Poisonous Succulents

What does it mean that a particular succulent is poisonous? Let’s talk about Euphorbias…

Do you know what is used in leather polishes and for waterproofing certain products, mixed with rubber it is used for insulation, used in sealing wax, metal lacquers, paint removers and lithographic colors?

It is the milky sap from a Euphorbia. … (O)ne drop of latex material on your skin from one of these plants can cause a rash, the severity of which depends on how an individual reacts to it…

I know several people who have had problems with Euphorbias… All have described the horrible pain in their eyes from brushing with a gloved hand or wiping their face with a shirtsleeve that was coated with sap.

So, poisonous as in painful, but not deadly. Not that I would ingest it, mind you. Euphorbia sap, especially from the common houseplant Euphorbia tirucalli, is a common enough irritant that there’s a known antidote – the tiny leaves of the miniature Aeonium lindleyi. Yes! If you have a lot of Euphorbias around the house, and especially if you have kids too who like to touch your plants, then I recommend have a nice little Aeonium lindleyi around the house. All the Euphorbia growers do.

We also recommend some of the shrubbier Euphorbias as deer-resistant and we like the Euphorbia myrsinites as a gopher-resistant plant and then any of the Euphorbias makes a good cat deterrent too, if you don’t mind them crying a little. It’s bad enough they’ll learn to stay away, but not so bad as to cause permanent damage. Generally.

Portland Succulents Come Cheap

I think this article is telling Portland residents to steal succulent cuttings from their neighbors. I’m not sure why, but then I may be exaggerating.

You have probably seen them growing in pots and on rocks, nestled within the well-landscaped and manicured lawns of Portland. It turns out succulents can be easily reproduced and need little to no care, making them a cheap and sustainable addition to any garden….

The first step to creating a sustainable succulent garden is to track down a few plants that you find most attractive. A saunter through almost any Portland neighborhood will surface some of the more popular varieties in the area such as Sedeveria, Seduum, Sempervivum (also called hens and chicks), Echeveria, and Pachypytum.

What do you think, am I right? Are they telling you to walk around Portland and steal succulents when you find ones you like?

Preparing Seeds for Spring

Hi Peter & Hap,
In August I finally had success in fertilizing two of my Echinopsis.  Now the fruit has dried and opened.  What do I do with the solid clumps of seeds to prepare them for planting?  How long are they potent?  When is the best time of year to plant them?  What supplies will I need to pick up the next time I stop by your store?


Your seed can be freed from the dried fruit mass by gently rubbing it on a paper towel until the seeds separate from the dried fruit. Then you can sort of blow across them and usually the fruit bits weigh less that the seed and it blows away leaving the seed. Start with a gentle puff and see what it will take so the seed doesn’t go flying! 

When you have the seed separated you can plant it all or save some for later, as long as you keep it dry and cool. Most cactus seed can last for years and still sprout. We start our seeds early spring, so in the next month or so it is a good time of year to plant them. We use domed seed trays filled with cactus soil, we scatter the seed on the surface and then barely cover with crushed Horticultural Charcoal (this acts as both a cover mulch and helps keep algae and mold growing on the soil under the high humidity of the domed seed tray. the charcoal also has chemicals in it that make the seeds think there has been a fire and it is a good time to sprout). 

Next we mist the tray heavily with water, cover with the dome and put under lights or in bright, diffused light in the greenhouse. An east facing window will also work. But be careful if you use a west or south window as they can cook the contents of a covered seed tray. 

Good luck and happy planting.

Prickly Pear Season

Greenwalla recommends you go out and eat some cactus fruit RIGHT NOW!

Cactus Pear: (or Prickly Pear)

A lot of people have never tried a cactus pear, but it is a delicious fruit! Look for cactus pears that do not have any dark spots on them, you can wash them and keep them in the refrigerator for seven days. The best way to eat them is to dice them up, eat it plain or use it as a topping for a salad, cereal or soy yogurt. They can be tricky to prepare, here is a short video on how to peal one.

See, they think it’s delicious too. It’s not just me. They’re also called Tunas.

[Pedanticism warning:] Bells peal, fruit peels.

Propagating Echeverias

Echeveria perle von nurnberg

Echeveria “Perle von Nurnberg”

These have been propagated from leaf cuttings. It takes a couple years before you get such large and beautiful plants from a single leaf. But it happens!

Echeveria derenbergii

Echeveria derenbergii

These are growing in what we call a “Mud Flat”. Here, let me google that for you. Well, that’s not what I’m talking about. I wonder if I can find any pictures online? Here we go. And here’s a pretty application.

So that’s how we do it.

And a bonus! Here’s a leaf cutting with plantlet and rootlets for you.

Crassula leaf cutting with plantlet and rootlets

Pruning Succulents for Spring

We had some freezing weather this year, just like they had in Austin according to the Austin Statesman. Damaged succulents are a common sight.

Many aloes and agaves were severely damaged by our hard freezes this winter. Freeze-damaged succulents usually turn a lighter color, almost white, soon after the freeze. Later, the damaged part of the plant will wilt, then turn black with rot. In some succulents, the affected parts eventually fall off.

If the center bud remains green and firm, the plant will likely grow and recover, despite dead leaves. However, dead and damaged parts never will recover, and you can remove them. You should also look for new growth underneath the dead leaves and down in the base of the plant. These pups often can survive under the cover of the dead leaves.

I would add that you should wait for the last storms in the Bay Area to pass through (i.e. wait 2 more weeks) before removing half-damaged leaves and branches. If the leaves are just spotted with hail damage, leave them on the plant until new leaves have replaced them.

On the other hand, if you live in Minnesota and you left your Aloe outside, it’s dead.

Pumpkins? Succulents? What Kind of Halloween Horror is This?

The Washington Post is making a horrible nightmarish Halloween centerpiece out of a stitched together agglomeration of hideous opposites.

Though it is kind of cute.

Daigle, 31, who is one of the authors of the blog Needles & Leaves… told us a bit about succulents and shared a few photos of DIY holiday ideas from her book. There you can find detailed directions on how to create them.

Oh, so it’s in a book! Very timely.

Where is the best place to buy succulents?

Try and go directly to a local nursery. You will get a better plant from them, and you can pick it out yourself.

Nice! She likes us! She really likes us!


Finally, A short video on how to prepare a nopal recipe. This is actually a very difficult skill to master, and this video is amazingly clear, so pay attention.


It’s from the Kitchen Caravan. How delicious.

San Diego Succulents

Ever wonder what to do when you’re hanging around San Diego? Well, you could meet famed succulent author and gardener Debra Lee Baldwin. Bring the kids! It’s a fun day for everyone.

Debra Lee Baldwin, and her new book, Succulents Simplified, will be at the San Diego Horticultural Society on Monday July 8.

The meeting starts at 6:00 p.m. at the Surfside Race Place at the Del Mar Fairgrounds. Admission for non-members is $10. She’ll be signing her new book, Succulents Simplified.

And then there’s a followup at Roger’s Gardens in Corona del Mar (Orange County) at 9 a.m. July 27. Free.

Secrets Revealed

Backpacker Magazine reveals the secrets of camping, including getting water from a cactus in the desert.


    Make a solar still… Stuff a plastic bag three-quarters full with green vegetation (grass, cactus). Place it on a sunny slope with the vegetation at the top of the incline, so evaporated moisture drains to the bottom. Either way, a quart-sized bag will yield two to three tablespoons in average conditions.

That’s not a lot of water, but it’s not nothing either. Let’s hope you never have to try this minimal technique.


From Austin (TX), home of the Austin Jaspers semi-pro basketball team in the Texas Grass League, comes a nice concise set of instructions for growing cactus from seed.

I wonder if Hap will agree with their instructions?

Small Succulent Terrariums Rule

The glass is only about 6″ across, a small globe with legs and a hole on top. These things are hard to photograph. I hope you can see everything in there.

The succulents are planted in soil. A small bit of charcoal at the bottom, sand on top, and then I push the tiny cuts through the sand and into the soil, using my tiny fingers. I mean using long thin tweezers.

Tiny sempervivum cuts will love it in here, but the crassula cuts will eveually outgrow the sphere.

Someone has Advice on Removing Spines

We (me, Peter) here at Cactus Blog are going to link to Sunset magazine, Sharon Cohoon, Sunset senior garden writer, who links to Nan Sterman in her book, California Gardener’s Guide, Volume II to give you tips on how to remove cactus spines.

If you get those nasty fine spines in your hand, she says, you can remove them by painting over the area with rubber cement. Let the glue dry, rub it off, and the spines will pull right out, says Sterman. Duct tape works pretty well, too, she says.

Now you know.

Sharon also has a nice photo from Stephen Ingram’s new book, Cacti Agaves and Yuccas of California and Nevada which we really like, and not just because it has great photos, and I love the maps, and they list us as a resource, but it’s a really good book too. Maybe I should do a review…

Stapeliad Questions

Today we have an answer!


I stopped by Cactus Jungle a few months ago asking about Edithcolea grandis. At the time, you said you didn’t have any because you always get it from a supplier. When I asked about propagating, you said that it’s hard to grow from seed, and you have never been able to get it to root. Since then, I’ve been doing some experimenting, and wanted to share some successes.

First of all, I don’t know how people grow it from seed; I couldn’t do it at all.

But, after my main plant started to rot and I took a few cuttings, I was able to experiment with rooting. What worked (with 2 separate cuttings) was to use rooting hormone, put pots in a warm-ish place that’s accessible to sunlight – nothing drastic, just a windowsill or an inner covered patio), keep the soil moist, but not wet, and keep the pot covered with a plastic bag. I just had regular 2-inch plastic pots covered by a ziplock bag. I live in the foggy part of San Francisco, so it was never especially warm or cold. What did NOT work was keeping pots uncovered, keeping them in the greenhouse (probably too much temp variation?), or keeping the soil too dry or too wet.

I hope this is helpful to you, and thanks for the beautiful nursery and great plants.



Thanks for the update! Do you have pictures of the new little plants?


Succulent Boutonniere

Buzzfeed is an interesting website. And “interesting” too. But they do have a good DIY How-to on making Succulent corsages and such, with step by step photos showing you how to kill your succulents for one beautiful night of boutonniere funtimes.

succulent corsage

Here are some pictures I’ve “borrowed” from them, so please click through and give them some click-love.


The succulents needed.


The tools needed.

They think of everything!

Succulent Cupcakes

Not only are these photogenic cupcakes made to look like Echeverias and Stapelias, but the website they come from, Pixel Whisk, has complete how-to, DIY, baking and decorating, do-it-yourself, frosting and molding, follow along instructions that you can follow along the instructions with to make your own by doing it yourself. (Was that last phrase too much? I think I went one phrase too long in the run-on clause bonanza. Maybe I should take it back and end it on “to make your own.”)


Thanks to Tony for the heads up.

Succulent Terrarium Workshop

In San Francisco? Nobody told me! And we’re not hosting it? Unreal.

“Succulent” Terrarium / Utsuwa Floral Design
Utsuwa Floral Design
Friday, November 30, 2012 from 7:30 PM to 8:30 PM (PST)
San Francisco, CA

Now that IS a quality terrarium. It turns out you don’t have to come to us at the Cactus Jungle for a quality terrarium. But tickets are limited.

Succulent Terrariums


Yesterday was a how to for succulent wall panels. Today we present Succulent Terrariums. But I can’t really explain all that well in words how to make them. You know, you plant some succulents in a piece of glass. Add some charcoal at the bottom, and some toys on top. Woohoo!


And a big and fancy succulent terrarium, although it’s hard to tell from the photo how much bigger it is than the others above.


If you look close, you can see a little dinosaur there, and you can compare it to the one in the top photo for size.

Succulent Wall Panels


It’s a closeup, a detail even, from one of our own custom Succulent Wall Panels. 

We make them! Right here in the Berkeley California workshop we call a Cactus Jungle.

How do we make them? Well we start with the finest of recycled wood boards and make a box! 4 sides and a back, with a wire mesh front. The material inside is green moss, i.e. sphagnum moss, with a backing of rock wool. That’s it! No soil, never no way.

So then you lay the completed box flat on a table and poke the moss with a pointy stick, or a pencil if you prefer, to generate a small hole that you can stick a succulent cutting into. Lots of succulent cuttings. Sedums, Crassulas and Sempervivums work well. An occasional Echeveria but not too many.

Make sure the cuttings are healed over by letting it dry for a few days before sticking it in the box. So this may be a multi-day process.

Then you let the box sit in a warm sunny location for 4-8 weeks until the cuttings have rooted into the boxes.

We also use greening pins to help hold the succulents in place, because we do have to transport the boxes to our greenhouse to root, and then back again, but you don’t need to use greening pins if you don’t want to. However, after the box is fully rooted and you want to hang it up on a wall, then you might want to check to see if any of the succulents have been less than fully rooted at that point at which time you may want to use some greening pins yourself to help keep the loose succulents from falling out.


Succulent Wall Panels


Rikki builds our custom succulent wall panels using a LOT of Sempervivums. And then I asked her to look up and took a 2nd picture.


You can see her face!

Succulent Wall Panels


We plant these succulent wall panels 2 to 3 months in advance. We used succulent cuttings in a bed of moss within the wood frame. These were planted in September.

Then we set them flat for 2 months to make sure they’re fully rooted. Which they are! Then the plants start growing. Which they have! These plants are huge in these frames right now.

Then I photograph them in full color and full sun. Nice!

The final step is to use various and sundry photo filters to get just the right effect to increase your enjoyment to 11. Finally I apply the b/w filter, and… Huzzah! You take the last of the 3 final steps and place your daily succulent enjoyment in my capable hands.

September 2021

US Constitution


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