We Get Sad Questions


I’m wondering if you can help me. I have a Moonstones plant that has been sort of sickly ever since it got jostled during my move a few months ago. A bunch of its leaves turned blue and shriveled and fell off — I assumed they had just been bumped loose. But now the main stem is turning this sickly blueish gray and becoming shriveled too. Do you think it’s possibly sick? I attached a picture. I’m hoping I don’t lose the little guy! 🙁

Chatham University MFA


I’m sorry to have to inform you, but your plant is not going to make it. You can try to rescue some of the top leaves that haven’t started to rot yet. Pull them off and plant the tip end gently in fresh cactus soil, and they might form new plants in about a year.


We Get Selenicereus Pteranthus Questions

After some back and forth that I shan’t bother you with here, we start the conversation mid stream.

Hi thank you for such a quick response! I took some additional photos for you. Orange spots? Rust? I got this guy 3 years ago from a friend, never knew what it was until last year, i was fertilizing him every chance i had got all of last year as i wanted to see the flowers. Come to think of it the snails ate the ends of all the new growth, which were pretty long when they snails got to them, about 3feet long, so it stopped all growth and yet i was still fertilizing, so all of last year it didn’t grow. Maybe it held too much water, weight and fertilizer. Do your nursery grow these? and if so what are their needs? I cant really find any info on this special guy. I have him in morning sun to afternoon sun (3pm) here in California. and only water when dry, about how much longer until i can expect some blooms? Thank you so much for your help, you really helped me understand whats going on, i was about to whack it back and start over! (please ignore my sun burnt variegated fatsia! lol)



That looks like a fungus (rust or similar) so you should treat with Neem Oil in a 2% solution, spray to the point of run-off and keep out of the sun for a day or two. Retreat after a week to ten days twice and that should take care of it. You should scatter some Sluggo around your plant, snails and slugs will eat the blooms before they can open! I have one of these in a large hanging basket in the back of our greenhouse where it is doing it’s best “to take over the world”. I treat it like a standard jungle cacti and grow in an orchid/jungle cactus mix and water about oce a week. I fertilize with a slow release cactus fertilizer once a year and hit it with bloom food (fish bone meal) in the fall and spring. You may be giving yours too much afternoon light, they like bright inderect sun in the afternoon. Think jungles and that they grow up with orchids on tree limbs sort of light. You will get lots of blooms if you treat it more like an orchid than a cactus.

Good luck,

We Get Sick Cactus Questions

hey there…. i was wonder if you could help me with my cactus…. we had mealie mites and i used a insecticidal soap. then this started to happened and fast. could it be corking? i don’t think its root rot. i dealt with that before. is there something we can do to save it?

Could we cut the bad out of the cactus and callus it and replant? the tops don’t seam to be infected..

thank you for any help you can provide!!!


It looks to me like you have 2 plants with the same problem. After the infestation, which the soap didn’t fix, the plants would have been susceptible to infection.

I would recommend getting the 3 of them out of that soil, and repotting the 1 healthy one on its own. You can take tip cuttings of the other 2 if you can cut above the infection. When you cut, if the flesh is clean and white then you can let it callous over for a week before planting. Since it’s winter I recommend Sulfur Dust on the cut end to help prevent fungus. If the cut end is not clean then keep cutting upward til you get to clean flesh, or if the infection is all the way through the plant then it is not saveable.


We Get Tillandsia Questions

Q: Hi Peter,

Wondering if running the tillandsia under water till it’s all wet is enough, or does it need soaking? I’m doing this twice a week, and it’s cohabiting with a cymbidium under the eaves on my deck.

It’s like having a pet – I can bring it in for a bath, talk to it, walk it around & put it back or put it anywhere else! What fun.

I’ll get some liquid kelp too.


A: Phyllis,

The key to growing tillandsias is what you say when you talk to them. I prefer to read to them from Vonnegut.

Running it under water twice a week is enough – it doesn’t need to soak but once a month with the kelp.

You can even mist it 3 times per week, or leave it in a bathroom where it gets light misting every day.

It’s all good.


We Get Winter Cactus Questions

I stumbled across your blog and I have a few questions regarding my new copiapoa.
How often should I water it, and how much water should I use when I do? Now that it is winter I thought I would need to water it less. I just got it about a week or two ago and it was flowering–now the flower has closed up. Is this usually the case with this cactus?

I also have a succulent that I have had for about a year, I think I over watered it recently but I thought maybe taking a look you could tell if it is doing okay. I was wondering if I needed to plant it in a bigger pot?

Also, I live in Oklahoma, just so you could get an idea on weather.

Thank you in advance!


Cactus flowers only last 2-4 days, so it is not unusual that the cactus has finished blooming so quickly. It is unusual that it was blooming so late in the year. Normally you should see it flower in early summer. I would recommend some low strength fertilizer in spring and a little bit of extra bloom food.

For winter, put it in the sunniest window you have, water every 4-6 weeks, and pretty much leave it alone. In spring you can start watering about every 3 weeks.

When we water we prefer to drench the plant and let the water drain away – a kitchen sink is a good place for that.

The succulent is Crassula ovata, and it is fine. It definitely wants a bigger pot, but I would wait until spring.


We Get Winter Questions, UK Edition

Dear Cactus Blog,

I feel terribly guilty, my suggestion of repotting may have killed my colleague’s cactus. After seven happy years sitting on the same small pot, the cactus really seemed to like its new bigger house, at least it was growing (mostly on its ‘waist’). However, three weeks after the repotting, you can see it is now ‘deflating’.

There is good drainage and it was not over-watered. Maybe it got less water than usual in the last three weeks. Then, after a particularly cold weekend at the office, the cactus looks as shown in the photo. However, it had experienced colder temperatures last December, when it was left to fend for itself at the office and it snowed in the UK. Today it even looks more deflated than when we took the photo yesterday. Please help!

Many thanks,


It’s hard to tell from the photo exactly what’s going on there. It is possible that it is shrinking due to less water and colder temperatures – they do that in the desert when the temps get below freezing. But it is more likely that the plant has rotted out from the inside and is unlikely to survive

Generally you don’t want to repot cactus in winter when they are dormant. What happens is that you damage the roots a bit when repotting and then add a little water and the roots can rot off since the plant is not “awake” enough to repair the damage. A fungus or virus can then take hold.

The best I can offer is that you should let the plant dry out completely at this point and hope for the best. You could also spray the plant with an organic fungicide like Neem Oil just in case, but I don’t see signs of fungus on the outside.

Sorry I don’t have better news.

We Get Yucca Questions

Q: We planted this cactus over 10 years ago, and the other day were surprised to see a stalk growing out of it. Do you know what types of cactus this is? And is it likely to ever do this again? We live in San Carlos. I would be interested in getting another one.

Many thanks!

A: Colleen,

Your “cactus” is actually a Yucca, most likely Yucca whipplei (a wonderful California native) or perhaps Yucca rostrata. They look very similar and there is not enough detail in you photos for me to be sure… however my guess is yours is Yucca whipplei. If it is, this bloom will be it’s last, as the rosette that blooms dies after it is done blooming and hopefully setting seed (like it’s relatives Agave’s).

It will sometimes “pup” around the base and those will grow in to replace the “mother” rosette, but not always. If it is Yucca rostrata, it will not die, but will grow several new rosettes and eventually become a multibranched tree yucca and will bloom again when it has enough energy stored up to do so. Either way yours is a great looking plant and congratulations in getting it to bloom! It should bloom over the next few months and will look spectacular!

Take care,

We Had Hail This Year

Hi guys.
I have been really busy this winter, and haven’t been noticing the horror that has reigned down upon my garden.

I notice almost ALL the succulents and even some agaves have these tiny dots on them, Some damage I know is from snails/spit bugs, I dosed the yard with sluggo again recently. Some though is very strange.

But some of the issues are beyond me. Spider mites? Hail damage? I’m at a loss, though will do whatever it takes to fix it. Neem oil? lol I see you say that’s a cure for almost everything I guess I’ll need a few gallons then!

Here’s a picture of the horror….

It is hail damage, not an infestation. We have had hail several times this winter and it has been large enough and wind driven, so it causes little puncture wounds on the softer cacti and succulents. It should heal up without treatment, but the freckles are permanent to those leaves. We have several crops that were so damaged by hail in December.

Watch for infection around the spots and Neem if needed, but it is mostly just a cosmetic sort of damage.

Take care,

We Sometimes Get Bamboo Questions Too

Cactus Jungle: Greetings,
I am very worried about 12 bamboo plants (Psuedosasa japonica) I bought from you a little less than a year ago, which I have planted outdoors in large redwood planters in an alley behind my house in Noe Valley, SF. The alley is fairly narrow E-W running – the plants get direct sun during the mid-day hours because the hill I’m on slants towards the south. I water them once every week or two, and this spring have given them one dose of fish emulsion. While there are new shoots coming up at the base of the plants, a noticeable portion of the leaves are beginning to yellow or brown – worrisome during the fair springtime weather. Additionally, there is an apdhid infestation on the plants – they exude an oily residue covering the leaves. Do you have any experience with this problem?

I have invested both time and money into these plants and am not thrilled to see them fail in less than a year. Please see the attached jpegs: I would be most grateful if you have any advice or information which would help me care for the plants. As far as I can tell the species is appropriate for the climate, but let me know.
Many thanks,


The yellowing leaves is from stress, from the aphids (sucking like
vampires on the leaves) and the fact we have had a very dry spring and
the plants are thirsty. Aphids are usually not a problem if the plant is
getting enough water and nutrients, all though they are often an issue
while recently planted plants are getting established. As your plants
mature they will become less prone to aphid problems.

You should spray the aphids off with a blast of water from the hose.
There are easily washed off and be a soft insect are usually fatally
injured by a good jet of water. You can also use insecticidal soap or
Neem Oil, but only use them after our “hot spell” that has just started,
is over. Hot weather and insecticides are a bad combination for your
plants! Spray in the evening, not during the day or morning as the soap
and or Neem Oil can cause leaf burn in the hot sun. I would recommend
using a hose end sprayer and really coating the leaves to kill off the
remaining aphids and eggs glued on to the leaves.

In a raised wood planter like yours, the bamboo is going to need a bit
more water than if it was in the ground (where its roots could pull in
moisture from all around). The wood breaths and so the soil inside dries
out faster. Water well, at least once a week, dry soil can be hard to
re-wet, so a slow soaking with a trickle of water is usually best, a
soaker hose ran down the length of your planter, twining between the
plants is an easy way to water your bamboo. Give it more water if it is
warm and windy, as this dries the bamboo out faster through
transpiration in the leaves. After a year in the ground you should be
able to water less, since the plants will have better established root
systems to pull in available water, but remember that raised beds always
take more irrigation.

They should “Out Grow” the aphids and stress pretty quickly as long as
our projected drought holds off long enough for them to get established.
Psuedosasa japonica is a great drought tolerant bamboo but like all
young things needs a bit of care to grow up strong enough to face the
big, bad world… I think your will take off with a bit more water and
knocking down the aphid infestation.

Good Luck,


What About Oklahoma?

We get questions from Oklahoma. It seems they want to grow plants outside, even in Oklahoma.

Q: Hi,

I live in Central oklahoma … (zone 7) I would love to have a succulent bed, the only thing I have are hen and chicks and they do great here… Can you recommend some items that I could order, that would be good for this area? My bed is about 3 foot wide and 18 feet long.. I want something really awesome looking, with low maintenance… Can you help?

Beautiful website.. best I have seen….


A: I would recommend Lewisia, which are zone 3, and have amazing blooms. We do have many different species of the Sempervivum (hen and chick) that would work. This summer we should have in Delosperma congestum which is hardy. Most of the sedums (all that we carry) are hardy. For Euphorbias, the spurges, like E. characias, and others, should all do fine. Kniphofias and maybe even Bulbines should work. For cactus, you could try Echinocereus viridiflorus, Opuntia fragilis, Opuntia basilaris.

That’s all I can think of right now.


What do You do With a Dying Plant?


What can I do to save it?

I have been watering it more regularly (every 2 weeks)

I just gave it food.

It gets plenty of sun.

– Mike

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.
Good luck,


What Happened to My Cactus When I Went to New Zealand?

Hi guys,

I have a question for you about a beautiful Ferocactus latispinus that I purchased from you in February. The plant had been living at your shop, on one of the outdoor racks, for many months through the Berkeley winter. About a week after I bought it I moved to Los Angeles…en route to New Zealand. Unfortunately, the cactus had to stay behind in southern California, where it is living with my mom. About 5 days after we (the cactus and I) arrived in LA I noticed that parts of the plants were experiencing what looked like bleaching or loss of pigment. It was warm in LA, but not too hot, and for acclimation reasons I had put the plant in an area where it would get some direct but mostly filtered light. I thought the bleaching would be a temporary effect of the transition to a warmer and/or brighter setting, and that the pigment would return, but my mom just sent me some photos and it looks like those parts of the plant are still quite pale…about the color of the pale/yellow form of Euphorbia ammak v. variegata. This concerns me, but the cactus does appear to be (somewhat) “happy” as it is growing and the region of new growth on the top of the plant is the deep green color I’d expect. Can you explain what I’m seeing? This little guy is my favorite plant and I want to do whatever I can to keep him healthy and happy. I’d send a picture but my mom doesn’t have a digital camera. If you need a pic for proper diagnosis I can arrange for one to be taken. Thanks very much for your help! Hope all is going well at the jungle.

Department of Zoology
University of Otago
New Zealand


It sounds like the bleached parts are a sign of sunburn, it most likely happened by the north facing side suddenly getting rotated to face south after the move and the skin cells that were not ready for UV getting a good zap. It will take a long time to heal up and if it was a bad burn it may convert the burned areas to “bark” rather than green skin… but the chlorophyll may still recover. As long as the growing tip at the crown looks green and healthy, the plant will eventually grow out it though it may have scars.

Take care,


p.s. does your post-doc in zoology get you out to see the Tuatara? They are so cool! I want to meet one someday.

What's That?

Hello! I would like to know if you sell this in your nursery and also
please ID. Thanks.



I’m gonna go with Kalanchoe luciae, but I’m sorry to report that we don’t grow it.

Wild Turkeys

As if we didn’t have enough critters (deer, gophers) to worry about, guess what we saw for the first time in our yard today? A wild turkey, gobbling around in all the up-turned soil at the top, no less. The dog raced it out of the yard, thank goodness, but now who do we blame for uprooted vegetables etc?


At least they are tasty… smart, friendly (at least the ones I hatched and raised as a bird crazy youth… they like M & M’s by the way…) but they are very tasty…

You may need to hoop the beds and cage them in?

Maybe a cool kinetic sculpture? maybe not, after all the jays might get scared too…


In case you wondering, here’s a photo and a discussion of the Wild Turkeys of Berkeley.

Winter Cactus


I have a plant that I purchased about 2-1/2 years ago from you. While I left it in the pot, it continued to grow and looked heathy. Last summer, I transplanted it into the ground in a sunny spot. It stopped growing, and developed a yellow tinge. Now, the yellow spots are turning soft.


I have a new raised bed with much better drainage and a bit less sun. My question is: can I move it right now, or must I wait until it warms up? I live in Sacramento. Is it too late to save? It is soft at the top of the plant, not near the roots.

Thanks for any suggestions you can offer,


If when it was in the pot it was in a less sunny location, it may have sunburned from being put out into full sun, especially in a Sacramento summer.

And then in winter, it looks like you have automatic watering at the plant? If so that could make the problem worse in winter. It is possible that the soil was moist when we had our freeze in January.

So it looks like it is rotting from the tip. In general that means you want to cut the rotted tips off down to where you can see fresh clean green tissue on the inside of the plant. You will then have to protect the tips for a few weeks while they callous over. Given how far this has progressed, I would recommend doing the cutting now, turning off the water and protecting it from any rains, and then waiting until April or May to transplant it. Basically you want it to start getting better before you cause any transplant stress.

You should spray the cut tips with hydrogen peroxide to help them heal over. Watch for further rot and if needed spray with an organic fungicide like neem.

In the future it is best to water Opuntia subulatas in the ground very very sparingly. Once established you don’t have to ever water them unless you are getting over 95F.

Good luck


Winter Succulent Damage

Hi cactus jungle

A few of my cacti have struggled after the rains.

I have attached a photo and I’m wondering if you can tell me what is happening with this plant.

Is it a lost cause😞? If not, how can I help it?

Thank you


The plant is a Euphorbia, and hopefully it is just the tip that got damaged in the winter. Depending on where you live, they are only semi-hardy here in the Bay Area, so they can take damage to the tip when we get below freezing, or with heavy rains, or especially with both (See: This year.)

You can cut the top part off the plant and it looks like the damage is limited there. Cut at an angle, using a bread knife, and make sure the flesh is clean and white. If there is still some rot there, cut lower. Be careful when cutting a Euphorbia as it has a caustic milky-white sap. Where gloves, long sleeves, and eye-protection. Spray the cut end with Hydrogen Peroxide and put a paper bag over it to keep the sun off it until it is healed. Good Luck!


Yellowing Cactus

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.

Thank you.

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.

Yellowing Problems?

Hi Cactus Jungle…

I’m curious why two of the three cacti are looking yellow.


I’ve given them some liquid seaweed…but I’m not sure
if that will help this specific yellowing problem



The plants look fine. In fact they look great. The color variation (as best we can tell from the photo) is sun and growth. The kelp will help them green up further over time.

Yes We Do Get Questions

Q: I’m trying to find a succulent that my paternal grandmother had. It’s been referred to in the family as hens and chicks, mother of thousands, string of pearls, and tears something-or-other. She lived in Bakersfield, CA.

It has long leaves, and produces ‘babies’ on the edges, which fall off at the gentlest touch, and root easily.

Can you help?



A: What you are looking for is what we call the Mother of Millions, or I suppose, if you have less ambition, Mother of Thousands. Definitely not Hen and Chicks or String of Pearls which are completely different.

The latin name is Kalanchoe daigremontiana. We do carry this plant at the nursery.

Your mad skillz & such

Hi there —

Any chance you can tell me what it is I’m taking care of here (in the foreground)? I bought it at a yard sale in July because it gave me Dr. Seuss flashbacks. Think maybe I haven’t been watering it enough, as it sure looks fluffier & happier since the rain.

And don’t judge my cacti/succulent bench mess! I’m trying to figure out where everyone needs to be for this our first winter together. I sure wish the kids not from CJ were already repotted in your soil, but, ya know, if dreams were thunder & all.

Thanks a ton,


You have a Senecio cylindricus (or possibly a Senecio mandraliscae). The plant looks happy and healthy, if a bit more Dr. Seuss-ey than is usual.


Yummy Honey Plants

Hey Guys,
Thank you SO much for taking the time to answer my question. I was in the City yesterday & discovered this growing in my old neighborhood…..since my partner & I collect unusual cacti & succulents, I was wondering if you could identify this specimen so I can find one for my Honey for his upcoming birthday.

Thank you,


It is a yummy Aloe marlothii! One of the Mountain Aloes of South Africa.

And we have cute babies as well as a few larger in stock. I even have a 15 gallon one at our grow-space that looks like the larger one in your photo…

Take care,


January 2022

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Email your questions to:

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