Hi, I had questions several years ago about my Cereus Monstrose and you helped me then, so I hope you can help me now. My Cereus is quite large, over five feet. It has developed black spots on it which I am afraid are parasites of some kind. The first of these spots occurred last year and someone at the Jungle recommended putting Neem oil on them. This is not working. I cut a black spot out and the area turned black What should I do? I am very attached to this plant and I do not want to lose it. Do you make house calls?
It looks like the cactus has an infection, which is causing the rot spots. Probably viral which is difficult to treat. You treat with cleaning out the infected spots and sterilizing with hydrogen peroxide, and feeding the whole plant with kelp and neem.
We do housecalls, and if you would like we can come out and treat the plant for you. Please understand there is no guarantee we can stop the infection.
Here are the three different types of plants my wife and I own. We are tryin to take care of them as besdt as possible, but were not sure exactly what to do. I know that one of them is an alo plant but i dont kno if its dying cause its starting to brown, and the one cactus is a mamillaria type cactus. do you have any tips or helpful instructions on how to take care of them?? we are trying to get help on identifying the flower shaped cactus.
First, the pink succulent is an Echeveria “Metallica”. Second, It’s hard to tell from the photo if there is anything wrong with the Aloe.
For general advice, the Mammillaria wants a minimum of 4 hours of direct afternoon sun and should be watered about every 3 weeks – a little more when it is hot in the summer, and less in winter.
The Aloe would like about 2 to 4 hours of morning sun, and the Echeveria wants almost as much sun as the cactus. For the 2 succulents, you should water every 2 weeks, and again a little more when it’s hot in the summer and less in winter.
All 3 plants should be in a fast draining cactus soil, and from the photos it looks like there is too much forest product in your soil, so you may want to repot them into a better draining cactus soil.
When watering go ahead and drench the soil and let it drain away, never letting them sit in water.
Every bit of advice you’ve given me has been so spot on,
now I’m having a problem that is making me so mad.
They are farmed by my many many ant colonies in the yard,
and every time any of my succulents produces a flower,
BAM! Black aphids cover it, and I just clip it off,
because it’s so nasty. Even my giant Kniphofia flower stalks are not immune.
What would be a good plan of attack so I can enjoy my succulent flowers
for awhile before the black aphid plague descends down upon them?
Thanks so much.
PS. Your advice on Sluggo was great.
I have to reapply often, but the snails got the message.
Stay away from my succulents!
With Aphids on succulents you have a couple of choices:
Hose them off the blooms with a soft spray of water, being soft bodied insects they are easy to dislodge and then you can really blast them when they hit the ground. Think Aphid soup! I usually hold the bloom stalk with one hand and spray with the other. It is sort of messy, but usually works.
Use insecticidal soap, and then after they are dead you still have to wash them off, since they die in place, still piercing the plant with their vampire bites, their zombie bodies are still annoying. But the soap usually leaves eggs unharmed so you may need to retreat before the blooms are done.
Use a more aggressive insecticide like Pyrethrin which will kill them and most of the eggs, but is absorbable by you… so use with care and caution!
Of course as you know they are farmed like dairy cows by the ants, so you also need to work at knocking down the ant population which with the Argentine Ant Super Colony that is eating California will be difficult, try adding some ant treatments around the succulents as well.
I hope you and Hap are both doing well and business good. I need some help with an offspring of our large Opuntia which has a white spoor like growth on it. The plant doesn’t seem to be hurt by it at all, but none the less I wanted to know what it is and what to do about it. Let me know if you have any knowledge or advice. As we need some small items I hope we can get up your way soon.
The Opuntia has a bad infestation of Scale Insects. They are sort of Limpet-like vampires of the pest world. You should be able to get rid of them, but it will take a bit of work. First, spray the branch down with straight rubbing alcohol (or Vodka) and then loosen them with an old paint brush, the alcohol will dissolve the shellack they coat themselves with when they glue down as adults. After doing what you can with the alcohol and paint brush, rinse with a “stern” jet of water from the hose, this will help blast off more them. Follow up with a good spray of Neem Oil at 1-2% solution, you can get this at any good nursery, as it is used on Roses as a natural insecticide and fungicide. Respray with Neem after a week at least three times to break the life-cycle of any hold outs or eggs that survive. Make sure to spray the Neem in the evening and not during the hot sun, as the oil needs time to disperse as to not cause burning of the plant. You should also fertilize that plant and give it an extra drink to boost it’s natural immunities.
I am a subcriber to your newsletter and was refferred to you by a friend. She told me that if I email you a photo of a plant, that you would be able to identify it. Can you please help me identify this cactus and Please tell me what I need to do to make it green and healthy as it has been showing clorosis (yellowing) for sometime now. I rescued it off the street corner as someone was throwing it away. I have repotted it with cactus soil mix about 4 months ago.
Any info, would be greatly appreciated.
You have a Cereus peruvianus and as you say, it’s clear that you have “rescued” it. We use slow release organic nutrients (we sell our own mix, too), so if you haven’t fertilized yet, now would be a good time. (If you’ve used something stronger, that can possibly be a cause of the yellowing.) When our cactus look yellow after the winter, we also will add Kelp Meal.
I have several echeveria and graptoveria which I bought from you and have just finished planting in my new garden. They look so much alike that I’m wondering what is the difference(s) between them, especially differences in what the mature plants will look like. (I was hoping for flat to the ground hen and chicks appearance, but perhaps I won’t be getting that?)
It depends which species you have, but generally the echeverias are the hen and chick style, stemless and on the ground, while the graptoveria do sometimes get a trailing stem. If you send me photos, I can confirm what your individual species will do.
HI, I was wondering if you could tell me what kind of plant this is, and if it is unusual for it’s size. It was growing for some time then this tree like appendage came shooting out of it. It is well over the top of our 1 story home. Easily close to 2 stories high. Picture is included. Thanks for your response.
Your plant is an Agave that it is starting to bloom. It looks like it is an Agave americana or “Century Plant”. The blooms will open soon and look amazing, the stalk will eventually (over the next year or two…) dry out and be a sculptural corpse… Agave bloom stalks were often used as alien trees in old science fiction films. Agaves grow for a long time (but not really for a century) and then bloom and die. However there should be “Pups” or baby plants around the base of the blooming mother plant that will repeat the cycle, as Agave have a habit of cloning themselves before trying to do “sexual reproduction”. If there is another Agave bloom in you area and you have Agave moths, you might even get seed pods. If not the flower stalk will sometimes try another cloning strategy and grow plantlets where the blooms are, that eventually helicopter down and root in where they land.
My son is very worried about his cactus. He has had it for about two years and it started to turn black (please see attached photos) two weeks ago. We live in Wisconsin, and his cactus receives about 8 hours of sunlight a day. Any advice would greatly appreciated.
The cactus is mutant Gymnocalycium that is grafted on top of a Hylocereus stem (the green part). It is a chimera pair so that the bottom graft can feed the top bright-colorful part that lacks chlorophyll since it was likely exposed to gamma radiation to kill the chlorophyll and bring out the wild otherworldly color. The sad reality is the mutated part is generally short-lived because it has compromised immunities and can’t build all the proteins it needs.
The black infection showing in the photos is likely a fungal infection (it could also be a virus). If it is a fungus it may respond to being treated with a fungicide. We use Neem Oil, which is usually effective, while having low (to none) toxicity issues around mammals (us, kids, pets…). Neem Oil is used in toothpaste and cosmetics. You should be able to find a ready-to-use Neem Oil product at your local nursery. Follow the directions and spray it down well. Retreat after a week. Hopefully it will stop the infection, but the top graft will always be scarred. If the infection continues the top graft may fail and turn all black; if it does cut it off and treat the green base with Neem. The Hylocereus base is actually a cool jungle cactus that can be treated more like an orchid and if it starts growing new arms it can eventually bloom and even fruit, which are those cool and tasty looking “Dragon Fruit” you might have seen at the grocery store.
Hi, we had a cactus planted in our front yard about six months ago. It’s getting browned and hard at the bottom, but not mushy (which I thought would indicate overwatering). The browning is working its way up the plant, but if it IS overwatering, of course I don’t want to continue to contribute to that problem by watering it more thinking it’s too dry.
Any suggestions!? Thanks!
It’s a little hard to tell exactly what I’m looking at there. It’s probably just barking, i.e. the plant is turning into a tree and creating a trunk at the bottom with bark. On the other hand, it could be an infection. The key question is: Is the area soft or firm? Firm is good, soft is rot and that would be bad.
If it is soft, then given the location of the rot, you probably need to cut the plant down and get rid of the root mass. You can then save the branches, let them dry in shade for a week or two, and then plant them in a fast draining cactus soil.
A warning: This is a Euphorbia and it has caustic sap. Wear protective clothing, long gloves and eye protection. Don’t get any of the milky white sap on you.
I just got back from my tour of the US,
and my buddy gave me some cow’s tongue opuntia when I was passing thru New Mexico.
I was wondering if the fruit is edible and the same as standard prickly pear.
I never see this in the Bay area, is it rare out here?
All opuntia fruit is edible, just some taste better than others, some are less spiny and easier to get at than others, and some are already bottled in fancy sweet vinegars made in Italy.
I’m heading to a wedding and would like to bring a hand-made succulent arrangement as a wedding gift. What are some succulents that can survive the lack of sun that Eugene has most of the year? Are there good resources that show which succulents would work well in that climate zone?
P.S. I’m thinking it can be an indoor arrangement to help regulate the ridiculous amount of rain it would get otherwise outside in Eugene.
The best options for low-light succulents are the Haworthias. They tend to be small, but there is a lot of variation in the look. Also, there are a number of Crassulas, green Aeoniums, and even some Aloes that can handle fairly low light levels, though not full shade. For outdoor in Eugene, there’s a book called “Hardy Succulents” that list lots of succulents and the colder zones they can handle.
I typed up a response and saved it in drafts, and now its missing, so I don’t know if you’ve already received an answer from me, but you have a lovely Mammillaria perbella. The fruit in one of the photos is edible, though tiny, and only if you haven’t used chemical insecticides. If grown outdoors, it would be way more spiny, but yours is looking great.
I had this cute lil plant that was doing just fine until a few days ago i decided to let it have some direct sun for a few days. I’ve had them in the pot for about 2 months on my back porch which gets mostly indirect light all day rather than direct blasts of sun. I haven’t watered it for at least a week and a half, if not longer.
Over the weekend, I brought it out on a little table in the backyard and it seemed fine Sat-Sun. Today was my first day in the backyard since Sunday and poor little plant- what’s happening?? It’s all yellow and limp, looking sad… Is there such a thing as too much sun? Can you help me figure out what’s going on, and if there’s something I can do to help the situation?
Your plant has a sunburn. Generally, you cannot take plants from shade or from indoor into direct sun – they need to be “hardened off” which means getting them a little sun at first, and gradually bringing them out into more sun over a week or two.
At this point, its hard to tell if they will survive, but get it out of the full sun, into a bright location, and hope for the best. It will definitely lose most of its bottom leaves, but hopefully there will soon be new growth from the tips of the plants.
I really enjoy your blog. Really getting into succulents now. Went to a garage sale a few weeks ago and bought this cactus . Could it be a rat tail?? Or an Aporophyllum??
Would appreciate any help you can give me.
It turns out your plant isn’t a cactus at all, but a stapeliad (in the asclepiad family) and the species is Huernia macrocarpa, also known as the dragon flower. Check out the cute as a button carrion flower here.
We saw Euphorbia Characias ssp. Wulfenii and Euphorbia x martini on your blog. Are they evergreen plants? Since they’re listed as perennials, we’re worried that they would die back or be half-dead in the winter. Our project is in San Jose, where winters can get down to 24 degrees F.
Both of these are hardy and evergreen in San Jose, and we do have E. martinii in stock (as well as a bunch of other evergreen spurges). We do have some other Euphorbias that are deciduous, but not these. Perennials here in California are often evergreen; we use the designation perennial (survives year after year) in distinction to annual (survives only one year), and we also refer to whether plants are evergreen or deciduous.
Actually, we don’t use the label “annual” on any of our plants, since this is California where lots of plants that are annuals elsewhere are perennials here and we choose not to grow any outdoor plants that don’t survive the winters.
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?
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.
My name is Liz and I had been looking on your site for awhile to find out the type of wonderful cactus that I have. I have had this cactus for a long time but never knew what type it was. I have looked into books and browsed around I have seen many that look similar but can not pin point it. I was wondering if I could email you a picture and you could help me identify it?
We would be happy to try and ID your plant, email a photo or two and we will do our best.
Now we have the main event:
Good Afternoon Hap,
Thank you for taking the time to do this for me! Here I sent a couple of pics!
And finally, the ID:
Hello again Liz,
It looks like you have a nice Echinopsis aurea or commonly known as “Golden Easter Lily Cactus”. Native to Northern Argentina. It can be a bit rot prone so watch so be careful not to over-water and next time you repot I would suggest a chunkier cactus blend that is mostly 1/4″ lava or pumice, since these guys will often turn to mush if they stay too wet.
Hope you’re doing well.
I had a couple of aloe vanbalenii that had root rot. I trimmed off as much as I could to expose some white/green flesh. Can I just plant them into the ground now (the soil is well draining and dry).
Yes, replant in fresh fast draining soil and keep on the dry side for the next few weeks. They should reestablish pretty quickly if the weather turns back to be warm and sunny… if it stays stormy and cool they would likely prefer to be potted and under a rain shield of some sort for the next month.
Apparently we’re not the only ones to get this question; the email was also sent to Berkeley Hort, Magic Gardens and Westbrae. I hope we gave the best answer.
I recieved a plant with flowers that look like the picture attached to this email. I don’t know the plant’s name so I am not sure how to care for it. I was told it was a dancing orchid but most the care sheets I found online for dancing don’t look remotely like the flowers in the attached picture. Do you know the name of the plant in the attached photo? Most of the flowers along its long stem are dying now, should I be cutting the stems?? Could you maybe direct me to a website with information on how to care for the plant in the attached photo?
You orchid is a Brassia, or commonly known as a “spider orchid”.
Brassia pretty much just takes standard orchid care… here is a link with specific information.
You can trim off the spent bloom-spike after it dries out, but don’t cut it off until then as they can occasionally re-bloom from the same spike if they are really happy.
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:
IMG_483 = Healthy Planting
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?
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.
We loved visiting your nursery last month, one of our favorite stops in Berkeley. I am from the St.Louis area and have a nursery here. Can you identify the succulent in the photo for me? I am having trouble finding a name. A lot of our stuff from San Diego comes in without i.d. tags.
I was looking for some help about my coral cactus. I received it as a gift a month ago. I’ve only watered it two or three times and I leave it by the window with the most light. Today I noticed the plant browning between the stem and white fan. I don’t know if it can be saved or not…any advice on how to care or save the plant? I also attached pictures.
Thank you so much!
I am afraid to say from your photos that the graft looks like it is infected and well on the way to failing. The plant should be allowed to dry out completely and treated with a fungicide. We use Neem Oil, a natural easy to use and non-toxic (to people or pets) product which is an effective fungicide and insecticide. It is not as aggressive as synthetics, but much safer to use. If you use a more aggressive fungicide, read and follow the directions carefully and make sure to wear chemical resistant disposable gloves.
Sorry I do not have better news. Good luck and take care,
I’m hoping for a little help regarding an issue I have with a very large and beloved peruvian apple (cereus) cactus. This cactus is probably 20 ft tall with a large trunk (about 2-3 feet in diameter) and many, many, many branches. The previous house owner bolted a wire to the house and then wrapped it around the cactus trunk (about 3 ft up from ground) and back to the house. The issue is of course… the cactus has grown and the rubber tubing around the wire has disintegrated allowing the wire to begin cutting through the cactus. Probably 1/4 to 1/2 inch divot into the trunk. So my question is… should I cut the wire and pull it out of the cactus? And is there anything I can put on the damaged area to prevent infection? Any help would be greatly appreciated.
Yes, cut out the wire ASAP! It can girdle the cactus and eventually kill everything above the wire by strangulation…. Any injury to the skin can be painted or sprayed with standard hydrogen-peroxide to disinfect and help seal up the damage. If the green “Skin” is cut all the way around you may loose the top so make sure to take your time and remove the wire carefully so not to do any additional damage. If you can email us a photo we will try and give you more complete advice.
I just found your blog today off Plants are the Strangest People Blog.
I had stopped at a garage sale one day looking for pots. I saw an unusual plant and asked the lady if I could have a cutting. She couldn’t find the cutting she thought she had, so she ended up giving me a pot of the plant. She said she did not know the name of it but it has a red flower when it blooms.
So, I have looked thru books and on the internet. I think it is a Epephyllum, but I cannot find one that has a red flower. It looks like Epiphyllum anguliger, but the book says that has a white flower.
Can you tell me what it is? I have attached pics of it.
Thanks for any help you can give me. I looked through your blog all the way back to last May in hopes of finding my plant posted.
What you have there is a Cryptocereus anthonyanus, which is an epiphytic cactus from Mexico, much as the Epiphyllums are, however unlike the Epi’s, there are not 100s of cultivated varieties.
It looks like you have a beautiful specimen with lots of healthy green growth. In general you can treat it like an orchid. They prefer bright indirect light, and we would grow them indoors here in Northern California. Water about once per week, no more than that, and add bloom food in the spring to get those big red flowers.
We mix our own cactus soil, designed for everyone who lives other than in the desert, so there’s no sand in it at all, which is a good ingredient if you live in the desert, but we don’t. One of our regulars asked a question about the ingredients in our mix.
I was looking at your pre-mixed soil for sale (the one that’s recommended for a very fast draining soil for cacti); I noticed that there is a percentage of COIR in the mix. Doesn’t that retain moisture, thus, creating a less desirable draining vehicle. Maybe it has some other attributes that justifies it’s addition to the mix…
Now, I would answer this differently than Hap, who does a good job of just getting down to basics. I would have said something along the lines of Yes, it does hold some moisture – all plants need some moisture… But that would have been rude of me, so it’s a good thing Hap answered instead.
Our soil mix is mostly lava and pumice, the organic materials are coir and composted rice-hulls. Both of them are nice and rot resistant, both being the seed-husks of water transported seeds, means they are filled with natural anti-fungal properties, which leads to long term soil stability and healthy plants. Coir and rice-hulls can last eight to ten years in potting soil. Commonly used peat only lasts about two to three years, and has a host of other drawbacks as well…. The coir and rice-hulls are both “long fiber”, so they do hold moisture, but not too much. They also “bond” nutrients well, so the slow release complex organic fertilizer we add has a good life span in the soil mix.
I purchased these a little over a year ago from your Cactus Jungle. They seemed to be doing well, then suddenly developed this white substance at the end of the spines. At first it was just on the larger “barrel” cactus, but now it is on one of the smaller ones, too. Also, one of the smaller ones “shrunk” into the rocks. I see the white substance also on the flesh of the cactus. The spines come out easily and it seems to be shrinking. Do you have a diagnosis? What treatment, if any?
Thank you very much for your help. I really enjoy these cacti and want them to survive.
Nancy, it appears that your cactus have spine-mealy bugs. They can be treated with a paintbrush and rubbing alcohol and a treating with neem oil.
The cactus that shrunk into the soil appears to have passed on.
If you can bring them down to us we’d be able to treat them and figure out more definitively what’s going on.