I was looking at your very helpful blog and was wondering if you had any insight to the below. My cactus recently had a bit of scale and once I removed it with a tooth brush it began to discolor with brown/black spots. I’m not sure if this is caused by the scale or if it is rotting and what my next steps should be. I bought some organic neem oil and treated it on Saturday evening but wanted to see with you if you think this is the right approach or what you would recommend. (I have attached a photograph for your reference) do you think there is any possibility this cactus could live?
Additionally I have another cactus potted in the same pot which appears to be healthy but I wanted to see if you think it is ok to leave it or if I should repot the ‘sick’ one.
I look forward to hearing from you and thank you in advance for your help!
I can’t tell what is going on from the photo. That wouldn’t have been caused by the scale. Generally we don’t recommend using a toothbrush since the bristles can be too firm – a soft paintbrush dipped in alcohol is sufficient to remove scale. It is possible that the skin of the Cereus was damaged and now has a fungus or other rot-related issues, but I can’t be sure. Neem wouldn’t have caused it unless you sprayed in direct sun, but it would help with any fungal issues. Or it can also be something entirely unrelated to the scale removal.
I would definitely separate the two plants, clear off all the soil from the clean one’s roots, and plant in a new pot with fresh cactus soil. If you live near Berkeley you could bring it in and we can help you with that.
I was wondering if you could help me take care of my plants and maybe give me some advice! So as you can see I love plants, especially cacti and perennial plants. In every picture you can see that the soil is wet because I just watered them all today. Can you tell me how often each one needs to be watered?
I would also like to know whether they should be outdoors or not? I have a garden where I could put them but I would rather have them with me in my room. I recently put 6 and 7 outside but I am worried about that ‘burnt look’ they have going on now… Maybe the transition was a little too abrupt since they used to be inside. I never changed the soils, could you tell me if I should and how to?
Can you also tell me if they look healthy or if one of them needs special care? For the ones that stay in my room, I try to let as much sunshine in as I can, but I think maybe they would like to be outside. Also some parts of 7 died and I don’t know what to do with the remaining parts, does it mean that the whole cactus is going to die too?
I don’t know that much about cacti but I love them and would hate for them to die, so please help me! I’ve had the euphorbia 5 for a few years, I keep it inside the house and it looks really happy to me, it has grown a lot! Most of the others are new and I can’t tell if they have grown or not.
I live in Paris and it is rather hot and sunny during the summer and spring, but it can get really cold in the winter.
Also, if you know their names I would love to learn! THANK YOU so much, I LOVE your blog, I really hope you get a chance to reply and maybe help me.
When you bring plants outside they need to be “hardened off” to the sun, which means bringing them slowly out into sunshine over the course of a week or longer, or they will get a sunburn.
All plants can be grown outside, it just depends on your local climate. Here in Berkeley or San Francisco we can grow those outside, but I am not sure in Paris. There is a cactus shop there that might know better for your particular locale.
The plants that I know are:
1. Euphorbia ferox
2. Don’t know
3. Opuntia microdasys
4. Ferocactus, too young to know the species
5. Euphorbia – could be trigona
6 and 7. Mammillaria
Generally you can water them every 2 to 3 weeks, but they look like they’re not getting a lot of sun, so maybe every 3 weeks is best.
I am not sure what is going on with this Alluaudia. It seems to be having issues.
That’s not good. I don’t know what it is. I would isolate the plant first. Then try dipping a paintbrush in rubbing alcohol and lightly rubbing to see what happens. But since I don’t know what it is, I can’t really help.
I’ll post it on the blog tomorrow and see if we get any responses there.
I recently became the caretaker of these plants. They have not had much
sunlight and I am acclimating them back into full sun over the next few
weeks. I am keeping them under a mesh tarp to let them get diffuse sun
and I plan to put them into larger pots with some fertilizer (3-3-3). Is
there anything that you can help me with based by just looking at the
picture or do you see any thing I should change with my plan? I am
guessing they are mostly some form of Euphorbia erythraea forma
variegata but am not really sure.
Thank you for your time,
Aside from the Opuntia which is the only cactus, the white ones are Euphorbia “Ammak” and the green ones are either the green version of “Ammak” or are probably Euphorbia trigona.
Depending on where you live they may need to be indoor. They are only hardy down around 32F, so we recommend them indoor in the SF Bay Area in the Winter.
Fast draining cactus soils for all of them. The cactus needs some good sun. The Euphorbias can handle light shade to full sun.
Do not fertilize a lot or these will grow into giant trees too quickly. Very little water – every 3 to 4 weeks should be fine, although more if it is sunny and hot.
Yesterday I bumped my cactus, Mr. Popcorn, and on of his arms fell off/over. I’m not sure why…is this rot? What should I do about it?
The soil is the soil he came with, with a little from the woods that I got several weeks ago and mixed in. Do I need to get a special kind? Also, could you tell me what kind he is? I’ve tried researching it but I’ve had little success.
Here are some pictures.
Thank you so much!
P.S. Does he look healthy? Should he be greener?
Your cactus is a Mammillaria elongata. The soil mix is too rich, and looks too wet. The arm has fallen over because of rot which was caused by too much water. Generally we recommend a fast draining cactus soil, no forest products. Water about every 3 weeks, and only a little more often in summer if it is in a hot and sunny location. Make sure the soil has completely dried out before the next watering.
You’ll need to cut out the rotted arm, digging out any rot in the soil too. I recommend spraying the base of the remaining plant with Neem Oil which is a natural fungicide and should help keep the rest of the plant from rotting.
I have had this aloe in my backyard in Concord for almost 20 years. I have rarely watered it, because it was doing fine on its own. this winter after the big freeze, it was damaged. I have enclosed 2 pics. the plant is about 2.5 ft high, flowers almost 4 ft. What if anything should I do about its leaves? I trimmed some the dead tops off, is that the right thing to do? Would this plant survive being transplanted to a container? ( I know , no guarantees! ) its way in the back of my yard hidden behind a big rosemary bush.
Thanks for any advise!
The Aloe looks fine overall. You can trim the ends if you want, but its not necessary – eventually they’ll take care of that themselves.
You might want to fertilize it this spring. We sell an organic fertilizer for succulents, Cactus Meal, or you can use a Kelp Meal too.
It should survive being transplanted, but it will take a hit since you’ll have to trim back the roots when digging it up. You might want to divide it when you get it out of the ground. Also, make sure to use a fast draining cactus soil.
I bought this succulent from your store last year while visiting on vacation. I was wondering if it doesn’t look healthy to you. I’ve been keeping it on my back porch where it gets some shade and its watered every 1-2 weeks. Would love to hear your thoughts and advice.
The little Sempervivum looks OK. It’s probably not getting enough water since it’s still in the fiber pot, which dries out much faster than if it were in a terra cotta pot. Also, I can’t tell exactly from the photos but it may have bugs in the center. If it does you should spray it with an organic insecticide like Neem Oil.
I got this guy a couple of years ago but just thought to check it’s species now. I’m pretty sure it’s the monstrose variety of O. subulata, though mine’s a lot more gangly than most images I’ve seen.
I live in Calgary, Canada, so this is a houseplant. We have long, miserable, dark winters, so this thing’s stalks grow in alternating thick and thin segments in tune with the sun’s position in the sky (the sun’s only up for about 7 hours on dec. 21, and very low in the sky). I’ve got it in a sun room with floor to ceiling east, south, and west windows, so it gets as much light as a plant can get in Canada without being outside or in a greenhouse, but I find it still gets gangly and topples over. I’m wondering if there’s anything I can do to encourage it to “wood up”, or if I’m better off just pruning the stalks that get so long they fall over.
Also, would you recommend allowing this to spend the summer outside? We’ve got about 3 months of guaranteed safe night time temps, but when I try doing that with my epiphyllums, it seems like our summer is just long enough to trigger much more robust growth than I can achieve inside, but not long enough for any new branches to fully mature. I usually find that anything that grows outside on those guys falls apart inside, melting completely by mid January. Not sure if I’d see something similar here.
Anyway thanks in advance, you’ve got a great and very useful blog!
Two things you can do to keep your O. subulata monstrose’s growth more regular.
1. Repot into a bigger pot.
2. Reduce water to every 6 weeks when there is less direct sun.
These are hardier than the Epi’s and can take colder night-time temps by about 10 degrees F., so you might be able to have it outside for 4-5 months or so. And then when you bring it back inside reduce watering a lot.
You were giving me some advice there at the nursery a few days ago about
possible choices of cacti and succulents for some planting that I’m hoping
to do here at my place in Kensington.
One of my neighbors has a succulent (I think)that I like very much. It’s
shown in this photo.
Can you identify it? Are these things available?
Your advice will be much appreciated!
That is an Echeveria “Fireball”, a very nice succulent. And we do not have any growing right now. We may have some by mid summer. We do have a lot of other Echeverias that are that big, even if not that red.
My cactus is sick. A few weeks ago it was fine and beautiful, maybe a few tiny (pin prick or freckle sized) raspberry red dots on it, then – BAM – I looked at it yesterday and could barely believe it was the same plant. I don’t know what to do to treat this plant and protect my other plants.
It has strange rings (brown filled with raspberry/pink edges) and brown spreading patches. I’ve already looked online a little and couldn’t find anything like it.
Is it terminal and I should start chopping off branches to try to grow a new plant before the disease spreads to the entire plant? Do I isolate and treat all the plants in the one pot or is this a Euphorbia-only fungus? Isolate all the plants within a ten foot radius?
Also, will I get a response via email or will I have to check the blog? Both?
It looks like a virus from the ring pattern. I don’t know what caused it but it could have been from a sunburn – if the plant was put out into direct sun after having been inside or protected, or if it got turned around. If the infection is on one side of the plant only then that indicates it was caused by a sunburn.
You can try to treat it – I can recommend Oxidate by Biosafe, which is a ready to use disease control, or Neem Oil, both of which we carry. But the prognosis is only 50/50. If the plant survives it will have scarring.
Go ahead and isolate the plant in the meantime.
You can also check out the blog now – the answer is there too. Share with friends!
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
I’ve attached a few photos of my cactus that I’ve had for 10-12 years. My friend gave it to me as a joke because I kill everything, including ivy, thinking that maybe I could keep it alive by just leaving it alone. So for those 10-12 years it sat in the same window and never moved until 2 months ago when I switched jobs and it came with me. It’s been getting brown spots like I tried to show in the picture. This office may be a little colder than the last one but no more than 5 degrees-the sunlight may also not be as direct -instead of sitting on the sill it’s on a cabinet behind it and a little to the side. Also, I’ve never repotted it because I don’t know what to get or how to do it.
I’ve tried researching online but I haven’t been able to identify the type. So, my 2 questions are: Do you know the type/name? and is it dying? If so, (my 3rd question I know) what can I do to save it?
I appreciate any and all advice!
Your plant is a Euphorbia, possibly Euphorbia hermentiana. While not in the Cactus Family, it is very hardy like a cactus as you have experienced for the last decade or so.
It’s a little hard to tell from the photos, but there is some rot, and maybe a lot spreading through the plant, but maybe not. If the problems are isolated it should be able to come through.
The first problem is that it has never been repotted. Euphorbias are remarkable in being able to stay underpotted for so long! But not for ever. Add in the move, and many plants will experience shock from a move, and that can be enough to cause these problems.
These Euphorbias can handle bright indirect light, so the new location should be fine. But you will need to reduce the amount of watering for the lower light levels.
I recommend spraying the rot portions with a good quality organic fungicide; we sell Monterey Neem Oil.
The big problem is going to be repotting, which can cause more shock. You may want to try to stabilize the plant before repotting. Then you can follow along here: How Do You Repot a Euphorbia?
I hope you can help me out with an unusual repotting problem.
A well-meaning friend of ours recently sent us a “cactus garden” as a gift from an online website, pictured below:
Any idea what the different species are? The online vendor simply labeled them all as “cacti”.
Well, the various cacti and succulents are doing fine so far, but now I think they are starting to crowd each other out. I was hoping to repot them, but the potting soil that they used is as hard as concrete! I can barely dent it with a hammer!
Yes, it is that hard. I can’t even pull the wood chips out of the soil!
I have no idea what crazy concoction they are using as a soil. The directions that came with the garden only say that, “The cactus soil is a blend of nutrients combined with a hardening compound. It was scientifically developed to provide a healthy growing environment for cactus while also providing protection during shipment. Although it appears hard and impenetrable, the soil does absorb water and distributes it throughout the planter.”
Have you ever run into this strange potting medium before? If so, are the poor plants going to be okay in that stuff as they grow? And if not, what is the best way to get them out safely so that I can repot them?
Finally, it is currently winter here in southern California, and the cacti are sitting outside on our back porch. Should I wait until the spring growing season before attempting to repot them? And how much space should I give them?
Thank you for all your help!
You have 3 cacti and 3 succulents. This type of potting is not intended as a long term solution, so yes they do have to come out of the concrete (and they do add gypsum, i.e. concrete, to the mix to get it to harden). So basically you will be rescuing the plants.
If they are healthy now, I would wait until spring. If they look desperate, then go ahead and get them out now.
I don’t have any secrets for rescuing them – get the whole thing out of the pot and chisel them apart as best you can trying to save some roots where possible, but allowing for the fact that these may be cuttings you are starting with once they are out.
Pot them in dry fast-draining cactus soil, keep dry for a couple weeks. I would try a 4″ pot for each plant, if I am judging the size correctly.
I started out life living next to a Echeveria Dondo. Alas, my plant mate did not survive being abandoned as an office cubicle plant. I believe that I am 3 or 4 years old from the tag that came from my plantmate.
I have gone through many neglectful owners but my story does have a happy ending. I have found a plant guardian that is now dedicated to taking care of me! I have even grown 3 inches under her watchful eye. She wants to take care of me the best she can, but she knows nothing about me.
Can you please help tell what I am and what I need to be at my max levels of happy? Thanks!
McMullen the Mystery Plant
Sent by Christina L.
I’m not sure what exactly type of plant McMullen is, but it is probably a Kalanchoe that wants more light. However, it could be a vining succulent like a Dischidia or Hoya too, but probably not.
I’ll post the picture to the blog and see if anyone comes up with an idea.
Please find attached the 2 cacti that I cannot ID without help. Let me know if I have something worth dividing, planting or tossing.
The one with the smaller stems is Parodia leninghausii. This will have a lot of beautiful big yellow flowers. These can safely be divided and propagated in the spring.
The more sprawling one is probably an Echinopsis, but I wouldn’t be able to ID the species until it blooms. It’s probably easy to propagate from stem cuttings. Both look like they need to get out of the wood boxes and into something bigger. I would generally wait until March to repot these.
We were wondering about these two cacti given to us by friends. The tall one on the left seems to want to branch (we got a cutting off a 3-4 foot tall potted specimen). The short guy we think is a gymnocalyceum, and have always been a bit puzzled by its odd coloration (kind of dayglo yellow and pink). It was potted in fine sand and really suffering when we got it 2 years ago. Not sure what either of their specific needs are (minimum tolerated temp, sun exposure, etc).
Thanks for your help!
The tall one is a Cereus. The short one could be a Gymnocalycium, but I wouldn’t know for sure until it blooms. The coloration seems to be an effect of the sun and probably the soil too. It can handle less than full sun, and may need to be repotted into fresh fast draining cactus soil in the spring.
In the San Francisco area I would recommend watering every 2 to 3 weeks through the summer, less in winter. They are probably hardy down to about 30F.
hi — i’m in northwest Wisconsin. wondering if you can identify a vine-type cactus, as far as I remember I got at a garage sale. Attached is a photo. I came home on my lunch hour today to take a photo of the single flower that had bloomed — good thing I did, cuz I just looked at it and the flower is drooped and lifeless. Evidently they only last a day?
I’ve had it about 4-5 years I think. It was root-bound so I divided it a few months ago. Some of the spikes are 3 feet long, long and narrow. There are others that are narrow, then form into a paddle, then get another narrow spike on the end. There are also rows of brown strings that form on the spikes, point toward the light. It’s in an east window.
Hope you can find the time to answer me.
The cactus is an Epiphyllum, or Orchid Cactus. It is possible it is one of the night-blooming varieties – the blooms only last one night – although most epiphyllums will bloom during the day for 2-3 days. The brown strings are aerial roots – it is looking for tree branches to grab onto.
Would you be so kind as to tell me if there is something wrong with the two specimens? One is a Fairy Castle Cactus (I think) with brown spots forming and the other specimen (no idea what kind) is discoloring or developing bark. I am new to all this. Growing the cacti indoors under fluorescent lights with reflectors set about 12 inches above the plants.
The round cactus, probably a Gymnocalycium, looks like it might be rotting. If the lower portion that is turning brown is soft then the plant is not going to survive. It looks like it may be too much water for the light conditions.
The Fairy Castle, or Cereus, looks fine from the photo. The spots could be scale, an insect that you can clean off by spraying rubbing alcohol directly onto it which will kill it and break down its shell, and then you can wipe it off with a soft paintbrush. Or it could be some damage from neighboring spines that have healed over. The plant looks like it could probably use more light and less water too.
I don’t know where you are or how hot it is there, but assuming that it is not too hot then growing these under lights I would water every 3 to 4 weeks only.
We talked on the phone a few minutes ago regarding paling/brown color that’s appearing on my cactus. Based on the attached pictures do you have any advice?
Thanks so much!
It’s hard for me tell for sure, but it looks like a little bit of discoloration at the very bottom of the cactus. What I can see looks like it might be a bit of rot. Looking at the pointed-top shape of the cactus, I’m guessing it is not getting enough light, and even though you are only watering every 3 weeks, with that amount of light it would want less water. But mostly it wants more sun.
First, regarding the discoloration – push gently against it to see if it is soft. If it is then it is the start of some rot. I recommend spraying with Hydrogen Peroxide, and a few days later following up with an organic fungicide like Neem (although not Rose Defense).
Make sure the soil is completely dry before watering. And bring the plant out into more sun – although not all at once. Every day bring it into about 1/2 hour more direct sunshine until it is getting at least 4 hours direct sun.