading by morning. You can see this one was fading when I took the picture, but still pretty spectacular for a primrose. A California Native primrose, no less, ratty thing.

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.

Cactus Exam


Can you name the cactus from the bloom?

How about if I show you the cactus?


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.

Queen's Tears


Bilbergia nutans are in bloom. What do you have to say about that? These are a really good shade tolerant terrestrial, bromeliad so we like them for all their great uses in the garden even if the foliage is not as pretty as the flowers.

Sometimes I even mix them among native fescues. Shameful!

California Lilac

The Ceanothuses are in bloom.

See here:

And here:

Those were C. “Anchor Bay” and C. Owlswood Blue” but then you already knew that.

If you look past the flowers you’ll notice that the first one is a “holly-leafed” ceanothus which means it’s deer-resistant. (Rabbit resistant too, but then you already knew that.) While the 2nd one has delicious juicy leaves.

One of these is hardy down to 15F. Can you guess which one? OK, that was a trick question. They’re both hardy to 15F!

OK, then, let’s try this one. One of them is from Marin County, just north of us. And the other one is from Pt. Reyes, the coastal national park in Marin County. Hah! C. “Anchor Bay” is known as the Pt. Reyes Ceanothus and thus is from the Pacific side of Marin while the C. “Owlswood Blue” was discovered on the Owlswood Ranch near Larkspur, which is on the Bay side of Marin!

I’ll bet many of you didn’t even know that Marin was essentially a Peninsula between the ocean and the bay, just like San Francisco. SF and the area south to San Jose is also known as the “Peninsula” whereas the Marin area is known as the “North Bay”.


New Museum

Last weeks travels took me all the way down to the Bowery and the New Museum New York where they were closed due to installing new exhibits on all floors at the same time. Interesting!

However, I did get to see one piece of art on the facade of the building as part of their facade art program. This is Isa Genzken’s Rose II.

The rose sculpture, which measure 28 feet tall, is on loan from a private collector who, as The Observer noted, paid 750,000 Euros for the sculpture.

And the building was designed by recent Pritzker Prize winners SANAA who also designed the interesting glass pavilion in Toledo.

Hummingbird Flowers

Matt in Portland, sends along these great photos from a friend of his in Manhattan Beach,

Up first we have a cute little hummingbird hovering around the Aloe arborescens blooms. Click to embiggen.

And now we have a closeup of the feeding little bugger. Notice how he rests on the stem.

Thanks, Matt!

California Flannel Bush


Fremontodendron “California Glory” bloom at an odd time of year. Lots of natives are blooming now but this is a heavy late-spring bloomer and this is a stray january bloom. Who woulda figured?

Christmas Cactus

Not that kind of cactus, but a cactus that was a christmas gift cactus.

Hello Peter,

Evidently my son and husband visited you a few weeks ago and picked up a little something for me for Christmas! Thanks for helping them make an excellent choice! I love my new, big, Cleistocactus, yay! For the two weeks prior to xmas, my daughter kept it in her apartment right by the couch. She watched it bloom and more buds get ready to bloom! You can see in the picture that Jack and Mike made a tall gift wrapped box for it. I had to wait for a while before I could “open” the box.

I will keep it just outside my kitchen window where I can see it every day…it’s near all my other cactus and succulents as well. Is there anything special I should know or do for it? It looks like it could use more red rock…oh, should I keep the supports tied around the four of them?

Perhaps I will visit you in the next month or two and redeem my cactus punch cards!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you and Hap…


A happy story indeed!

Jade Flowers


My fiance and I bought a jade tree from you (which we love!). However, this morning, we noticed what looks to be an infestation of aphids(?) all over the leaves (I’ve attached a picture). Can you suggest what type of pet-safe spray we might use or what might be the best way to safely get rid of them?

Thanks in advance,

That is a lot of aphids. I would check for ants, as the plant is in bloom and ants bring aphids to crassula blooms to farm them.

We carry a pet-safe organic insecticide called Eco Smart we can recommend for the aphids, and if you find that ants have moved into the pot or nearby, we also have an Eco Smart ant product too.

Hi Peter,

Ooooh, you’re good! We recently found a nest of ants in another plant which (we thought) we’d cleaned out in time, but alas, apparently not. Clever little buggers…

We’ll try to stop in tomorrow afternoon for the Eco Smart.

Thank you so much!

Gariep River Aloe

Aloe gariepensis snake head

And here we see the blooms are open and the giant thick bloom stalk is fascinating too.

It’s from the Northern Cape of South Africa and is high enough in altitude that it sometimes gets frost, so we are golden here in the Bay Area where we also sometimes get frost.

The Gariep River is more commonly known as the Orange River and is the longest river in South Africa.

While found near the river, this particular aloe is from the drier regions, above the river.

Top Ten Succulents of 2011

The time has come, my friend, for last year’s top ten list. And just in time, too! Let’s get on with the program.

10. Pachypodium brevicaule
These little beauties didn’t last long in the rare plant room at the nursery. They will eventually grow HUGE! Up to 10″ across, some say. Yellow flowers are a plus.

9. Eulophia petersii
Desert orchids, what more could you want? We sold through the crop pretty quickly, and so now we’re working on the next crop. Hopefully we will be able to keep these going for years to come and will bring out a few new plants every spring.

8. Echeveria elegans whould probably be higher on the list since it’s soooo popular with everyone. But there’s not a snowball’s chance that I will raise it higher on the list. Enjoy it here. 8 is pretty good too.

7. Adenium somalense
These were not very popular with the kids this year, what with the high prices and the ready availability of lower-priced desert roses like the very similar A. obesum. Some people just don’t appreciate rarity of variation.

6. Aloe polyphylla
These were like bonkers this year! Everyone wanted one. Now we’re out of all but the largest sizes. I wonder if Hap’s working on a new crop yet?

5. Pedilanthus tithymaloides
Devil’s Backbone plant for you, please.

4. Delosperma echinatum
These originally came in #9, but then the common name moved them up to #4. What was that common name? Spiny Pickles. So you see why.

3. Echeveria “Violet Queen”
My favorite of our new Echeverias this year, and yet it did not reach #1. I must not have as much say in this process as I thought. Maybe I could demand a recount.

2. Sedum “Blue Spruce”
What the… Why is this one on the list, even all the way up at #2? This is a travesty. I reject this entirely. Who’s in charge here? Dammit.

And not to put too fine a point on it, but the number Top Ten Succulent of 2011 is… (more…)

Top Ten Cactus of 2011

Family stuff intruded at the end of 2011 so I am late with the Top Ten Lists. I threw in some old photos last week to pass the time, but now I’m buckling down and getting them set up. I may only do 2 of these, but then I may be lying to you too.

Up first, 10 Cactus, all of them Top Cactus, from last year.

10. Rebutia fabrisii
We always try to bring out different mini blooming barrel cactus every year, and this was the year for this one. A nice orange-red color to contrast with all the other rebutias with orange or red flowers. I wonder what we’ll have for you this year?

9. Parodia magnifica
Another small cactus but this one has yellow flowers! Our crop last year was really pretty. It’s a plant we’ve been growing for ever, but these had a little bit extra last year. (And no, I’m not talking about mealy bugs).

8. Echinopsis spachiana
We’ve carried a lot of Echinopsis hybrids, usually not named, but this one with the giant white flowers is a pretty nice species all on its own.

7. Echinopsis, unnamed cultivar
This was my favorite flower color from the Echinopsis hybrids of last year.

6. Tunilla erectoclada
We’ve had these incorrectly named for years. Now they’re fixed. These are some of the most dangerous of tiny little cacti. As the French would say, ne touche pas!

5. Denmoza rhodacantha
I love these barrel cacti with the weird tubular flowers, clearly indicating they’re related to the Cleistocacti and the Oreocereuses.

4. Mammillaria perbella
We always have a lot of different Mammillarias hanging around, some of which we still haven’t gotten around to identifying, but this is one of the most satisfying of the Mammillarias, so welcome to our Top Ten List!

3. Espostoa melanostele
We used to only have a few giant specimens of these yellow-spined plants from South America, but now we have more and smaller too. On the smaller plants the yellow spines kind of look fake. Nice!

2. Ferocactus emoryi
This is a reliable bloomer for us, reliably producing seed too. And yet, last year the blooms were just a little bit prettier, a little bit more special. The bees loved the too, so you know they’re good.

And the Top Cactus of 2011 is…

Wait for it…



Arctostaphylos “Austin Griffiths” is a really nice hybrid with gorgeous large leaves that gets 10 to 12 ft. tall – the perfect size for a Berkeley yard. Full bloom on these is a lot of flowers for a long time – 6 weeks or more. If you don’t like manzanitas in general, then this is not the plant for you. Hah! Everyone loves manzanitas!




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Peter Lipson
Hap Hollibaugh


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