Cactus Not Doing Well

We get a follow up from a previous question, and it’s not looking better.

Hi Hap –

I’m not sure if the cactus is better. I’ve used the milk solution weekly, the good news is that the scaly bugs have significantly reduced. However, the browing doesn’t seem to be improving and seems to have spreaded.


I appreciate any additional input.



It looks like you need to spray with something more aggressive than milk and baking soda. I would suggest trying a Neem Oil spray, in a 1 or 2% solution. Retreat with Neem about every week to ten days for three or four treatments. You should also “paint” the dark brown spot on the lower part of the cactus in one of your photos with hydrogen-peroxide to stop the infection there from spreading and turning in to rot.

If you would like, you can bring it by the nursery and we can do the first treatment with you, so you can see just how we do it and we can make sure we are making the correct recommendations.

Talk to you soon,


Cactus Problems and Pests Arrive

Q: Hi Hap,
Thanks for your help with the cactus! The tubular shaped cactus has bad discoloration and little white larvae/mites? in the saucer. The beaver tail/flat shaped cactus thankfully does not have the white bugs in the saucer but it has some rough patches of brown discoloration.

Any suggestions on how to correct this problem?
Thank you,

A: Ashley,

They need a good spray/drench with a Neem Oil solution. It looks like they actually have two types of bugs, scale and mealy bugs as well as a start of a fungal infection, most likely brought on by the bugs sucking on their sap. Neem Oil will kill the bugs as well as help the plants fight off the fungal infection. We use a 1% Neem dilution with great success. We have it available at the nursery.


Cactus Problems Heading into Winter

Hey Hap…hope things are going well…a bit of rot has set in in both branches of the mealybug cactus…should I cut off above the rot and put both branches in the potting room for a couple a weeks after a dousing of roottone and then have you come back to repot it? thanks dianne

treat the rot spots with hydrogen-peroxide and leave on if you can… it is hard to get cacti to root this time year.

Hi Hap…me again…so I’ll spray the hp…how often?

Sorry about that I should have told you!

Spray three days apart, repeating three or four times. The rot should dry out and scab-over in a couple of weeks. If it doesn’t by then, more drastic measures will need to be taken.


Cactus Question

From the Cactus Jungle Facebook Page comes a Cactus Question:

Question: Echinopsis hybrid. My friend brought him to Florida. Any idea what the brown growth is all about?


Barbra Ann

Barbra Ann,

Nice flowers! The cactus is an Echinopsis eyriesii – Easter Lily Cactus. It’s called “barking” and the cactus is forming bark at the base of the plant with age.


Cactus Questions

Hi there….
Can someone tackle a question regarding my cactus?

My cactus collection includes 20-30 large cacti (5 feet and taller)growing in half wine barrels and positioned around my yard in the Los Gatos/Santa Cruz mountains. Average temp through the summer is 5-10 degrees below temps in the valley….hot but not stifling. They get 2/3 sun, 1/3 shade through the day. I water them heavily every 3-4 weeks in the summer, every 2 months in the winter.

This year I am having trouble keeping them green. Healthy color has always been a minor problem, more prevalent in the summer than in the winter. This year is much worse. The tall varieties are all light green, with a couple of them tending to yellow. With every second watering, I use a very diluted measure of Schultz liquid plant food (10-15-10), approximately 3 droppers full (50-60 drops) per 5 gallons of water. Once a year in the fall, I add ½ cup of bone meal to each plant, not yet done this season. Is there something I can safely add to the soil that over time will improve their health and “green them up”, so to speak?

My naturally yellow varieties appear to be doing okay.

Thank you for your time.

If you can send us a picture, we can give you more specific info.

In general, yellowing is a sign of stress more common in the winter when they go dormant, not in the summer. If this started happening about a month ago, it could be because of the sudden heat we had back then. A lot of plants in the Bay Area, including cactus, got damaged.

We mix our own slow release nutrients for cactus, which we sell in 1 pint for $4 or 1 gallon for $18, and will ship. We prefer slow release to the liquids.

If your cactus has been in the same soil for many years, there may not be any soil left, and it may be time to repot them all.

Finally, you can try kelp meal to help green them up.

Cactus Questions

The Times Herald Tribune Record prints interesting cactus questions from their readers.

Q: What is the difference between a Thanksgiving cactus and a Christmas cactus?… — Sara, Eldred

A…. The Thanksgiving cactus generally begins flowering in mid- to late November and continues into December….

The Christmas cactus normally begins to flower about Christmas and continues flowering into January.

That was easy! I could answer newspaper questions too! Someone, quick, get me a column! I want at least 25 column inches every week!

Cactus Questions

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!!!

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.


Cactus Questions for Everyone!


If I remove the thorns from my cactus plant will the plant die, re-grow the thorns or continue to live without them?

Thank you


It should do just fine and continue to live without them.

Question? yes. Answer? yes.


Cactus Wren Questions

The Arizona Republic answers an age-old question.

Q: How do birds manage to stand on saguaros without any problem?

A: A little bird, such as a cactus wren, doesn’t weigh enough to exert enough pressure on the spine to pierce the skin.

That is so true.


A question from the Cactus Jungle facebook page:

Thank you guys for finding a beautiful Opuntia santa-rita for me in the back on Monday afternoon. I’ve been giving it warm shelter in my car at the moment on the passenger side floor. Between the santa-rita and the violacia, which one has a more purple hue to them when stressed?



They’re very closely related; some consider the O. santa-rita to be a subspecies of O. violacea. And there are a number of different O. violaceas; different subspecies and different population groups. The purple colors vary and the intensity of the color can vary too, but to just get down and answer your question, the O. santa-rita will get more purple color.

Here’s some photos:

Opuntia santa-rita (O. violacea ssp. santa-rita)

Opuntia violacea

Opuntia macrocentra (O. violacea ssp. macrocentra)

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.


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,

Editors Note: Science!

California Questions

They Get Questions that are answerable with the application of a good dose of California Natives. The San Luis Obispo County Master Gardener tells all:

Q: I want to cut down on water usage, and I’m thinking of getting rid of my lawn. What can I plant instead of grass?

– Sally Somers, Los Osos

A: Many gardeners dislike the amount of labor and water that a lawn requires. However, they may hesitate to get rid of turf grass because they picture the alternative as a yard full of pebbles studded with cactus. While cacti and succulents can be attractive, we have many other good-looking, drought-resistant substitutes for grass on the Central Coast….

Low growing forms of yarrow, rock rose, and (native) ceanothus are also good choices. Most of these flower seasonally. An unusual possibility might be a native bunchgrass meadow studded with California wildflowers. Another alternative could be a well-mulched grove of native trees or shrubs such as manzanita.

Can Chollas Grow in Florida?

Sometimes we have to interpret the questions we get. In this case, it wasn’t too hard to figure out what she was asking about.

Q: My husband and I were in Arizona and saw a lovely flowering (multi colored) cactus. We think the name was “troia” or “troya”. We live in southwest Florida and wondered if it could survive here and, if so, where could we buy it. We couldn’t find any information when we googled “troia”.


Sometimes our answers are simple and direct, other times, well, a little wordier…

A: Lois,
The name you are looking for is “cholla”.
There are many different species of plants that are called cholla, all in the Opuntia family (actually the Opuntioideae subfamily), with the genus being either Opuntia, Cylindropuntia, or Austrocylindropuntia.

(Basically, the Opuntia family has been divided into prickly pears (Opuntia) and chollas (Cylindropuntia). And then just for fun the botanists added an “Austro” in front for plants that are native to South America. We don’t actually agree with these divisions, and so our website lists them all still as Opuntia.)

Some common Arizona species include the Teddy Bear/Jumping Cholla (Cylindropuntia bigelovii) and the Buckhorn Cholla (Cylindropuntia acanthocarpa). We also like the Pencil Cholla (Cylindropuntia ramosissima).

As for how well they will do in Florida, well… Not well. It really depends on your humidity, which is generally too high throughout SW Florida. The chollas are a pretty dry plant. Some of the other Opuntias, the prickly pears, will do better in Florida. You can even find a list of those that are native to Florida.


Can They Grow Succulents in Syracruse?

They can! They really can! So says

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.

Can We Help with a Cactus ID?

Yes we can!

Dear Cactus Jungle,
I purchased a cactus from a garden centre in the UK. They were unable to tell me much about my purchase. I have been looking at your website and the cactus bears a striking similarity to opuntia monacantha variegata, which you sell

I just wondered whether you would be able to confirm whether this is the same type of plant. I have attached a picture of my cactus, for identification.

Best wishes,

You are correct!

Can We ID a Plant?

Yes we can!

First, we have the preliminaries:


My name is Liz and I had been looking on your site for awhile to find out the type of wonderful cactus that I have. I have had this cactus for a long time but never knew what type it was. I have looked into books and browsed around I have seen many that look similar but can not pin point it. I was wondering if I could email you a picture and you could help me identify it?

Thank you,

Hello Liz,

We would be happy to try and ID your plant, email a photo or two and we will do our best.


Now we have the main event:

Good Afternoon Hap,

Thank you for taking the time to do this for me! Here I sent a couple of pics!

New Image2 New Image1

And finally, the ID:

Hello again Liz,

It looks like you have a nice Echinopsis aurea or commonly known as “Golden Easter Lily Cactus”. Native to Northern Argentina. It can be a bit rot prone so watch so be careful not to over-water and next time you repot I would suggest a chunkier cactus blend that is mostly 1/4″ lava or pumice, since these guys will often turn to mush if they stay too wet.

Take care,


Can You Help Me?

Hi I just called about the brown spotting. Thanks for your comments for possible remedy or better care.


It looks to me like it’s just age. The plant is probably fine, and forming bark in the lower “trunk”. Check to make sure it is firm, and not soft. If it is soft then it might be rot, but it doesn’t look like rot to me. Except one branch where there is more than one color – check there especially to see if it is soft or hard. If hard, then you are good to go!


Editor’s Note:

Today’s Rule of Thumb for this type of problem:

My advice to any of you if you have brown spots is to poke it. Poke it good. If it’s hard then it’s probably healed over, and if it’s soft then it’s probably a rot spot indicating some underlying problem. Now you know!

Can You Help us ID a Plant?

Any ideas from the best readers in blog-land?

Dear Cactus Jungle,

I love your blog. It’s so entertaining just to see all those interesting plants, and also great to be up to date on the latest cactus news. Thanks!

I was hoping you can help me identify this vagina looking little guy I picked up at our local nursery. After preliminary googling, I wanna say its some sort of Crassula? It sort of has those triangular leaves like the other ones, but a bit more baroque I guess. Does it grow tall like little towers, or does it stay fairly closed to the ground? It’s in a community pot now with bunch of other succulents. I’m kind of hoping it spread a bit and won’t get too tall. Any ideas? I really would appreciate your help.



I have to admit I have not seen this plant before, at least looking like it does in your photos. I agree it looks Crassula-esque but without seeing a flower, I am leaning that it is more likely to be one of the succulent Tradescantia (or close relatives). They have the stacked, alternating leaves that your plant has. I will post it on the blog and see if any of our readers has a better idea. Regardless, cool plant and when it blooms it will be easy to decide what it is.

Take care and Happy Holidays,


Can You Help With an ID?

Hello Cactus Jungle!

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.


Can you ID a Cactus?

Q: Please identify this cactus plant. I purchased it at a drugstore without a “name tag” but did have two fake flowers attached’ Thank You, John J.

A: John,

Your cactus is a Cereus hildmannianus monstrose, or commonly called ‘Fairy Castle’. It is a dwarf mutation of Cereus hildmannianus (which grows to tree size) and is native to southeastern Brazil and northern Argentina. Your plant will stay small and have many branches. The largest Cereus hildmannianus monstrose I have ever seen was only six feet tall, though I have seen the non-mutant species about thirty feet tall.

Good luck with your plant,


Oy, that’s tall.

Can You ID?

Dear Cactusblogger,

I live in South America, Surinam and work in a tropcal plants nursery
(family owned). I’ve been making a catalog of our plant for years now
(what can i say, grandpa’s been negligant), as we have well over a
million plants. I’m constanty running into a dilemma about an agave we
have. Whenever i try to categorize it i basically flip out!Is it an
americana, is it not an americana. Some sites say it’s an americana
others say it’s not. So, my thought was, perhaps you could help me. I’m
sending you a picture!Please help!Do you know the real botanical name?

Many thanks in advance,

Our answer after the break… Read More…

Can you Identify an Agave?

Q: Do you what kind of Agave this is ?<br />
<br />
Thanks, <br />
Tim<br /><br /><img width="432" hspace="5" border="2" src="/blog/uploads/misc/agave.jpg" /><br /><br />Our answer is after the break…<br /><br /><br /><a href="">Continue reading "Can you Identify an Agave?"</a>

Can You Identify This?

Yes we can!

We have many different kinds of cactus where we live, some growing wild and some either given to us or we purchased. My wife was very excited yesterday when she went our to water our many plants and trees. She noticed one of the cactus plants had a beautiful flower. We have had the cactus for approximately eight years and have never seen it flower. My wife asked me to take a picture of the flower and use it as my desktop background on my PC. I have searched the internet trying to identify the type of cactus it is and get some information on the specific plant and had no luck. I have attached the photo to this email. Could you please identify the cactus and tell me where I can obtain information about the plant? I am glad I took the picture yesterday because when I checked it this morning the flower had really drooped and is not pretty at all. We live in Chaparral, NM, just outside of El Paso, TX.

Thank you. Roy


Your plant is a very nice Echinopsis subdenudata, it use to be called Lobivia subdenudata but all the Lobivia got “Lumped” with Echinopsis…. It is native to Bolivia. We have a little more information on our website here.



The Victoria Times-Colonist reprimands a reader’s cactus.

Dear Helen: Early last month, a friend who is something of a cactus expert was not pleased to see a Christmas cactus in full bloom in my kitchen. She said these plants ought to be in a rest period from late January through most of March and not in flowering mode during that time.

A: Bad, bad plant. And naughty you for allowing such behaviour….

Canary Island History and Followup to the Previous Post

Previous post.

Hi Hap,
Thank you very much for identifying my strange plant. No wonder my searches for native and indigenous Lanzarote succulents didn’t get the results I wanted. Google has found good pictures of thisice plant, and I can’t wait for mine to flower and fruit.

Your history resume of the plant is very interesting, and it fits in with where I got the seeds. The castle on the volcano rim dates back to the 1500’s, and overlooks the (then) island capital Teguise. Lanzarote was an important stopoff on trade routes of the time from South Africa and the New World. San Antonio, Tx. was later founded by Lanzarote emigrants.

Maybe my little plants have been naturalised on the side of that windy volcano for 500 years before coming to a less-than-ideal UK climate?


Canary Islands Euphorbia Tree

Hi my name is jack.
I currently live in the canarys islands fuerteventura.
I have just took over a property to maintain there garden.
I am just looking for some advice how to prune the euphorbia candelabrum. The customer would like it reduced in height.
They are not particularly bothered about it flowing at this moment in time as it is round a pool area and would like it tidied up and reduced before guests arrive

Looking forward to your response
I have attached a photo.

Best wishes


That is huge! Actually has pretty good form as is. Anyway, the trick with Euphorbias is that they have a poisonous sap so you have to wear a lot of protection, long sleeves gloves and eye protection. At that size it will probably take multiple people unless you have larger equipment available. We would use a crew of 4-5 people to safely cut that back.

You can cut any of the branches at the joints. That will reduce the overall mass. As for reducing the height, I don’t actually think that is possible. You could in theory remove all the branches and keep a tall stump which will start to grow back over time.


Capsule Cactus

Hello, i have recently bought a cactus keychain and i am unsure how to look after it. I’ve attached a picture of it. Could you please inform me what the type of cactus it is so i can look into it further. Also, if possible would you be able to provide some advice on the correct conditions and ways to keep it happy.
thank you
Lauren C


Putting a living plant into a tiny plastic capusle is a cute idea. If you want instructions into keeping it alive in there I recommend following the instructions that should have come with it. But the real way to take care of the plant is to remove it from the capsule and plant it in a small terra cotta pot with fast-draining cactus soil (not sand), give it lots of direct sun and a little bit of water. When it is bigger and healthy send a photo and I can try to ID the species for you then.

Stay safe,


Carnivorous Plant Question

A complex and detailed question?

Carnivorous plant

carnivorous plant terrariums

Dead or dormant?




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.


Carnivorous Questions

I got a venus fly trap a while ago from you guys, but it hasn’t rained here in the bay area for a while, and I’m really tired of driving to a super market paying 50 cents per gallon of distilled/ RO water. Do you have any tips for saving water? Does adding long fibered sphagnum moss work?


We find that East Bay MUD Water is PH neutral enough to use with our carnivores… as long as we add a pinch of grape pomace to the pot every now and then… Vinegar at about a teaspoon to a gallon of water is also said to work, but I have not tried it on carnivores, just acid loving orchids.

Good luck,

And for those who were wondering where you can get this special MUD water that Hap mentions, it stands for Municipal Utility District. In other words, it comes out of our faucets, but not yours.

January 2022

US Constitution


We Get Questions

Email your questions to:

blog [at] cactusjungle [dot] com