Tuna City

Ever wonder how to prepare cactus fruit? I found this article from the San Francisco Chronicle’s archives, 5 years ago.

Tasty cactus pears keep fans a-prickle


It’s a good idea to process the fruit outdoors. Slit the top across but not completely off. Cut parallel incisions into the skin lengthwise, taking care not to cut into the flesh, then pry apart the skin and reach fingers in to pull out the fruit. Photo, 2001, by Catherine Yoshii

That picture is the key to the whole operation – it really explains it all. Now if they would just do an article about mangos.

More Drought Tolerant Gardening

The Examiner, whatever that is, has a nice article about lowering your water usage. This is a nice complement to this morning’s article about drought tolerant plants.

Cactus and succulent gardens, when thoughtfully designed with paths, boulders, rocks, even sculptures, can become a maze of fascinating texture and color, created in diverse scenes. California natives can be selected to be as ornamental as any other flowering plant….

So, now’s the time to do a little research into drought tolerant landscaping. Don’t be limited by preconceived ideas.

I always say read 2 articles before making all your decisions. Now you have the 2 articles at your fingertips.

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 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.

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.


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.

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.

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.

Cactus News

Not much going on in the news. People are focused on other things this time of year. Maybe a christmas cactus or two, but that’s about it. Well, let’s look a little deeper and see if we can’t find something in news.

Well, now this is interesting. Giant Jeans Parlor has turned a breadpan into a succulent trough. I’ll bet they drilled holes in the bottom, and then you’ll never be able to use it for bread again. They do have instructions along with this nice picture I’m borrowing:

Now it looks like they have an Aloe, a Anacampseros, and a Fenestraria (aka Baby Toes) in there. I’d worry about the baby toes getting too much water, but with a little careful care, it should do well.

They Get Questions

From Athens, Georgia they get questions about growing cactus from cuttings.

I have some cactus growing in my yard and I would like to propagate it so I can have it in other parts of my yard. When would be the best time to do this and how?

– Lauren M., Watkinsville

I am guessing that you have some sort of prickly pear cactus in your yard. The best time to propagate this cactus would be in the spring when the plant is actively growing. Your cactus is probably going semi dormant with cold weather approaching. In the spring, use a sharp knife and cut off whole individual pads at the node (where the pads meet). Place these cuttings in a dry, shady area for one to two days to allow the cut to heal or scab over. Once, the cut has healed, place the cut end in shallow soil or sand for rooting. Make sure the soil does not stay too wet or the cactus will rot. It could take several weeks to a couple months to establish a healthy root system. Once the pad has rooted, dig it up and move to the desired sunny area in your yard and enjoy.

What to Plant In Winter

It’s getting a bit late in the year to be planting cactus in the ground. So what now? What can you do? Why you can plant them in indoor containers, that’s what you can do.

Container cactus gardens allow homeowners… to have the pleasure of a small piece of the desert up close…

Several key elements are required to create a successful succulent or cacti container….

(D)esign is probably the most important element in creating a beautiful container.

Oh that is so true. For instance, if you choose a cheap red container from Ikea and a cheap plastic cactus from Home Depot and some cheap plastic rocks from Walmart, well then you have come up with a bad design scheme and should not be let anywhere near a container.

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.

Now is the Time for All Good Xmas Cactus to Go Dark

The secret to getting your Christmas Cactus to bloom around christmas time is to get them some darkness – right now.

The classic Schlumbergera orssichiana x truncata will bloom for up to 2 months, and needs bright indirect light, dappled sunshine being best. But here’s the secret:

1. August, September: Use bloom food every time you water

2. September and October: 14 hours of darkness, with 8-10 hours of indirect light every day

3. November and December: bring out to bright indirect light and watch it bloom!

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.


Adorable Diorama Gardens Made Easy

Debra Lee Baldwin’s column in the LA Times features “ANNA GOESER’S process for creating the retro container gardens she calls Mojave bonsai.” She has a step by step procedure laid out for you to create adorable dioramas.

I’m telling you, it’s so easy, even you could try it out. And send me your photos of the finished product, please, since I’m too busy to try it myself right now. Maybe around the holidays…

Here’s an example of one of the steps, so you can see for yourself how easy it is.

4. Buy three to five small cactuses. Leaving them in their pots, arrange the cactuses as you like. To make the plants appear larger — as in a perspective drawing — position them toward the back of the scene you are creating, so there is ample foreground.

And I like this one too:

7. Position accessories to suggest a desert experience, such as a car trip.

Nice. The full article is here, and the instructions are here.

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.


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…

Succulents Here and There

It’s a Succulent Topiary from Gardening Fantasies. What’s not to like?

Now, do I have the ability to leave the blog entry that short, and to the point, without writing any commentary? Only time will tell…

Digestible Facts

The Amateur’s Digest has some interesting information about cacti and succulents. For instance, here we have an article about Ceraria namaquensis, a plant that we grow but have had trouble rooting, and right there is some advice that we might have to try out.

This year I have been using commercial peat blocks for rooting more difficult items such as rarer euphorbias, Madagascan thorn bushes and stems of Pachypodium succulentum. While I was at it I put some of the ‘unrootable’ stems of C. namaquensis into the blocks. The cuttings survived well in the moist peat blocks and after about three months began to root and grow.

We’ll see.

Link via Turn Your Thumb Green.

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.

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.

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.”

Mealy Bugs

The <a href="https://cactusjungle.com/archives/blog/exit.php?url_id=1817&amp;entry_id=1637" title="http://www.southernillinoisan.com/articles/2008/01/25/lifestyles/at_home/23065949.txt" onmouseover="window.status=’http://www.southernillinoisan.com/articles/2008/01/25/lifestyles/at_home/23065949.txt’;return true;" onmouseout="window.status=”;return true;">University of Illinois</a> has a good resource for mealy bug infestations in your home.<br /><br /><div style="margin-left: 40px;"><span style="font-style: italic;">Small plants with light infestations may be successfully treated by dabbing each mealybug with a cotton swab dipped in rubbing alcohol….<br />
<br />
Spraying infested plants with an insecticide is also effective. Treat the plants every 10 to 14 days for two to three months….<br />
<br />
Plants that grow in loose soil, such as cacti and other succulents, should also be checked for soil mealybugs on the roots and underground stems. Treat root infestations every two weeks for two months….<br />
<br />
An insecticidal soap will also help control mealybugs.</span><br /></div><br />Insecticidal soap is good. For a general purpose insecticide that is safe for cacti and succulents we prefer 100% Neem Oil.<br /><br />

Build a Skylight for your Cactus

<a href="https://cactusjungle.com/archives/blog/exit.php?url_id=1812&amp;entry_id=1631" title="http://www.homebysunset.com/home_by_sunset/2008/01/get-more-than-s.html" onmouseover="window.status=’http://www.homebysunset.com/home_by_sunset/2008/01/get-more-than-s.html’;return true;" onmouseout="window.status=”;return true;">Sunset Magazine</a> traveled to San Francisco to help a homeowner build a light well for a cactus, becuase you know, there’s never enough sun in the city and light wells will help your cactus to thrive. If you can afford the $7200, I say it is a wise investment for your cactus.<br /><br /><div style="margin-left: 40px;"><span style="font-style: italic;">It took $7,200 and about 10 full days to complete. Although the cost was high, the rewards are great….<br />
<br />
A handmade bench serves as a… place to sit and admire the… cactus, and assorted succulents.</span><br /></div><br />I may have edited that one a bit much. But you’ll never know unless you click through the link.<br /><br />

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 />

Window Boxes

There’s an article about window boxes on a site that has articles, called Article Publishing. I don’t know what this site is about, but the article is about <a href="https://cactusjungle.com/archives/blog/exit.php?url_id=1686&amp;entry_id=1487" title="http://www.content4reprint.com/home/gardening/ideal-plants-to-make-an-amazing-display-in-window-boxes.htm" onmouseover="window.status=’http://www.content4reprint.com/home/gardening/ideal-plants-to-make-an-amazing-display-in-window-boxes.htm’;return true;" onmouseout="window.status=”;return true;">window boxes.</a><br /><br /><div style="margin-left: 40px;"><span style="font-style: italic;">Cacti<br />
<br />
In hot climates with little rainfall, cacti and succulents can be the answer. They can be grown, too, in other areas, particularly by gardeners who like to travel without worrying about the container plants they leave behind. Foliage patterns and forms of these plants are fascinating, and many extraordinary compositions can be achieved.</span><br /></div><br />Well, that just about says it all. I have nothing more to add to that fine how-to article. Except that we like wood windows, and wood window boxes too. That seems like a nice little addition to that article. But that’s all, nothing more. It is otherwise a very complete recitation of the window box how-to facts.<br /><br />

October 2023

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