Every Succulent Terrarium is Unique

I try not to repeat myself.

We have a Cryptanthus, a Peperomia and a Crassula, plus the biggest colored gravel I could fit through that tiny hole on top. And a shell or two.

Yes, there is soil under those rocks. And some charcoal under the soil.

For Christmas Cactus Blooms Your Work Starts Today

Everybody wants to know how to get your christmas cactus to bloom at christmas. Well, let me tell you. Now is the time to start your preparations.

Now is the time to start giving your christmas cactus some bloom food every time you water and begin the process of bringing more darkness to your plant. We use 100% fish bone meal for our plants. You can use a liquid if you prefer. Not too strong, though, since you are going to be feeding it every watering for the next 3 months.

I go over all the details here.

But beware, incorrect darkness can result in blooms in spring. Oh noes!



Follow this link only if you are prepared to be shocked by all the information about gasterias that you could ever need. Unless you are a gasteria biologist in which case it’s probably not that much information at all. In fact, really it’s not that much information at all. I might have been exaggerating a bit, for effect. But it is some good information nonetheless, about gasterias. I personally don’t really like gasterias.

Getting a Cactus through Airport Security

Can you get a cactus through security and take it home on an airplane? My Ngoc To did, as she wrote in the Harvard Crimson recently.

I have a pet cactus, and his name is Earl….

I was a bit nervous going to the airport. I was really afraid that they wouldn’t let him through because I know they usually don’t allow pets or plants on any international flight. But I figured—this is a domestic flight, and Earl wouldn’t hurt anybody … his spines are fuzzy. But just in case something happened, I asked my parents to stand outside of the security line so that I could give them Earl if he couldn’t pass. They waited.

I walked up to the start of the security line and handed my ID to the man at the counter. He saw Earl in my hand, looked at me, and said, “You’d better not eat that thing—I hear they’re poisonous.” He smiled and let me through.

The real panic came at the security line. I didn’t think I could carry Earl in my hands through the scan. I couldn’t put him on the conveyer belt either because a million monstrosities could happen to him—he could get knocked off, he could get confiscated, he could get tipped over or caught in one of the grooves and lose all his soil. Luckily, I realized that I could nestle him inside one of the trays.

I went through the scan and looked back in anticipation at the man overlooking the scans. A few beats passed, and I knew that Earl was safe when the man turned back, gave me a weird look and shook his head. He was trying hard not to smile.

Click through for the picture of the happy cactus. And now you know how to get a cactus through airport security.

Do you have a traveling-with-cactus-story to share?

Grafting Cactus

Mr. Bee from the Carroll Eagle tells you how to graft cactus. He started with an irradiated Gymnocalycium that needed to be regrafted. But first, a little history,

The ancient Chinese grafted plants as far back as 3,000 years ago. Then 2,300 years ago, the ancient Greeks mastered it.

That’s fascinating. Since there were no cactus in China or Greece back then, we can safely assume this bit of history is off topic.

To begin, I used a knife to slice through the base of the red part to cleanly separate it from the green part.

Next, I removed the uppermost portion from a second cactus that was getting too tall, until all that remained was a 1-inch-tall stub still rooted to its pot.

Finally, I grafted the detached red part to the rooted stub of the green part, using a pair of rubber bands to hold the two parts together. Within a few months, the red and green parts will bond.

Sounds good. Any more tips? Like when you use the word “graft” in the instructions on how to “graft” you may leave people unsure what to do.

The secret to a successful cactus graft is to closely align the diameters of the cut parts being grafted, because a close match facilitates the free flow of vital fluids between the two parts.

Now you know.

Want to know more? Here are pictures and complete cactus grafting instructions from the UCC Biology Department. UCC is the Union County College of Cranford, NJ, also serving PA and DE. I think you’ll have to go to the History Department for the Chinese and Greek history part of the lesson.

Grizzly Bear Modern

A modern dresser (well, maybe it wasn’t so modern, but more like moderne, before the makeover) is transformed into a multi level apartment complex for succulent families.

On the Grizzly Bear Modern blog they also include lots of DIY instructions with lots of photos in case you wanted to do one of these yourself.

Growing Cactus from Seed

I don’t think we’ve ever gotten this question before on the blog. Lucky for you someone finally asked it. Thanks, Lauren!

Hello Cactus Jungle,
In the next month or so I am considering trying to grow some pincushion cactuses from seeds. Do you have any suggestions on the the type of soil or how I should set up the initial planting tray?

Several months ago I impulsively started growing some cactus seeds from a variety mixture (so I have no idea what they are officially). How many years does it take for more common cactus varieties to mature and how long should I wait before attempting to repot cactus seedlings?

Thank you for your time and I look forward to hearing from you.
Cheers, Lauren


We germinate cacti seed in our standard cactus and succulent soil. If it is rare or expensive seed we will sterilize the soil first by steaming it – moistening and putting in a microwave safe dish and heating until it hits 160 degrees. About six to seven minutes on high for a gallon of soil. We then let it cool with a tight cover on and then use it in our seedling trays.

We will scatter the seed on the surface and lightly mist. Then we top dress with a single layer of crushed horticultural charcoal, that we either smash with a hammer or run through a little electric chopper (Cuisinart) until it is like course sand. We mist that as well. Then we dome the seed tray and put under florescent lights that run 16 hours a day.

Most pincushion type cacti will germinate in just a week or two, other types can take months. Of course after germination is complete and they start getting some growth we ventilate the dome and lower the humidity, but they do need it fairly humid during germination and that first push of young growth. We usually leave the seedling in the germination tray until they are the size of large peas or small grapes. With some species that is 6 months; others it is a year or two.

The big trick on transplanting is to handle them very gently so they do not bruise and make them prone to infection. It helps to keep them dry for a week after transplant so any damage heals under dry condition.

Good luck and have fun!

Growing Cactus Under Fluorescent Light

A good discussion of the topic. Here’s an extended quote, if nobody minds.

These succulents, some spiny, some smooth, in shades of silver, green, red and lavender, are arrayed on a lengthy, three-tiered light stand, each level equipped with four 48-inch, 40-watt full-spectrum bulbs purported to resemble natural light….

Most species I have tried (there are more than 1,000 cactus species) decline gradually over a period of 18 months to two years. A few, however, including species of Mammillaria, Melocactus, Echinocereus and Gymnocalycium, have thrived.

Among the non-cactus succulents that flourish under fluorescents are species and hybrids of Haworthia, Aloe, Edithcolea, Adromischus, Agave, Aeonium, Crassula, Sedum, Echeveria, Euphorbia, Gasteria, Graptopetalum, Kalanchoe and Sansevieria. Others, such as Stapelia and Senecio species, do well if given occasional R&R on an east-facing windowsill.

More species listed at the article, if you click through. We also suggest to people in offices to make sure their full spectrum bulbs are within 12″ of the plant, because the UV from them dissipates quickly.

Guerrilla Gardening Goes Viral

Now you too can be guerrilla gardening in just 5 easy steps.

1… Remember that affixing “ninja” to anything is practically guaranteed to lead to success in all you do.

2… No general takes the battlefield without first harnessing his chi.

3… go for sprouts at the very least.

4… your fine guerrilla acting skills have got you convincingly portrayed as a city employee.

5… perennial plants… are easy to maintain.

I may have shrunken those 5 pieces of advice down a little bit. You’ll just have to click through to see for yourself.

Hardening Off Cactus

They have some tips for high-altitude gardening in Denver. “They” being Channel 9 News in Denver.

Plants grown in a greenhouse have yet to experience exposure to the full force of the sun’s rays. The leaves can burn even more easily than our own skin. The easiest way to get them ready for planting is to set them under a tree that’s leafing out. If the plants are meant to go into a sunny spot in your garden, gradually lengthen their time in the sun each day. This could take up to a week. It’s a bit of a bother but worth it in the long run.

Succulents and cactus grown indoors are particularly subject to sunburn. Be extra careful with them in exposing them to the sun. The scalds they suffer if you’re careless may disfigure them for months or even years. I put my collection under a shade cloth for a week or more to prevent damage.

I wonder why they don’t come up with better names for TV stations like they do with newspapers. Channel 9 News is a very dull name. Why not Channel 9 Denver Star News or Channel 17 Pacoima Globe and Press? I personally prefer the Channel 56 Bazooka News and World Report.

Holy Terrarium, Batman!

This terrarium has everything.

A little bit of charcoal at the bottom, of course. A small amount of soil for the Cryptanthus to grow in. Big smooth rocks fitted out with bits of green moss and preserved reindeer moss too squeezed between the rocks. Wild Tillandsias, and some other stuff too. All fit in rather easily through the big gaping front hole in the hanging glass terrarium.

(That Robin, he was such a scamp.)

How Do You Repot a Euphorbia?

Have you got any tips for potting a (large) E.Trigona? I just can’t get my head round how to do it.

How can you tell that a plant is underpotted? What should I look for?

We generally like to see as much plant mass above the soil line as potential root mass below.

Repotting euphorbias is difficult. They have a caustic white sap (latex) that is very dangerous, and with all those branches banging against each other when you repot, the likelihood of getting it on you is high. So what we do is wear a lot of protective clothing, including goggles and gloves, and pack between the branches with bunched up newspaper to keep the branches from scarring each other.

Then you use a tool to separate the roots from the sides of the pot. Lay the whole thing flat on a tarp on the ground. With 2 to 3 people, gently ease the plant out of the pot. Generally you don’t want to disturb the roots too much for succulents, but if it is completely pot bound, then a small amount of root massage to redirect the root tips is recommended.

Place the plant into the new larger pot (we recommend terra cotta) with fresh fast-draining cactus soil so that the top of the soil line stays in the same place. Fill around with more soil, and you’re done. Don’t water for 2 weeks to let the roots heal, and the plant should begin to thrive again.

Good luck,

This was a follow-up to a previous question about an underpotted plant.

How Often do You Water Cactus?

The Midwest Cactus Guru, Wichita’s own Ron Hardesty, says this:

“You got to live with them. If you live with them, you know when to water them,” Hardesty finally found the words to say.

Excellent advice.

I would also suggest in a sunny and warm environment that watering cactus every 2 to 3 weeks is good.

How to Choose a Bamboo Rhizome Barrier

Greg asks if we can identify this bamboo and recommend a barrier for it.

Hap responds:


I am sorry but there is not enough detail in the photos to identify which species of bamboo it is. Can you take a photo of the whole plant with some sort of size scale, as well as a close up of a branch node of one of the mature canes? As far as barrier (if the scale is what I think it is) the 40mil Rhizome Barrier we stock should be sufficient, it stops running bamboo up to 1-1/2″ in diameter if installed correctly and if you police for “jumpers” (rhizomes that go over the top and then dive back under ground) twice a year. The barrier is 30 inches tall and needs to be buried 28 inches, so there is a two inch lip above the soil. You can surround the grove of bamboo and glue the barrier to its self to make a buried bottomless pot. Or if this is invading bamboo from a neighbor, run a trench along the property-line and install the barrier as a single long line.Of course if it is a large grove it can come around the corner of the barrier with time, so some policing will need to be done at the ends of the barrier.

I hope that helps,


How to Eat a Cactus

…Dallas Style.

Easy, step by step instructions, including:

1. Pick out your paddles…

2. With your knife, remove the spines…

3. Boiling water…

4. Drain excess water…

5. Grill the nopales.

Easy enough! And if you click through the link you can see all the rest of the information that goes with that list.

Here, have a picture.

Executive chef Amador Mora and Sarah Eveans

How to Eat Cactus Fruit

The fruit from the Cereus peruvianus is called a Cactus Apple, and the St. Petersburg Times has a reader who knows how best to eat them.

Paul Zmoda has been growing the (Peruvian apple) cactus at his research facility, Flatwoods Fruit Farm in Riverview. He says that aside from eating the pulp fresh, he recommends serving frozen thin slices sprinkled with sugar and lime juice. The pink peel can also be candied. Paul thinks that the rind might even make good sweet and sour pickles similar to watermelon pickles.

Our plants don’t fruit, since they need to be pollinated by bats and we don’t have bats at the nursery.

You can buy seeds from Trade Winds Fruit, and see what they have to offer in all kinds of tropical fruits, even though this is not a tropical fruit.


They also sell Saguaro seeds.

How to Grow Cactus

Line the seedlings up in a tray. Give them lots of sun, maybe some late afternoon shade. Water occasionally.


Pachycereus marginatus

Pachycereus marginatus, Organ Pipe Cactus

Cleistocactus hyalancanthus

Cleistocactus hyalacanthus

Oooohh, photogenic!

How to Grow Cactus From Seeds


I was in last week and bought a few things to start out growing cactus from seeds. At you employees recommendation, I bought the small green seedling container, some coir, and some activated carbon. I put added the quite wet (but not soupy) coir, added 20 or so seeds to various spots, and then covered in a pretty fine layer of pulverized carbon (used a pestle and mortar). It is now sitting in out bubble window with the other plants. The lid is on and the humidity inside must be at 100% or close to it. Since I only have the seeds I put into this container, any other ideas for carefully germinating my seeds and not losing them to some other competitor would be IMMENSELY appreciated. That includes things like extra supplements, additives that modify PH, or anything that would be beneficial.



Cactus seeds like warmth to germinate, I try and get the temp up to about 80-85 degrees. You do need to watch that the seed dome is not in direct hot sun, or it could get too hot and cook the seedlings. The humidity is good to help break the seed’s dormancy, but do lift the lid now and then to give them some fresh air. Cacti can take a few weeks to even a year to germinate so be patient. After you see little green things that look like transparent green candy rice grains poke a few holes in the plastic lid to let in more air. As it starts drying out faster with the air, you will need to mist occasionally. Watch for mold and algae, though that is why you were told to use the charcoal, but in humid environments it can always be a problem. A low strength mist of Neem Oil usually takes care of it if it does cause problems. Plan on leaving the seedlings in there for about a year, though once they get some size and spines you can wean them off the humidity dome.

Good luck and happy growing.


How to Grow Cactus in Boston

The Christian Science Monitor has published this anecdotally proven method:

“The important thing is to water the cactus at exactly the right intervals. These plants came from the desert near Tucson, Ariz. When I brought them back to Boston, I immediately subscribed to an Arizona newspaper. And when the paper says it rained in Tucson, that’s when I water my cactus plants. As you can see, so far it’s worked well.”

How to Harvest Aloe Gel

This is one I need to know. I can get a little gel out of the aloe leaf just by cutting the tip off and smearing the cut end all over me. Or at least smearing it on the burn or cut. But then what about the rest of the gel in the leaf – how do you harvest it? Since I plan on making my own moisturizer I need to learn these skills too.

Video after the break since I can’t get the auto-start to turn off. Read More…

How to ID a Cactus

If it’s an Opuntiad, i.e. in the Opuntioideae subfamily of Cactaceae, i.e. generally in the genus of Opuntia, Cylindropuntia, or Austrocylindropuntia, plus a few other genuses like Consolea which look like Opuntias, and Quiabentia which are really cool, then you:

1. Wait for it to flower. Take a picture, it will last longer.

2. Check out this website Opuntiads Web.

3.Click one of these links to get to the flower pictures:

LINK: http://opuntiads.com/O/opuntiad-flowers/opuntiadflowers-1

LINK: http://opuntiads.com/O/opuntiad-flowers/flowers-3

LINK: http://opuntiads.com/O/opuntiad-flowers/opuntiad-flowers-4

LINK: http://opuntiads.com/O/opuntiad-flowers/opuntiad-flowers-5

LINK: http://opuntiads.com/O/opuntiad-flowers/opuntiadflowers-2

4. Match up the pictures and grab the ID.

5. Send me the photo and the proposed ID and I will be happy to concur.

How to ID Cactus

<a href="https://cactusjungle.com/archives/blog/exit.php?url_id=1742&amp;entry_id=1545" title="http://www.newestblogarticles.com/home/indoor-plants/cactus-identification.html" onmouseover="window.status=’http://www.newestblogarticles.com/home/indoor-plants/cactus-identification.html’;return true;" onmouseout="window.status=”;return true;">Indoor Plants blog</a> tells you how to ID cactus.<br /><br /><div style="margin-left: 40px;"><span style="font-style: italic;">Spines are (a) feature that most cacti have which can help in proper cactus identification. Do not mistake these spines for thorns because these are not the same.</span><br /></div><br />Now that you know, go check out some of those plants you have and see if they’re cacti. I’ll wait here.<br /><br />

How to Install a Cactus

This is how we install a big cactus for you.

First we mummify the plant and then we deliver it to you on a stretcher and we lay it out on the ground nice and gentle while wearing nitrile gloves

Then we plant it and remove all the wrappings and walk away from a job well done!

Now, don’t go getting all pedantic on me, you know I know that’s not a cactus – it’s a Euphorbia. I didn’t say these were photos of us installing a cactus, I said this post was about how to install a cactus. We just chose a Euphorbia for this particular demonstration, but the information is the same.

How to Kill Your Plants, by Martha Stewart

Succulents Terrariums How-To.


2. Water the terrarium every two weeks.

3. The water should freely drain to the bottom. After watering, there should not be more than an inch of water visible in the gravel at the bottom.

Read more at Marthastewart.com: Succulents Terrariums – Martha Stewart Television

How to Plant a Cactus

I have a couple of cactus that are in need of serious re-planting. And I want to make sure it gets done right.


I have included some pics. Looking for any advice on the best way to go about this.




Those are some impressive looking cactus! I assume you are not going to try to replant the whole clusters, but rather are asking about taking cuttings from the fallen branches. Generally we recommend take tip cuttings and about 2-3ft. in length. Use a serrated blade, like a bread knife. Take a clean cut at a slight angle. Spray the cut end with household Hydrogen Peroxide and then set it aside in a shady location for a week or two so that the cut end callouses over.

When you are ready to plant, if it’s in a pot use fast draining cactus soil. Plant it 4 to 6 inches deep into the soil and stake it up. Don’t water for another week or two. Then start regular watering (every 2-3 weeks in the Bay Area, more or less depending on where you live.)


How to Plant a Garden

From Santa Rosa comes instruction in not watering your garden.

In light of the water crisis, the Sonoma County Master Gardeners have put their heads together to compile a list of super-drought-tolerant plants….

These tend to be natives or plants that originated in Mediterranean climates not unlike California that experience only minimal rainfall in summer…

Among favorites… are manzanitas, of which there are varieties not only native to California but native to Sonoma County….

Another plant that will take water neglect is Dudleya, a native succulent, similar to echeveria.

They put together a good list of locally climate-appropriate plants. Go check it out.

How to Quilt a Cactus

Fast Friday Fabric Challenge clues us in. You’ll have to click through to see the photo.

This project began as a photograph of a barrel cactus in my garden. I printed the photo on both cotton and organza fabrics. I liked the effect when I overlaid the organza on the cotton photo and then offset the two photos. The two photos were secured together with some thread painting then it was sliced into four parts.


How to Remove a Cactus Spine

From eHow comes this idea on using Elmer’s glue to remove spines. We prefer duct tape, but you might want to try the glue method.

Difficulty: Moderate
Things You’ll Need:

* Elmer’s Glue (or any other brand white school glue)
* Anti-bacterial soap
* Paper towel or tissue
* Antiseptic like betadine or hydrogen peroxide
* Antibiotic ointment
* A band-aid
* About ten to fifteen minutes of time!

Try this method before you decide to pick and poke at the spot where you suspect the tiny, nearly invisible splinter or cactus needle is located…

Next, shake up a bottle of Elmer’s School Glue…

Pour a little of the glue into the palm of the hand with the splinter or cactus thorn…

Use a paper towel or tissue to wipe the excess…

Allow the glue to dry for about five minute…

Once the second layer of glue has dried, gently peel off the glue…

…To limit the chances of infection, conclude by washing the area with anti-bacterial…

If redness, swelling or pain occurs at the site, this can indicate an infection…

Lots more info at the eHow link.

How to Remove Cactus Spines

Everyone wants to know how to remove cactus spines. I say you should use a large pair of rubber-gripped pliers. Well, either that or pull them out with your teeth, being careful they don’t get transfered to your tongue.

The East Valley Tribune (AZ) has some other tips too.

The easiest way to remove glochids is with a pair of tweezers. With a dark background and the affected area in bright light, you can usually spot the difference between your own body hair and the straight, stiff, slightly thicker glochid. Once you spot it, just pluck it with your tweezers….

If you get too close to a jumping cholla and a piece breaks off on you or your clothing you will need to use a tool (such as two sticks – using them like chopsticks) in order to pry the cholla off without using your bare hands.

Oh, these tips are ridiculous. Really, the best way to remove a jumping cholla (Opuntia bigelovi) is with pliers. And to remove hundreds of glochids a piece of duct tape works best. A single small spine from any cactus can be removed with tweezers. We use the kind that have a magnifier attached right on them.

September 2021

US Constitution


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