You might remember me.. I’m the one who has some fairly rare seedlings and am doing my best to grow them indoors – here in Utah.
Here is how I normally mist these tiny seedlings (still the size of rice, but more round and now sprouting some spines). I take the green box which I bought from your store and keep it at arm’s length (fully extended). I then spray distilled water in the air and kind of move the container around to get a light even mist but nothing soaking. It worked well until tonight. Tonight, the container slipped out of my hands and landed on the ground – carpet. I did my best to find and carefully isolate the 20-30 seedlings that are still going. As you suggested the medium is simply coir and finely crushed carbon on top. Obviously, after the fall, I lost about 2/3’s of everything. Things were clean so I loaded the container full of coir/carbon. Next I carefully placed each seedling in the soil. I used a small allen key to make an indentation and simply put the seedling (roots first obviously – though I was amazed at how few roots existed) into this whole. Finally, I misted again in the same way.
So, my questions are:
1.What are the likely effects of this? I assume I will lose some of these seedlings. That saddens me, but if there is anything I can do, I will do it. That includes re-doing the whoe container with fresh coir and carbon.
2.The top layer is now predominately coir. This concerns me as I know the carbon protected things by providing a non-nutrional covering. If I don’t do the step above, should I even bother with the carbon now that I have seedlings and haven’t had mold since I allowed for fresh-air-exchange (via holes in the clear plastic lid).
I sat and held these seedlings on the drive from Berkeley to Utah. They really mean a lot to me. However, I know the over-correction is common in this sort of situation and generally has bad implications. So, I appeal to you and your love for Cacti. What would YOU do? The genus is Lophophora if that matters at all (not the notorious species, but another).
I was wondering if the plant you have in your (store) was Brighamia insignis or the cultivar Brighamia insignis ‘Kirsten’.
Our Brighamia insignis are seed grown, so are the true species, not a named cultivar – which I think is sort of odd thing to do when all of them in cultivation come from only 14 remaining wild plants…) However the two named cultivars I am aware of are all tissue culture clones and not grown from seed.
I live in “Zone 13” in Southern California and also recently purchased a “Golden Candelabra”. It’s approx. 3′ high and is beginning to show a light brown discoloration. My “Sunset Western Garden Book” provides no info on this plant. How do I best care for it where I live? Indoors, outdoors? Direct light/indirect light? Is terra-cotta really best or will any type of pot do? Do I fertilize it, if so how often?
Thanks for any info you can provide.
Assuming you have the Euphorbia “Ammak” you can grow this plant indoor or outdoor in Southern Cal. You can even plant it in the ground. It can take direct sun to light shade, however never move a plant out into direct light without hardening it off first or it can get a burn. Also, if you regularly get over 100 degrees in the summer, the plant would prefer some afternoon shade.
Terra cotta is best, because it breathes, and a fast-draining cactus and succulent mix is especially important. We recommend very little fertilizer for cactus and succulents, because slow growth makes for stronger plants, but any plant in a pot needs some added nutrients. We sell our own “cactus meal” mix of slow-release natural nutrients, and you can apply just once a year for slow healthy growth. For slightly faster growth, we recommend liquid kelp once a month through the growing season.
As for the light brown discoloration, if you’d like to send me an image I can take a look at it for you, but it’s hard to diagnose plants otherwise.
Today we have a very polite correspondent sending in a question:
Dear Client support,
I was wondering if potted echeveria cuttings in zone 6, that were taken late in the season, could continue to be watered and provided fertilizer without extended hours of supplemental lighting during the winter. Though I realize shorter daylengths might normally initiate dormancy, I wasn’t sure if overwintered cuttings with under-developed root systems were capable of surviving the water and nutrient deprivation required.
My thanks for your time and efforts in the matter.
Echeveria do go dormant in the winter so unless you are providing extra full spectrum light to keep them actively growing, it is best to cut back on food and water and let them sleep through winter. Even with little or no roots they will do better with limited water for the winter. If you want to push them you can put them under full spectrum lights for 16-18 hours a day until they are better established and then wean them off the light and let them go dormant. However you really don’t need to, as long as they are getting some light and a bit of water every month they should do fine.
When I gardened in Alaska all my Echeveria were pulled from the garden in the fall, somewhat brutally tossed in to wire baskets, mostly bare root and “stored for winter” in a south facing window. They were misted occasionally, but never watered. In early spring I would pot them up, let them settle in to dry soil for a week or two and then give them their first real drink in months. They soon perked up and took off and were ready to go back outside as soon as the snow melted. While I wouldn’t necessarily recommend growing them that way anymore it does show how hardy they are and how they can survive long periods of dormancy and drought.
Well, I never knew that. You learn something new occasionally. Next time you’re up in Alaska you can wow the natives with this new knowledge.
I came by on Saturday to ask about my sick cactus. Here are some pictures I took for you to better diagnose the problem. I’m very attached to the cactus so what ever I can do to cure it please let me know.
I only water the cactus once every three months and the last watering beginning of October I fed it a little of the cactus food. I first discovered the discoloration about 3 weeks ago.
Please feel free to email me or call me xxx-xxxx, if you have any questions or need more pictures.
Thank you for your help,
If your plant was by a window I would have said it had a bad sunburn from being turned so the shaded side was suddenly facing the full sun glare and UV…. But since it looks like it is back in the room, it looks like your Euphorbia has caught a virus or fungus. It may have been brought on by water stress, we usually recommend watering plants like yours once a month during the summer months and every six to eight weeks during the winter. Although other than the infection you plant looks like it was doing fine with your water schedule, but being stressed may have made it more susceptible to an infection.
If it is a fungus, it may be treatable with a Neem Oil spray (Neem Oil is a natural, but usually effective treatment for both fungus and insect problems, that will not make your house toxic). I recommend spraying the plant with a 1% Neem Oil Solution to the point of run-off and even watering it in to the potting soil. Retreating two or three times once every ten days. If Neem doesn’t stop the fungus you could use a more aggressive chemical fungicide, but since we only use organic products I can’t recommend a product.
If it is a viral infection unfortunately all you can do is water and fertilize it with Kelp, which is sort of like a multi-vitamin for plants and hope the plant can fight it off. Plant viralcides are not for houseplants as you do not want chemical warfare in your living room.
From Philadelphia, home of the Phillies, comes a question about a San Pedro cactus (Echinopsis pachanoi) in an office setting.
Enclosed please find photos we discussed on yesterday. Please let me know what you suggest I do?
The plant is not getting enough direct sun. I see it is a bright room, but how many hours of sun is actually reaching the plant? The reason it’s leaning is it is looking for sun. Also, the new growth will not be forming a strong woody core to help hold the plant upright. A weaker plant is more likely to lean.
I recommend putting it right in front of a sunny window. To straighten the plant now, basically you adjust the rootball in the pot to get the plant standing upright, and then we use bamboo stakes to tie it off for a month or two. You can also use tree stakes.
What to do when a barrel cactus topples over? Let’s ask the Arizona Republic, shall we?
Q: We have a very tall barrel cactus (fishhook?) that is about 4 feet tall and 18 inches in diameter. It also has 3 large “bulbs” on the top, each of which is about 10 inches in diameter. Unfortunately, it recently toppled over, and it looks like the cause was old age . . . . Can we save some of the beautiful piece of flora?
– Paul Cechovic,
Cherry Hill, N.J.
A: Yes, you can save pieces of your barrel cactus. Those bulbs are stems that grow from the mother plant. They naturally fall from the plant, root themselves and start a new plant.
They are known as offsets or pups. Cut off the pups and let them air dry for a week in a cool dry place away from direct sunlight. The cuts need to heal, or callus, before replanting.
Transplant into a pot containing a well-draining soil made for cactuses. You can mix your own by using equal parts potting soil, pumice and sand or decomposed granite. Water and allow the soil to dry out completely before watering again.
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.
I just called about my plant, I have attached some images of the moldy
looking stuff so you can further diagnose,
It looks like your Opuntia sublata has a very bad case of Mealy Bugs! Under all that white “mold” should be nasty sap sucking vampire bugs, they coat themselves with wax to keep predators from eating them…
I recommend you spray the white masses off with a good strong jet of water from the hose (support the cactus branches with a stick while you do, so they don’t break). Then spray the plant with a good coating of 1% Neem Oil solution to kill off the eggs and any you miss with the jet of water. You may also need to drench the soil with the Neem, as they will also live in the soil and feed on the roots as well.
Hi again. Thanks for all of your work on the web, you tube and the blog. I appreciate it.
I am moving to Utah and need to decide whether to take my tiny little seedlings with me. You might remember but I bought the small green tray and used coir and crushed carbon as one of your employees suggested. I also took your previous advice and bought your linseed oil and have given the tiny little green rice-sized cacti a few mists with it (1:1 with distilled water). However, I do have some questions:
1. First (a few questions), I hadn’t sprayed the seedlings in many weeks. A couple of days ago I noticed that two seedlings (is this the correct name?) were covered in a white mold of some type. I misted them again with linseed oil and today they look good. My question is – do I need to worry about this? How often should I mist with linseed oil, and can I overmist? I still haven’t put any holes in the container for fresh air – is the mold related to humidity possibly? They’ve been in the container, in a bubble window for 2 months. No direct sun, no watering, etc.
2. Second, as I mentioned before these are very special cacti to me and in some way I want them to grow to maturity for their own sake (sounds goofy I know, but..) – so I am contemplating giving them to a trusted friend to take care of. I’m concerned that such delicate seedlings couldn’t make it through a Utah winter (indoors obviously). I would be willing to use a reptile warming mat or anything if you thought that they would do as well in Utah as they would here. What would you do in this situation? Like I said, I am willing to invest some money to make cacti work in Utah, even if it means buying a serious light source for the winter months.
Thanks so much,
That was a long question. Let’s post the answer after the break… Read More…
I have accumulated over a hundred succulent cuttings and plants over the last several months (not hard to do, as I’m sure you can appreciate) and most of them live outside. Will it pose a problem to leave them out and exposed over the winter? It would be difficult for me to cover them.
Without knowning which species you have, it is hard to give good advice. But a good rule of thumb is if they are “hardy” succulents (that can live outside year round…) it is fine to leave “baby cuts” outside, as long as they are in fast draining soil and never sit in water. If you have cuttings and starts of tropical/frost sensitive plants, they will need winter protection since the Bay Area is generally too cold and wet for many tropical or “dry winter” species to live through our rainy winters.
I purchased a Pachyphytum oviferum (Moonglow) from you a while ago & recently I have been having problems w/ the leaves coming off & not growing back. Along w/ this the plant was knocked into & about 4 inches of stem has fallen off. I would like not to damage this plant anymore & hopefully be able to repot the broken stem. How might I do this?
“I am a little star in a big star world”
Now I was thinking about these little pachyphytums recently, since they get a long trailing stem that is easy to break, and every time someone buys a big pot of it they risk them breaking off in the car home. So I tell them that if they break off they can be planted, of course. But is this good enough?
Have you ever wondered why we call insects “pests”? No, I didn’t think so.
I noticed some white specks on one of my plants today ! Never saw them before. Are they insects? not sure. Attaching a picture…could you tell me how to get rid of these specks? If I take a damp cloth they come off, but it’s difficult to get in there and get them off….what is it?
It is a bad case of Scale Insects. Think vampire barnacles… you can clean them off with a small paint brush or Q-tip dipped in rubbing alcohol. Paint on the alcohol liberally and let it set a few moments and then gently wipe them off, the alcohol dissolves the shelac like glue that they have attached them selves to the plant. It may take a few cleanings to get them all and to kill off all the eggs. You can also spray with Neem Oil in a 1% dilution in water to kill them, but you will still need to clean them off with the alcohol after they are dead.
I was just at your lovely store Saturday and I purchased a few items for my succulents and cactus. I have done quite a bit of reading on the growing of these guys, as well as have a mother who has the most prolific, vivid green thumb. However, I am still a novice at growing my own cacti/succulents. I recently bought 1 cactus: a notocactus magnificus and a three succulents: an Anacampseros telephiastrum variegata [which I adore!], an Echeveria shaviana, and an Echeveria Topsy Turvy.
For the most part they are doing well. However, the Topsy Turvy has a long stem with a bloom hanging from it; the head of the bloom is hanging, yet to open, and has remained so for a few weeks. Also, the Ech. shaviana has a few rosette “petals” that are limp. They weren’t like this when I purchased them. I am worried about rot, though the rest of the plant is doing well.
I repotted all the plants into terra cotta pots of appropriate size with the Ultra soil bought from your Jungle. I placed some rocks on the surface of the soil. After repotting, I misted some nutrient spray on the rocks of the Echeverias and watered it in. I noticed that the soil dries out rather quickly with this heat, however I do not want to over water them.
Also with the purchase of the Nutrient Spray and Soil Conditioner – I don’t know the best way to use either product.
Can you offer some assistance please? I really am looking forward to growing some beautiful plants to decorate my classroom with. I also love growing things. 😀
Thank you so much for any insight you can offer.
That’s a lot to go through. The answer…. Read More…
hi.. i love cactus and i dont know about feng shui so i bougth a lot of cactus different ones and i put all then in my kitchen in the top of the closet i love to look at them and i dont feel anything but a friend of mine said id bad to have them inside a home and i start looking for information and i read so many diferent opinions i am confused… can you help me thanks why is bad to have then at home and in kitchen?
Now, personally, I think it is bad karma to ask a cactus grower why you should not have cactus in your home. But I answer the question all the same.
It’s good that you love your cactus. We love cactus too. So clearly it’s not bad to have them in your home as cactus are living breathing growing lifeforms. Many cactus are even edible and are cultivated in kitchen gardens.
Yesterday we posted a question about an echeveria, and asked for a picture. Today we get a picture!
Sorry, meant to send this initially. Watering about every 2-3 weeks. In a room with several windows, with shear white coverings – so it lets in a fair amount of light.
Your echeveria is not getting enough light. Shear white window shades will block the UV that the plant needs. I recommend getting it into a sunny window, however increasing its amount of light each day so as not to shock the plant. Ideally, it wants 2 hours min. of afternoon sun or 3-4 hours of direct morning sun.
They can be prone to pests when not getting enough light, so given its current condition, you may also want to check to make sure that it doesn’t develop pests like aphids or mealy bugs.
My echeveria elegans seems to be wilting. Bought it about two months ago. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.
Now we get all kinds of questions here at the blog and at the nursery. Sometimes, though, we do need a little more information. For instance, in this case, all we know is that the echeveria is wilting. So let’s review what we know so far:
1. The plant in question is an Echeveria.
2. It’s wilting.
OK, good, that’s a good place to start. But we need more. We always need more. So here was my response:
Can you send us a photo?
Also, here’s a couple questions to get you started:
How often are you watering?
How much sunlight?
A few months ago, I purchases several succulents at Cactus Jungle. A few are having some problems and I would like to know what you recommend I do.
I have attached a photo of a Sedum Matrona that has developed a powdery material at the junctures of the pedals.
Also attached is a photo of an Aloe Burii whose tips are drying up and turning red. Is this a natural development for this plant?
Thank you so much for your advice.
[Note: photos deleted]
The Sedum looks like it might have some aphids, tight in the growing tips, as well as a bit of powdery mildew damage. I recommend spraying it well with a good, but gentle jet from the hose and then treat with a powdery mildew treatment Neem or “Mildew Cure”. Or you can just cut off the infected leaves and tips. Sedum matrona can be cut back to just stumps when it looks ratty and it will re-sprout with fresh new growth.
The Aloe is just showing signs of summer dormancy, which is normal, it is native to a winter rain fall area of Africa so it sleeps in the summer and grows in the winter just like most California natives. It will perk up and start growing with vigor this winter once the rains start.
Dear Carol: I love sedum and have planted it wherever I have enough sun in my yard. However, some of the plants have started to die with stalks that wither. This is not the first year that this has happened; I’ve already lost three plants over the past two years when it was dry…. What’s wrong? – J.H., Liverpool.
Dear J.H.: This certainly looks like some kind of crown or root rot.
The wood chip mulch I can see in your picture may be part of the problem. Sedums are succulents. They store water in their leaves and stems and are adapted to withstand periods of drought. They like a well-drained soil that dries out quickly; any mulch that traps moisture around the stems could promote disease. Heavy soil will also contribute to rot problems.
I’d rogue out the plants that have problems and put something else there instead, not another sedum.
Oh. I guess I was wrong. They can’t grow sedums in Syracuse. Well that seems silly, since sedums are hardy succulents.
I don’t normally complain about customers at the nursery, and certainly not on the blog, but this person was not a customer of ours, so I feel like sharing. I do this because there are times when I really just don’t understand people.
A few weeks ago one of our employees gave some free advice over the phone to a person out of state who was not one of our customers. She had a Pachypodium that was elonated, and not doing well, and it was getting no direct sun at all. So our employee, overheard by my partner, advised her to get it more sun. She interpreted this to mean she was supposed to take it outside, which is not what we told her, but outside would be fine too, you’d just need to harden the plant off before putting it into full sun.
Anyway, she called back yesterday and I answered the phone. She started right off yelling at me that we killed her plant. I tried to find out what was going on, and help her further, not even knowing who she was or what she was talking about. Often pachypodiums will lose leaves but aren’t dead. Anyway, after a few minutes trying to tease the details out of her, she finally explained that she put it on her porch and when the sun hit it, within 45 minutes it had lost all its leaves and was dead. Now I was about to tell her it probably wasn’t dead, but instead she yelled at me,
I didn’t call to get any more help. I called to tell you you’ve killed my plant and you’re all idiots.
And then she hung up.
Like I said, I just don’t understand people. She’s not our customer but she called a small out-of-state retail store and she asked for free advice, and then she gets it into her head to call back and call me an idiot. I guess that’s what you get for trying to help non-customers.
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.
morning Hap…i am wondering what to do about one of the cactus in the living room which has about two inches of rot on the top of one of the branches (this is the specimen which had the rootball reduced…form is like a candelabra)…i assume i cut off the rot…but am wondering if i should apply something on the top…i am watering every 30 days (about 3/4 gallon)…this has never happened before…any cactus wisdom is appreciated…hope you are well…best…diane
You can treat the cut area with household Hydrogen-Peroxide. Paint it on liberally or put some in a spray bottle and spray the injured surface. Reapply every day for a week or so, it should keep the infection from spreading.
Picture 1 is of my Silver Torch, looks dry? It has not grown well the past 2 years?
Picture 3 is not sure of the type but, it is one of my favorites and it got too much water in a recent storm. The base of one of them is now a hole and very soft. Is it the end? can I save it at all?
Thanks so Much,
I recommend pulling it out of the pot, spraying the whole plant with either household 3% Hydrogen-peroxide or a 1% solution of Neem Oil. Let dry a few days, spray again and if need be cut out rotting parts. Save top parts to re-root, though Cleistocactus are hard to get to root but you might get them to grow roots if you keep it warm and dry. Make sure to re-pot in fast draining, gravely soil with very little organic material.
The 2nd plant is Opuntia pyrrhantha. Same care issues – spray, let dry out, and if needed cut and reroot.
Q: I have an assortment of planters on my deck, mostly planted with succulents. Their interesting forms and delightful colors have long been a source of pleasure for me and my visitors. In the last year or two, I have noticed that many of them seem to be in decline, with shrinking heads of leaves and less flowering. What might the problem be?
A: First off, people often plant Aeoniums… and are alarmed when the leaf-heads become markedly smaller and stop growing in summer. Since this is a winter-growing plant, summer shrinkage is normal…
Aside from this, it is not uncommon for planter boxes and dish planters to decline over time if the planting medium is not renewed.
Ric thinks we may have mislabeled a plant, not that it matters when it has 26 blooms, but still…
Hello Hap & Peter,
I wanted to know if by any chance the plant labeled Echinopsis thelegonoides on your web site is in possibly mis-labeled? I am being told that the one I purchased from you almost 2 years back is possibly a E. spachiana and most likely not a E. thelegonoides as it is not tree like and will not reach 20ft height. It really makes no difference to me but would like to know what the exact specimen is. Anyway, your clarification in this would be appreciated. We enjoyed over 26 flowers this year from the plant. I have attached a photo.
Hope you are both well,
Great photo, your garden looks great!
It is possible that our “parent plant” was mis-labeled (however it was originally from UC Berkeley Botanical Garden so hopefully it was not mis-labeled…), Echinopsis thelegonides and E. spachiana look very similar looking when young and out of habitat could end up being very much alike when grown. Our big old timer has hit at least twelve feet tall before I took cuts for resale.
I have been watering it more regularly (every 2 weeks)
I just gave it food.
It gets plenty of sun.
That’s kind of like a poem. I like it. Shall we answer? Well, Hap already has:
It looks like it would like even more sun. The lanky growth of the Graptopetalum shows them “stretching: towards the light. It also may have Mites, though it is hard to tell from the photo… but you might want to spray the whole dish and plants down with some Neem Oil just to be on the safe side.
This is the plant in question. I left all my information with a lady. thank you for taking the time to help me.
It is a Pachypodium. Most likely a Pachypodium saundersi that wants more light or a Pachypodium succulantum that wants more light (I would need to see the plant in person and perhaps in bloom to tell for sure which species it is). The branches look elonated which means they are stretching for more light and that makes it hard to know which one it is.