"…and That's OK"

Dear Peter,
Hello. My name is Brian, and we met today as I bought an aloe plant at the register. While I was there, I asked you about my sansevieria plant’s health.

Sansevieria

Attached is a picture of my plant currently. I water this plant every four weeks/month. When I feel the new leaves, they feel kind of soft and not very turgid. So, I would like some advice about what to do to make my sansevieria better. Thanks, and I hope to hear from you soon.
Sincerely,
Brian

Brian,

Your Sansevieria looks OK. Overall it probably wants more sun, or some sun, but they are very resilient for a few years with very low light levels. If you were to give it more sun then you might want to water a bit more often.

I think the plant will just look like this in these conditions, and that’s OK.

Peter

70+ Years From Now

Dear team,
I would like to plant three Dasylirion Wheeleri in my garden. However, could you comment on their lifespan? can they live longer than 70 years?

Thank you,
Matt

Dasylirion are long lived, will grow a trunk and all, but I do not know if they live 70+ years – you can check with a botanic garden to see if they have any that are that old.

Peter

A Cactus Flower

Hi Peter – any help identifying this cactus would be much appreciated; we’ve had it for so long and it is finally blooming after a good cold rest last winter. Thanks!

parodia ottonis

-Marion

Marion,
The lovely blooming cactus is a Parodia ottonis. It’s probably time to repot into a larger pot.

Nice!

Peter

A Call for Help

Hi Peter, Here are the pictures of the cactus I called you about on Monday, I will call you later this afternoon.

Thank you
Peggy

Peggy,
Your cactus is a Cereus, and it has a virus. Because it is so severe, it
does not look like your plant is savable. We recommend tossing it.
Quick, before the virus spreads. Do not put another cactus in that
location. Dispose of the pot. Hopefully it hasn’t already spread.
Sorry I don’t have better news,
Peter

Follow Up: Peggy hired us to come and remove the plant. In person, it was no better. Unfortunately the cactus was not savable. We were hired to remove the plant, and the pieces went straight to the dump. Oy, that was a virus.

A Euphorbia Grows in Kansas City

Hello!

I live in kansas city and was gifted this beauty for mothers day.. I want to take the best care possible of this gorgeous cactus! Our home has tons of natural light and we were told by the nursery we purchased it from that the spot we have it in is a good one even though it doesn’t received direct sun. I’m terrified of under/over watering. With a plant this size, how often should I be watering , and when I do, how much should I give? Do I fertilize? It’s about 8 ft tall. Thank you for your expertise.. Love your blog!

euphorbia ammak

Gina

Gina,

That’s quite large! In general I would recommend some direcgt sun, though these Euphorbias can sometimes handle a bright room with no direct light, but it’s tricky.

Basically, with lower light levels you want to water less. A lot less. I would try starting with watering every 2 months – try to soak the soil as much as possible without the plant sitting in water. I would fertilize just a little bit once per year in the spring. You want to slow down its growth so it doesn’t grow more than 2 or 3 inches in a year.

However it would be best if you can move it to where it gets some directct sun and then you can water more often.

Peter

Abnormally Shaped Rebutia

Hi,

I bought a Rebutia krainziana cactus from a plant show in San Francisco last spring. At the time I bought it, the cactus looked as it should; short, round, plump, spiral pattern of spines, and was blooming. I decided to keep this cactus on my work cubicle, which is next to a window. However, over the summer the cactus grew to be an irregular shape…it’s now very tall (10cm), and cone shaped. The top of the plant is very narrow, and it slowly starts to round/plump out towards the lower half of the plant. The spines are also no longer arranged in a spiral shape and are not fully formed (there are very few actual spines in the white spots on the upper half of the plant). Other than the abnormal shape of the cactus, it looks perfectly healthy. I’m just wondering what’s going on with the plant, and if there is anything I can do to get it back to its original round, plump shape. Could lighting be an issue?

Thanks!
~Kristen

It sounds like it is not getting enough light. Can you send a photo or
bring it by the nursery? Anyway, try getting it a minimum of 4 hours
direct sun, or adding a full spectrum light bulb within 12″ of the
plant.

Peter

Hi Peter,

Per your request, attached is a picture of my Rebutia. Would it be okay to keep my cactus outdoors (I live near ocean beach in San Francisco), or is San Fran weather too cold for it?

~Kristen

Kristen,
That is an extreme case of not enough light. Quite the interesting shape!
It can survive just fine outside in SF, but it would do better in a terra cotta pot with a fast draining cactus soil, and no saucer – you never want it sitting in water.

When you bring it out into the sun, it will need to be “hardened off” which means giving it progressively more light over a couple weeks, and not putting it straight into full sun.

Peter

Acacia? or Euphorbia? Maybe Chorisia?

Mark writes in with a quick photoshop of his front yard wanting a plant for a hole in front of his window.

Hello Folks at Cactus Jungle.

I recently pulled a huge bush/tree thing I hated out of my front yard and have been in search of a good replacement. (I’m actually in a hurry to find something new because it left my entire living room exposed to the street traffic — poor planning, I know.) One plant I was considering for a replacement is an acacia, specifically an acacia baileyana ‘purpurea’ and was wondering if you had any thoughts. If you had positive feedback on that choice, is there any possibility you have them in stock? (I realize it’s not a succulent…)

The reason I pulled what was there before (an Angel’s Trumpet), was because it was really messy — dropping leaves all over my cactus and succulents below. And I wanted something more colorful that would also complement the colors of the house. (Below is an embarrassingly unprofessional Photoshop’d exploration of what it might look like.) But I am certainly open to other suggestions, if you had any.

Pluses would be drought tolerance, not too many dropped leaves or berries, grows quickly but not too large (I do plan to prune though), enough foliage to create a visual barrier, but still let some light into the front of my house. Sculptural is always nice too. Originally I was jones-ing for a beautiful, giant euphorbia. But I know it would cost a bazillion dollars and might not serve as a good screen from the traffic.

As I’m writing this I worry it might be sound like I’m asking for free design advice. But I trust you’d say so if it felt that way to you.

Thanks for any input.

P.S. Speaking of huge euphorbia (I saw your recent blog entry about it), I have to remember to send you photos of ones I saw in Southern Africa recently. Enormous giants! (Wait, that’s redundant, isn’t it.) Massive. And all over the place. And in bloom.

Mark

Now we do have the Purple Acacia in stock, so maybe he’ll get that and all will be good, but if you have any other suggestions for Mark, let us know right away!

According to Google News

Q: I have a lovely cactus that my boyfriend gave me. It is a tall, columnlike cactus that at times has a crown of flowers. It was doing very well in my old …

The Forum of Fargo-Moorehead has a question. I presume they have a completed question and an answer to go with it, but I can’t find out since I’m not a subscriber. All I get is this first sentence. Harsh. But then, that’s ND for you.

I think blogging is taking its toll on my sanity. For years when I couldn’t get a full article, I would just ignore it. But now here I am quoting the first sentence and letting the whole thing hang. Maybe I’m getting lazy, or senile, or petulant. I like petulant.

Aeonium Bloom Season

We often get asked questions about these giant blooming stalks. The news isn’t good.

I bought a small aeonium from you guys a long while back. It now is flowering and I just read that you said it would die after flowering. Should I cut the branch off below the flowering large branch now? thanks RoseAnn

RoseAnn,

Aeoniums are “almost” monocarpic, the rosette that blooms, certainly dies after flowering and the plant uses a lot of resources to “get frisky”. So I generally cut the bloom off when the first of the flowers open and use it as a cut flower, it actually can last over a month in bloom if you change the water regularly. You can let it bloom out on the plant as long as there are other rosettes on the plant, but it will struggle if it sets seed.

Take care,

Hap

Thanks Hap. Will the other rosettes on the plant die along with it?

RoseAnn,

Usually the other rosettes survive, but they seem to sulk for awhile before showing normal vigor again. I assume the flowering and seed making hormones suppress their metabolism and active growth. So they can look pretty ratty for a year afterwards.

Hap

And just for fun here’s one of our Aeonium “Cyclops” going through the whole bloom cycle thing. I think it’s time to cut cut cut it’s head off.

That’s a lot of little yellow flowers.

Aeonium Cyclops flowering

Aeonium Cyclops flower

Aeonium Cyclops flowering

Hi

I think I know the answer to this but thought I’d ask anyway. Is there anything I can do propagation-wise with the flower?

Aeonium Cyclops edit

Thanks –
Karen

Karen,

Sorry but there’s not much you can do with that once it starts blooming. If there were other branches going, you could cut off the flowering one and the others would have a better chance of survival. You can still cut it off and it’s possible you would get branches from the cut end, but Cyclops is not a prolific brancher, so you might be better off just enjoying the bloom stalk.

Peter

Aeonium Down

Hi Guys,
Timber! It just fell over from one day to the next. I guess it got too heavy for its stalk? Now what? Any tips on how to save it, and/or move it to a new container or directly into the ground?

Thank you!
Kelly

Kelly,

Ouch! You have a couple choices: Repot in a larger container and plant deeper, with several inches of the stem under fresh cactus/succulent soil, (do the same in the ground) or cut it off and try and re-root it, though it is late in the season to root winter growers like Aeonium (they root best in fall and winter since they are actively growing, this time of year they are starting to shut down for their normal summer dormancy period), but you should be able to as long as you place it somewhere with afternoon shade so it only gets four to six hours of sunlight (you need to confuse it so it doesn’t go dormant while it is trying to root. The stump left behind may or may not resprout.

Good luck,

Hap

Aeonium Leaves

HELP
I bought this beauty a month ago, now seeming healthy leaves are falling off. I’m in Sacramento, hasn’t been that hot, it’s getting bright light, but not direct sun, heat here 70-90. Is this dormancy? Is it too hot?

aeonium

Still looks healthy on top yellow flower, it’s the two smaller bottom flowers that are lighter that the leaves are falling. Are they just too sensitive to heat? suggestions appreciated. It’s the nicest one I have.
Rick

Rick,
Aeoniums are winter growers and do go dormant in the summer, losing bottom leaves. However usually those leaves dry up first before falling off. I suspect that with dormancy and the difference in climate between Berkeley and Sacramento that more leaves have dropped off in response. The plant looks like it should be fine. Do not respond to this with extra water. Keep it in a cooler shady location for now. You won’t see new growth until November or so when it comes out of dormancy.
Peter

Aeonium Problem

Hi-

Several years ago, I purchased the succulents in the attached photos from you, and they’ve done beautifully. These plants are on the patio in the full sun – and cold temperatures.  They flank patio steps – one on each side. This past winter, one survived and is doing well, and the other looks terrible, yet has new growth at the base and a bloom and some new growth emerging from what appears to be dead stalks.  Here are photo descriptions:

_MG_0483

IMG_483 = Healthy Planting

_MG_0485

IMG_485 =Nearly all dead (freeze) Planting. Note new growth and Blossom

My questions are:

  • Given the new growth, should I do any trimming back of dead growth or just allow the new growth to continue?  I feel no trimming will leave it leggy and very different from the other one in appearance, size, etc.
  • What is this plant’s name?
  • Is it still correct to cut the stalky blooms once they’ve been around a while?
  • Thank you!

    Lynn S.
    Alamo

    Lynn,
    First, what a lovely and happy Aeonium c.v. “Whippet” you have in the first photo.

    OK, on to the 2nd plant. Aeoniums can be frost sensitive, and we had a hard freeze this past winter, so it looks like it took damage then. The good news is that the plant is still alive, and has already started growing out of the damage. However, the rest of the plant is dead, and can be trimmed back whenever you’d like, now that spring has arrived. After all the cut branches have healed over, you may want to replant it into a smaller pot for it to grow back.

    If you’re unsure about how much to cut, you can always bring it in to the nursery and we can trim it back for you.

    Peter

    Aeonium Questions

    I’m wondering why the succulents on this plant have gotten so small in size…the pant used to produce very large “blooms”….

    Any idea?
    Thank you
    Brian

    Brian,

    What you have on the ends of each branch is a rosette, not a bloom – if they bloom they will form giant pyramids of small yellow flowers. It’s kind of surprising when it happens.

    Anyway, the rosettes shrink up in summer because the Aeoniums are winter-growers from a Mediterranean climate with a climate very similar to ours – all winter rains. They should start getting bigger again in October.

    Peter

     

    Aeonium Questions

    Howdy cactus jungle,
    My crested aeonium has developed some brown spots on its leaves, but everything else seems fine. There’s even healthy looking new growth/rosettes. Should I be concerned? Should I give it a neem oil treatment?

    Thanks for any advice you can give,
    Tony

    Tony,
    I wouldn’t be too concerned since the new growth looks good. It was probably freeze damage or hail damage. On the other hand, it could be mites. Check for tiny insects, for barely visible webbing. If it’s mites then it does need to be treated with neem oil.
    Peter

    Aeoniums! Aeoniums!

    Hello,

    Attached are two pictures of a plant in the garden in front of my townhouse. Having a few problems and really don’t know what to do. Don’t know if they are getting to much water, not enough water, or to much sun. The garden has sun in the morning for about 4 – 6 hours depending on the time of year. The garden was planted around August 2006.

    Plants 009

    What are you suggestions?

    Thanks for your assistance.
    Sarah

    Sarah,

    Your Aeonium is still doing fine – it bloomed! These Aeoniums will put a lot of energy into the bloom spikes, and then that particular branch will die off. So you can go ahead and cut back that branch as far down as you like. In the future, if you cut it off before the blooms get too far, you can sometimes save the branch.

    Aerial Roots

    Hello,

    I have a lovely little potted succelent (an echeveria, I believe) that I purchased from you some time ago and it has started to behave oddly. The best way I could describe it is to say it has started “rooting”. Or rather one limb has been sending out root-like shoots for a month or so. At first I thought it would stop when it failed to find land or water to “root into” but it has persisted. I’ve attached photos in order to clarify my poor attempts at describing this. You’ll notice it is only one segment of the plant that is doing this, the other is acting quite normally.

    echeverria_roots

    My question: Is the plant begging to be repotted? And if so, should I separate the rooting segment from the main one and transplant it? Or should I just leave it be?

    Thanks very much!
    Ally

    Ally,

    Your plant is sending out a huge number of aerial roots! Odd, perhaps that side of the plant is more humid than the other?. just kidding. Basically you can do any of the options you asked about. If you repot it will get bigger faster, or cut off the root crazed part, let it sit a few days and then pot up in a new pot in dry-ish cactus-succulent soil and don’t water for a week or two. If the roots bother you in a freakish alien sort of way… you can also just cut them off. It won’t hurt the plant.

    Take care,

    Hap

    Agave americana

    I’ve been getting tired of people asking for help without thanking us, or even signing their emails. This one, for instance. Hap is more forgiving and will respond by adding the persons email address as the greeting. So I’ve decided to be the email manners police and will be adding proper thank you’s and signatures to their email to us as if they had written it themselves – see below.

    Hi. We’ve recently acquired some cactus babies from our neighbors mothering plant. Unfortunately they do not know what cactus plant it is, considering they just recently moved, but they told us we could have the little ones around it. We took some of the little ones.

    We were wondering if perhaps you could help identify them.

    [Thank you for your help,
    chickadeesan]

    Dear chickadeesan,

    You have babies of Agave americana. This is one of the classic large agave that eventually can be eight to ten feet tall and twelve feet in diameter, so make sure to plan accordingly. They can of course be kept smaller by keeping them potted or using bamboo barrier in the ground to sort of bonsai them…

    These are nice century plants, just make sure to wash your hands if you get their sap on you, it can cause a rash. Agave are sort of toxic until they are fire roasted for either agave syrup or making mescal and tequila.

    Take care,

    Hap

    Agave ID

    Hi again…. Is this a colorata? They only grow about this big as adults, these were pups from the mother plant…. Jay

    photo

    Jay,

    That looks like it is a lovely pile of Agave parryi v. truncata! Agave colorata is similar but a bit more toothy and mean…

    Hap

    Agave Love

    Hello!

    Love your website, can hardly wait to come into store!

    We are trying to figure out what the plants are called surrounding the trees in the attached picture!

    image

    Do you carry these plants?

    Thanks a lot,

    Danielle

    Danielle,

    Those are Agave “Blue Glow” and we do carry them and have them in stock in a number of sizes!

    Peter

    Agave Question

    I purchased this lovely little variegated agave (Tag just said Agave ‘mediovariegata’) on a recent trip to California. One pup was visible at the soil surface. When I pulled it out of the pot, I found half a dozen more pups trying to grow out the drainage holes (see attached photo). How is best to handle the subterranean ones? Can I separate them now, or should I put it in a bigger pot and let them make their own way to the surface?

    agave mediopicta

    Much thanks,
    Joseph

    Joseph,

    The name is Agave medio-picta “Alba” and it will eventually get 6 ft. across. Congratulations on all the hidden babies. You can go ahead and separate them all now if you want, and get each pup into its own pot with a fast draining cactus soil. Gently pull them off, and they should separate without needing to cut.

    Peter

    Agave Question

    Sometimes people are so quick to send us a question they forget to tell us who they are, or where they are. In general, it’s always nice to see a question signed by a person so we know it’s not a bot.

    Not sure why it looks like this. In raised pots, we do get frost on occasion, maybe too much/little water?

    Any advice?

    In general succulents do lose bottom leaves, so as long as there are new leaves growing in the center its not really a problem. However it does like like it might have been some freeze damage, so maybe next year if you’re going to get a freeze you could cover it with a frost blanket.

    Peter

    Agave Questions, Answered

    Maryann with the Marin Independent Journal wants to know about all the agaves blooming all at once all over Marin. Interesting!

    • I read that the American agaves really do die after blooming – but live on through their offspring. Is that so?

    Yes, if they’ve had the offspring by then. Also, the giant bloom stalks are filled with hundreds of blooms which can be pollinated and develop seed and spread thousands of seed in every direction.

    • Do you know how long the current blooms will last?

    It can take 4-6 months for the full bloom cycle

    • Could the large number of blooms be attributed to the heavy rains we witnessed this year?

    It can be because they were popular to plant 25-30 years ago, or it can be caused by stress as well, which can be the aftermath of the drought, and even the heavy rains this winter.

    • If they really make mezcal from the plant, can I do that at home? 😉

    It would be difficult, to say the least. Once they’ve bloomed it’s too late, but if you want to make mezcal from an agave you need to cut all those giant spiny leaves off and harvest just the heart of the plant. That’s a lot of work!

    Agaves in Winter – The Questioning

    We bought some black bamboo about a year ago from you guys. They are doing great and wow does it grow fast!

    I had a question about an agave that we’ve had a little while longer. It has been sporting these little yellowish spots on it lately and they seem to be multiplying. We’ve been watering it about once a month over the winter. This one and another one we bought are the first we’ve owned so I’m not quite sure what its ailment might be. (the other one seems fine aside from re-potting shock it endured a little while back)

    agave attenuata

    Is this indicative of something wrong? Pic is attached. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated!

    -Jared

    Jared,
    It looks like your Agave attenuata has taken some winter damage from the freeze we had in January. Over time these damaged leaves will die off and be replaced by new leaves that will come out of the center of the plant. In the meantime there’s not a lot you need to or can do.
    Peter

    Aguascalientes

    Hello,
    May I ask the help of your expertise?

    unknownopuntia2

    I am told this is a “Burbank Spineless” variety developed especially to feed cattle. But it has a serrated edge and a particularly interesting veining pattern in relief on the pads that I have never seen on any Opuntia. It does bloom yellow.

    Thanks for your time,
    John

    John,

    It looks to me that is most likely not one of the Luther Burbank clones, but is Opuntia undulata. A variable species from Mexico (probably Aguascalientes). In habitat it is said to get 10 feet tall. Here in Berkeley, it rarely gets over four feet tall, but I have only been growing it for about three years so maybe someday it will pile up that high…

    Great plant, the young pads are great nopals and the fruit is tasty too.

    Take care,

    Hap

    Aloe Cuttings

    A long letter…

    Dear Hap and Peter,

    I’ve come across your blog and a few others while researching what I have done wrong with my aloe plants. It is very nice of you to answer all those questions. I was hoping you could help me please. Also, please bear with me, this e-mail might have a lot of wording, I’m told I’m long winded…

    I have quite a few aloe plants that we’re originally my grandmother’s. Once a year or so my grandfather would give them to me to separate the baby aloes and re-pot them. They always did very well. Now I have them, and the year before last I had no problems with them. I wintered them in front of a patio door that faces east and didn’t water them but once over that time. After the last threat of frost I would put them on our deck which is under a large maple and they would get dappled light and indirect rainwater all summer long until the fall.

    We’ll pause here. Click through for more… Read More…

    Aloe Ferox Bloomed Out

    Hi Hap,

    Please find below photos of my Ferox we discussed yesterday. 2-3 leaves on the back side are covered with black/grayish stains. Are these something to be worried about?

    100_2681

    Thanks for taking the time to respond.

    Best,
    Faraz

    Faraz,

    It looks more like sunburn damage… than freeze damage. Is it on the side facing the house?

    Hap

    Hi Hap,

    Actually, that Ferox was recently planted; the markings were on it when I bought it. I just positioned the plant so the bad leaves would not be visible from the front.

    Best,
    Faraz

    Faraz,

    It is likely abrasion or sunburn from being turned after shipment, which can happen when the north side leaves get turned to face south, they just do not have much resistance to UV.

    Hap

    Aloe ID

    Hi there, I was told to email you for an ID of this big boy. My awful neighbor tore this beauty out of the ground….is it a ferox, or something else? I don’t see the little red pimples on the backs of the leaves like ferox usually has….

    download

    Thanks for any help you can give with it’s ID.

    Jay

    I am still trying to make up my mind, it is hard to tell scale in the photo, is as big as it looks? It is not Aloe ferox, I have a feeling it might be a hybrid, or perhaps your photo is off color on my computer? If it was bluer looking, I would say it is Aloe speciosa, but being so green and upright it looks more like Aloe cryptapoda, but they do not usually get stems, but stay on the ground. I think I may need to sleep on that one…

    Hap

    Aloe ID – Any Suggestions?

    Hi there, I was told to email you for an ID of this big boy. My awful neighbor tore this beauty out of the ground….is it a ferox, or something else? I don’t see the little red pimples on the backs of the leaves like ferox usually has…. Thanks for any help you can give with it’s ID.

    photo

    Jay

    Jay,

    I have decided it is most likely an Aloe salm-dyckiana, which seems to be a naturally occurring hybrid between A. ferox and A. arborescens. There are a couple of other options… but until it blooms, and even then, it will be hard to tell. If you can send a few more photos with close-ups of the top and bottom of leaves I will ponder it some more.

    Cool plant!

    Hap

    Aloe polyphylla

    I have a spiral aloe that I got from you guys (plus another larger one I already had) and they both need transplanting. So I have a couple of questions:

    1) What is the best time(s) of the year to transplant?

    2) What is the best way to transplant these to cause the least amount of damage to the leaves/plant (the larger one seems like it’s going to be tricky to get out)?

    3) Are there any issues to watch out for when transplanting the spiral aloe?

    Thanks!
    ————————
    Jason

    Jason,

    1) Spring-Summer, you want warm soil for the roots to heal and get established in….

    2) Smash the pots, that way you are handling it by the root mass and not the fragile leaves.

    3) Do not water for a week or two after transplant so the injured roots are not a vector for infection.

    Take care,

    Hap

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