Cactus Care

Hi Peter,
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).

photo 2 photo 1

Thanks for your help!
Marion

Marion,

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.

Peter

Cactus Flower Identification Project

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?

cactus flower

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.

Thanx —

Debbie A.

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.

Peter

Cactus Questions

Hello,
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.

WP_20130906_008 WP_20130906_009

Thank you!!!
Steve

Steve,
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.

Peter

Crassula Identification

A tricky ID? You tell me.

 crassula falcata

I picked this plant up last year but it didn’t come with an ID tag. It’s blooming and the flowers look pretty.

Reilly

My answer is after the break Read More…

Cactus ID

They ask us to ID their cactus, and we oblige.

Love your webpage. I hope you can help me.
My question is do you know what species this Opuntia is? It is in the Tampa Bay area of Florida.

The owner gave me a cutting and I would like to find out more about it.
Thank you,
Mike Muench

Mike,

I believe that is an Opuntia monacantha, also known as the Droopy Prickly Pear.

Peter

Questions?!?

Hi Peter,

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?

image(1)

Thanks so much!
-Chris

Chris,
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.

Peter

Transplanting Cactus

Peggy called and needed to transplant the cacti she had bought from us, but she now lives elsewhere so we talked her through the process and pictures ensued.

Hi
We purchased an Oreocereus trolli in 2009. We since moved to Los Angeles and cacti out grew its container and spawned three-four new growths. I called a month or so ago and spoke to someone about transplanting it. I was able to transfer it this morning, I promised to send photos.

Best
Peggy

Here’s what it looked like before the repotting. Nice!

1_transplant

2_transplant

3_transplant

And the final result…. After the break…. Read More…

Carnivorous Plant Question

A complex and detailed question?

Carnivorous plant

carnivorous plant terrariums

Dead or dormant?

Thanks

Adam

Adam,

I would say there is still hope for the Sarracenia. The problem is there is too much water. These are bog plants, which generally means they prefer very moist soils, but not where the water line is above the soil like you would do for a pond plant. And in a terrarium where the water is not moving, the water needs to be able to go down.

I recommend carefully tipping the terrarium over to get all the water out, holding the plant in place as best you can. When you water, add enough to let the water sit at the bottom just high enough to get above the charcoal and into the soil, and then let the water go down below the soil/charcoal line before adding more water.

Hopefully there will be new growth within a couple weeks.

Peter

Cactus Helpline

Help! The rotten wind knocked my pot full of cacti off the sill and my beloved cacti are all messed up! My tall column cactus is in the worst shape. Although he is still whole, he seems to have internal damage, as in, he feels squishy in some areas. He also has a couple of external damage marks (see white streaking at top and discoloration near bottom). The other sprawling one came completely out of the pot, but otherwise seems Ok, and the other one stayed in the pot and seems Ok also. I am really sick about this. I have had them for years (since tall guy was just a few inches tall) and really hope they can be saved. P. S. Also can you please identify the types?

photo(11)

Thank you,
Louise

Louise,
The tall one is probably a Cereus. The white streaks are where there was bending stress. That should heal over. If the bottom of the cactus is soft and not just discolored then you need to cut the cactus off above the rot and try to root the new cutting.

Basically you need to cut above the rot, making sure there is no rot inside at the cut edge. Spray the cut with hydrogen peroxide and set aside to dry for 2 to 3 weeks.

If you see rot when you cut, keep cutting higher until there is no rot in the branch.

When the branches are fully healed over you can plant them in dry cactus soil and keep dry for a few more weeks. Water only every 3-4 weeks. Do not re-use any of the old soil as it is possibly infected.

The sprawling one, I’m not sure what it is but it looks like it can be repotted just fine.

In general it looks like you needed to repot these into larger pots at this time anyway.
Peter

See Inside the Cactus Jungle

Did you know that Google stopped by and photographed the inside of the nursery and you can see the result of that here on Google See Inside?

Nice!

Now it is true that this happened 3 years ago so the nursery looks very different now. In a good way! But still, you get a pretty good idea from the googles.

Now we have a question about a plant someone saw on our google page.

Hi cactus jungle!

I was being a creep and looking at the google maps street view of your store when I saw a plant I fell in love with immediately! It’s the one to the right of the bamboo in that picture, to the left of the white arrow. Looks like a little tree with bright green neon leaves. What is that thing and how can I get one I must have it!

streetview

Anyway, thanks for having such a great blog I love it!

– Mary

Mary,

That is a Manzanita (Arctostaphylos). We do have lots in stock. That one was potted into a terra cotta pot and trimmed up to look like a bonsai. I’m not sure exactly which species since the photos for Google’s See Inside were taken over 3 years ago.

 

Peter

Hoodia in Bloom

hoodia

We forget the name of this little gem that just flowered this week!

Sent from iPaula

 

Paula,

There should be a label on the pot inside the clay pot. But it is Hoodia gordonii. And that’s a very big flower!

Peter

Coreopsis Question

Hi Peter,
I just had my Dr. Seuss repotted, and he doesn’t look so great. I chopped back all his dead hair, he was quite lush before, but had out grown his pot. He’s about 5.5 feet tall from base of trunk. We potted him in a sandy mix of soil. He has gotten all this new growth, and the flowers since he was potted. I’m not sure how much water he needs, in old pot he was doing good with twice a week. Also, do you know his technical name? Can’t seem to find anything about him online.

coreopsis gigantea

Also, he’s getting a couple extra hours of sun each day in the new location. More afternoon sun than before.

Thanks!
Barbra

Barbra,
It is a Coreopsis gigantea. It’s a California native from the Channel Islands and the coastal cliffs of SoCal, so it is a winter grower and goes dormant in the summer, often loosing most of it’s leaves. In your large pot I would recommend watering well once every week or two and letting it dry out well before re-watering. Being a summer dormant plant too much water in the summer can cause rot and disease issues. It should perk up and take off this fall and look great again by Thanksgiving.

Peter

Aeonium Leaves

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

aeonium

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

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

Cactus ID

photo (1)

Who am I?

And can This cactus be cut down into segments and propagated like I propagate san Pedro’s?

Thank you!
Maggie

Maggie,
It’s a Cereus, probably Cereus uruguayanus, and it can be sectioned like San Pedros for propagating.
Peter

We Get Questions

Hi there.
I live in England, and I have been growing some cacti for about four years now, but I don’t know what they are. They have never flowered, and I was wondering if you could identify them?
I know that the one on the far left is Astophytum ornatum, and that the one one in from the right is Opuntia subulata. I have only had these for about two months.

Wiltshire-20130704-00637 (1)

Also, could you please give me some tips as to how to make them all flower?
Thanks very much.
Helena

Helena,
The Opuntia subulata looks likes it’s probably a O. subulata monstrose, which means it won’t get as tall, which is probably a good thing. The one on the far right could be a Cereus, but I wouldn’t be sure of the species until it blooms, which could be many years depending on the species – they often won’t bloom until they’re 6 ft. tall or more! The one on the left looks like it’s not getting enough sun, so it’s hard to tell for sure what it is, but either a Mammillaria or a Rebutia.

As for flowering, the Astrophytum looks large enough to flower, as well as the Mammillaria/Rebutia. However the other two wouldn’t bloom for many years. To help the first two along in blooming I recommend a lot of sun and a bloom food – Bone Meal, and we prefer Fish Bone Meal, works well.

Depending on where you live in England the sun could be a problem, in which case you might want to try a full-spectrum UV light.

Peter

Spiders

On my front porch I have about 20 potted plants, mostly succulents and a few cacti. The spiders love it! I thought I was wining the battle but I see now I am way out numbered, if anything the spiders are happier having me clean out the old ones so they can spin new clean ones.

Any suggestions how to keep them away. my front porch just looks so ratty.

-sofia

Sofia,

Spiders are beneficial to succulents. Spiders eat pests while not being pests themselves. However sometimes the spiders can get too numerous. Clearing out webs won’t get the spiders since they’re generally hiding. If you want to catch a spider and move it safely to another location I find that a very light spray of a diluted rubbing alcohol will get them to come running out and you can then catch them and relocate them. Some people will tell you that even a light spray of alcohol will kill them, but I choose not to believe them.

Peter

We Get Questions

Dear blog master. I enjoy the cactus jungle blog; a visit to your store is on my bucket list.

I have a question. I have a hedgehog cactus set (aka “the Crip”) and a silver torch cactus (aka “Queen Frostine”). Both have been in a constant environment for more than two years – a greenhouse which is the home of many successfully flowering succulents, many of which are cacti. After flowering well in 2012, neither flowered this year but they are both growing very well. Do you have any thoughts?

Sent from my iPad so please excuse brevity and lack of editing.

Pam
Memphis, TN

Pam,
If they’re getting good sun and other plants nearby are blooming then it’s probably a matter of nutrients. I would recommend feeding with a good organic bloom food in late winter next year.
Peter

A Cactus Flower

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

parodia ottonis

-Marion

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

Nice!

Peter

Low Light Cactus Question

Hi there,

We bought my mammillaria at Cactus Jungle about four years ago, and it has been pretty healthy since then, though it never flowered since we got it (despite fertilizing).

About a week or two ago after watering it, it started to get smaller and paler, almost like it is collapsing in on itself. As pictured, it is now half the size it was before the last time I watered it. I always err on the side of not watering it since I know overwatering can kill them, but I’m not sure what went wrong this time. I usually water it every four weeks or so (sometimes longer). Is my cactus salvageable, and do you folks have any suggestions for reviving it?

photo(2)

I haven’t fertilized it yet this year, so that is also an option. I live in an apartment that I know doesn’t get as much light as the cactus needs, but it hasn’t proven to be an issue until now.

Any advice is welcome and appreciated. Thanks for your time!

Lisa

Lisa,
I don’t think the plant is savable. It’s hard to tell for sure from the photo, so if you want to bring it in to the nursery we can take a look and see what we can do to try and save it.

You were probably watering the correct amount for not getting a lot of light, however those conditions generally mean that a cactus will have a limited life. So 4 years without a lot of sun seems like you did a good job keeping it healthy as long as you could.

If you want we can suggest a spiny plant that can handle lower light levels to replace it.
Peter

Peruvian Cactus Apple

Hi Peter,
I just potted a large piece from a gi-normous Peruvian apple cactus that my brother has growing in his yard in Long Beach. He cut the piece and gave it to me for Christmas and it has been drying out in in my garage since then. I thought I had left it too long, but the top sections seem fleshy and fine, with only the bottom cut part being nice a dried out. So, I potted it this morning, mixing in some of the soil I bought from you. My question is, should I water it now, or should I wait for several more weeks? Should I fertilize it soon? I have some of the kelp product.

P1070643

My sister took a smaller piece last year and has it growing inside in her apartment in NYC! It’s doing fine (though no fruit yet…ever?). When she started, she waited 4-6 weeks for the cut to dry out, then potted it. She waited another month before watering it — based on internet research.

The fruit is really good!

Thanks,
Brooke

ps, I love receiving the newsletter and seeing all the names and photos of the plants.

Brooke,
It looks like the Cereus is doing well. If you potted it in our soil you don’t need to fertilize for a year. In general after planting a cactus cutting you want to wait at least a week before watering. Since you have Aeoniums planted in there with it you will need to water sometime in the next 2 weeks, and that’s OK.

Your sister’s plant in NY should grow fine if its in a sunny window, but it is unlikely to bloom. The flowers are pollinated by bats, so even if it does flower she would need to hand pollinate to get fruit (assuming she doesn’t have any bats in her apartment. I know it’s New York, but still…)

We don’t get fruit on ours here in the flats of Berkeley since we also don’t have bats, however up in the hills they do have bats and they do get fruit. Delicious fruit.

Peter

Save a Cactus

We are sending this to you in hope you can help. Mr. Stewart was not able to offer any help.
Jo

Hello Mr. Stewart,

My name is Jo Reynolds. I have a cactus given to me by a grandson on his first Mother’s Day. He passed away at 8. He would be 21 now so the plant is very dear. We used to have a florist who would repot as needed but they have gone out of business. It became so pot bound (cracked the pot) that we tried to repot it. Used cactus soil and one one size larger pot. The plant has many thumb sized, very prickly parts, and a number have turned very brown and opened up to a dead center. We would like to have someone with much more knowledge than us look at it and advise us. We live in Frederick County. Maybe some of the green shoots could be saved. Any help/advice you could give us would be appreciated. We have attached a picture of the poor thing.

John and Jo

Jo,
The news is not good, though there is still some hope. The soil you used looks too rich for cactus – too much bark in it. And it looks like the root-bound plant might have been potted with the roots still wound. The change as such was a shock to the plant, and most of the stems are not salvageable. However there are a few still-green stems that might be able to be saved. You will need to do some surgery, cutting them off from the rest of the plant.

In general you want to cut above any rot so that the fresh cut will be clean, no brown spots. Spray with hydrogen peroxide to help it heal, and let it callous over for a week. Then you will want to plant it in dry fast-draining cactus soil and not water for another 2 weeks. Make sure there are still no brown spots when you plant it. If any develop you will need to cut it higher up until again there is fresh clean flesh. If that doesn’t work then the infection has spread too far.

If you need cactus soil, we do ship our soil in 2 gallon boxes. You can call us at the nursery and we can send that off.
Peter

Cactus Fungus

Dear Cactus Jungle,

I was recently examining my cacti and noticed two very strange (maybe) fungus/viruses on two of the four.

(one is a ‘Fairy Castle’/Cereus tetragonus,

Cactus #2

the other might be a Coryphantha georgii,

Cactus #1

though I’m not sure about that).

I scoured the internet in search of identification for these possible fungi or viruses, but was unsuccessful. I noticed this blog when looking for answers, and would be so grateful if you could help me. I love these little buggers and would hate to see them go. I’ve attached two photos to this e-mail.
Thank you very much for your time and help!

Sincerely,
Sophy

Sophy,
I’m not seeing any fungus on the Cereus. Maybe there’s some rot on the inner branch, but it doesn’t look like a fungus. If it’s soft it may be a problem of overwatering, or if the plant has been in the pot for a long time it may not have enough soil left. It looks like it’s ready to be potted into a larger pot – the brown things coming out of the branches are aerial roots looking for more soil.

The other cactus (possibly a Coryphantha, although I would guess a Mammillaria, but I would need to see the blooms to know for sure) looks like a fungus, possibly Rust. You can spray fungus with standard organic fungicides. We like to use Neem Oil.

Peter

California Natives???

A redacted letter from a concerned citizen:

Cactus Jungle:

You have on your list Fouquieria xxxx from California, this incorrect (sic)….. Fouquieria splendens is the only one that grows in the United States, all the others grow in Mexico and Baja. Your Fouquieria xxxx looks more like Fouquieria xxxx from Baja….. Do you have any more information on your plant? I have grown all of the known Fouquieria’s (sic) and have been in Mexico many times studying and collecting them.

Mxxx

Mxxx,
Thank you for your concerns. The word “California” can refer to the current political boundaries of the state formerly governed by Arnold Schwartzenegger, or they can refer to the ecological and geological physical area (among other options). We prefer to include plants native to Baja California as part of the ecological area of California.

Thank you,
Peter

Editors Note: Science!

Succulent ID

The previous owners left this plant when they moved. It was in bad shape. Neighbors told me to cut it down to the top of soil over the winter so I did. Now this is what it looks like this spring. The clusters of white flowers will eventually turn a light shade of purple.

sedum

Everyone keeps telling me these are Hen and Chickens, but I don’t think so. Any help would be appreciated! I love your cactus blog.

Mrs. Chancellor
Brownwood, TX

Mrs. Chancellor,
The plant is definitely not Hens and Chicks (Sempervivums). It is a Stonecrop – one of the Sedum telephium hybrids.
Peter

Reader Questions

Aaron asks the classic cactus vs. succulent question, on the Instagrams.

Agave, euphorbia, Pachypodium, aloes and others alike are not cactus correct? They are succulents yes? To be a cactus it has to be under the family of cactaceae? Educate me my mentor! aweezy_27

Aaron,

Yes, you are right! Only cactaceae are “true” cacti. All other spiny plants that look like a cactus are not a cactus. The difference is in the “aureoles” – only cactus have aureoles. On the other side, there are succulents in many plant families, including cactus etc…

Succulent is a strategy, Cactus is a Family.

Science!

Cactus Cuts

Hello,
We had big beautiful cactus on the balcony, we cut it into smaller parts and planted them in big pots, but they are dying. Our gardener doesn’t seem to be fixing the problem.
we’re not giving them water.. some are at the entrance of the house. no water and no sun (could that be the problem) some are outside on the balcony, so getting water only when it rains and it does not rain much.

image_1366039361418780 image_1366039369025832

I am attaching picture here. Could you please help. Thank you
Hala

Hala,
Two of the cacti are dead and the other two look like they might still be alive. I don’t really know what has gone wrong as there are so many possibilities here. No water and no sun seems like a sufficient cause, though.

I would remove the two that might be alive from the pot and start over in a new pot, preferably terra cotta, and new fresh fast-draining cactus soil. Bring them out to a sunny location. Here in the San Francisco area we would water every two to three weeks.
Peter

How to Take Euphorbia Cuts

Hello, my cactus is getting a light brown discoloration on his arms, I am very worried, please advice on what to do to save my cactus. I stupidly placed the cactus inside a barrel that didnt have proper drainage and when I noticed one of his arms truning light brown i figured it was because of the water, I drilled some holes into the barrel and drained a little water until it was dry. the cactus arms started turning light brown and it seems to be spreading. I am attaching 3 pictures, the first one was taken one week ago, the second one was taken today. Is there any way the cactus can recover from this? What should I do?

euphorbia ammak euphorbia ammak branch

Thank you for your time,
ed

Ed,

The branches can be saved, but since the rot has started from the bottom the whole base of the plant, roots and all, can’t be saved.

First be aware that this is a Euphorbia ammak which has a caustic milky-white latex sap. You need to wear gloves and long sleeves and eye protection when working around this plant. Given its height, this is going to take at least 3 people to safely take cuttings. One to hold the plant, one to hold the branch being cut and a third to do the cutting. If it is taller than it appears you may need a 4th person to help hold the branch as it is being cut. Please make sure you feel safe with all this before you start. I recommend using a serrated bread knife to cut, and blankets to wrap the branch before cutting.

Basically you need to cut each branch off above the rot, making sure there is no rot inside at the cut edge. Spray the cut with hydrogen peroxide and set aside to dry for 2 to 3 weeks.

If you see rot when you cut, keep cutting higher until there is no rot in the branch.

When the branches are fully healed over you can plant them in dry cactus soil and keep dry for a few more weeks. Water only every 3-4 weeks. Do not re-use any of the old soil as it is possibly infected.

Good luck

Peter

Mimicry Plant

Hi! Any idea what my pleiospilos is doing? It was looking happy before the winter, but has slowed transformed into this strange shape. Should I be concerned?

pleiospilos

Thanks,
RC

RC,
I think they are looking fine. They are a little oversized, which may indicate too much water. But basically you got new leaf-pairs through the winter as is normal, and in one of the plants the old leaf-pair dried out as is also normal.
Peter

Aphids

My Echevierias are blooming, which is nice, but most of the flowers are covered with aphids. What’s your recommendation on controlling that?

As always, enjoy your blog posts a lot (even the dog ones) 🙂
Reilly

Reilly,
There are 3 answers to the aphids on succulent blooms issue:

1. Cut the blooms off. This is a very reliable solution.

2. Spray – We prefer either Neem Oil or Natural Pyrethrins. You can also clean them off with a paint brush dipped in alcohol.

3. Ant control. It turns out most aphids on succulent blooms, including echeverias, are being farmed there by ants. Check for ants in the area and do what you need to control the ants. We do have a couple organic products for this as well.

Peter

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