We sometimes get questions that we have never gotten before. Like this one:
I have a bunch of cacti that I keep indoors (I live in NJ.) I have a large yucca species that has developed an infestation of tiny centipedes in the soil. How do I get rid of them without killing the plant?
Any suggestions would be helpful.
Centipedes! Really, now. We recommend a soil drench with neem oil. It’s also sold as rose defense, which will work fine as a soil drench, but don’t spray it on cacti since they need 100% neem.
Could you tell me what kind of cactus this is we are clueless and would love an answer.
Thank you for your time. Love your BLOG!
It’s a Cereus, possibly a Cereus hildmannianus or one of its sub-varieties. It could also be a seed grown Cereus peruviana that has grown elongated from low light and will shift from juvenile growth to adult eventually.
My name is Allen and I live in half Moon Bay. I’ve got 4 large cactus growing in pots and they seem generally healthy and are growing. But they are developing what appears to be a scale or fungus and I’d like your advice on how to treat them. I’ve attached some photos of the worst/most representative areas of concern. I’ve sprayed several times with Neem oil and it’s possible that it’s making a difference but it’s to early to tell. The columns are firm, no mush is developing and all is good other than what you see in the photos.
Your thoughts on the malady and the cure?
Thanks, realy appreciate your help!
It looks like your cacti has either a virus or a fungus (or both) as well as a few scale. Neem Oil should deal with both the fungus and scale with a few treatments. I recommend retreating it with Neem Oil, spray to the point of run-off, once every seven to ten days at least three or four more times. If any of the infection looks like it is turning to rot, (the spots will turn either orange or slimy-black), treat those areas with regular 3% hydrogen-peroxide, paint or spray on the infected area. Alternate with the Neem treatments.
If it has a virus, the best thing you can do is give it some liquid kelp (Maxicrop or other brand) to help boost it’s immunity and fight off the virus, just like you taking a vitamin, or drinking orange juice when you have a cold. Hopefully the plant will fight off the infection and heal. It will likely always be scarred, but the infected areas will “bark” and give it character.
Dear Cactus Blog,
This is one of our large Euphorbias although 3 of them are showing similar damage. My thought was that this might be rodent or other animal damage, but I’m not sure. I have spent some time observing both day and night and haven’t seen evidence of anything attacking. Do you have any suggestions?
Thank You Very Much for your help,
It sure looks like something is chewing on your Euphorbia, however since they are nasty and poisonous, god only knows what. I suppose deer or rats if they were really really hungry. We sell a product called Deer Off, but then we also recommend Euphorbias as deer-resistent.
I’ve got some Christmas Cacti I would like to start getting prepared for blooming. I was reading through the latest posts and saw that link for this very thing. The instructions prompted a question that I feel you guys may be able to answer quicker than I can find it myself online.
That question being- When they mention feeding it bloom food- is their an organic, chemical free option for this type of product. I guess my refined question would be what is bloom food and is their an organic chemical free option for this?
Thanks for your time and assistance.
That’s a pretty fair question.Fortunately there’s a pretty simple answer.
We use organic Fish Bone Meal for blooms. We do sell it in large boxes and small packets as well.
What’s nice about this is that fish bone meal works for all types of flowers. (And yes, I mean that generally, not specifically every type of flower.)
Everybody wants to know about the christmas cactus this time of year. How to take care of it, how to get it to bloom.<br /><br /><a href="https://cactusjungle.com/archives/blog/exit.php?url_id=1702&entry_id=1505" title="https://www.cactusjungle.com/plant_pages/christmas_cactus_bloom_instructions.html" onmouseover="window.status=’https://www.cactusjungle.com/plant_pages/christmas_cactus_bloom_instructions.html’;return true;" onmouseout="window.status=”;return true;">Our secrets to your success are located here</a>.<br /><br />And then here’s the <a href="https://cactusjungle.com/archives/blog/exit.php?url_id=1703&entry_id=1505" title="http://www.dailybulletin.com/ci_7724519" onmouseover="window.status=’http://www.dailybulletin.com/ci_7724519′;return true;" onmouseout="window.status=”;return true;">Ontario (CA) Daily Bulletin</a>, as they get questions.<br /><br /><div style="margin-left: 40px;"><span style="font-style: italic;">Q: How do I maintain the gorgeous Christmas cactus which I just purchased?<br />
A: Christmas cactus, Schlumbergera, is native to the jungle as an epiphyte, (it grows in the trees). It is not a desert plant; therefore it does best in rich porous soil. The arching, drooping branches are made up of flattened, oblong, scalloped-edged, 1-1/2 inch joints. These branches are green, smooth, and spineless. A well grown plant can become 3 feet across and hanging below the raised pot, sometimes reaching the floor.<br />
The flowers are long-tubed, with many petals about 3 inches long. Most varieties are red, but the new hybrids are pink to fuchsia, and a rosy purplish red in color. A large plant could have hundreds of flowers at this time of the year.<br />
Water frequently and use a diluted liquid fertilizer every 7 to 10 days when the plant is growing and flowering. It does best in bright indirect sunlight with night temperatures of 60 to 70 degrees and 70 degrees or higher in the day. After the blooming period, do not water, except to keep the soil moist.<br />
To help bud set and flowers at the holiday time, keep the plant where it is cool (55-60 degrees) with 12 to 14 hours of darkness. This should be done in November.<br />
Schlumbergera, truncate, (Zygocactus truncates) is also known as Crab Cactus). The joints are 1-2 inches long, sharply toothed with two large teeth at the end of the last joint. Short tube flowers with pointed petals bloom from November through March. Colors range from white, pink, to salmon and orange. This plant has been nicknamed the Thanksgiving cactus as it begins to bloom at this time.</span><br /></div><br />Now you know everything.<br /><br />
Attached is a photo of a cactus that you repotted for me a year or two ago. I water it every 2 weeks as you advised. This morning it was leaning a little and this afternoon it went all the way over. Any suggestions as to why, what I need to do, are the others at risk?
Thank you for any help you can give.
It’s hard to tell what happened from the small photo. But in general Cleistocactus have a life cycle where each individual branch only lives 7-10 years and then dies, generally by breaking off at a rot spot. They grow new branches as it goes. If this is what has happened then you can cut this branch off. New branches will eventually grow and replace it. However, as best I can tell the branch is bending not breaking, and if there is no rot down at the bend, then it is possible that this is a case of too much water for the location. Cleistocactus can sometimes start sprawling like that, but usually if its growing too fast. So while we recommend more water in sunnier locations, as much as once every 2 weeks, it needs less water if it’s not getting all day sun – every 3 weeks or so. Also, as it is sitting in a saucer, you want to make sure that it doesn’t actually fill up with water. The soil needs to dry out between waterings, and sitting in water keeps the soil moist.
I figure you all know these plants by now, and have read my answers to similar questions mamamamannnnny times before, so maybe you could handle this one for me? Best answer, that is also complete and accurate, will win one of our discontinued products. You never know what it will be, but it must be good!
Maybe a water wand, maybe a bird feeder. Hmmm…
So here’s the question and the pictures that go with it.
Recently I got a cactus as a present but don’t know what kind it is.
Could you please help me to detect what kind a cactus it is and to see and tell me weather is it sick (you can see that one leaf Is kind a sick) and what should I do.
Thanks a lot in advance,
Leave your answer for Petar in the comments between now and Tuesday afternoon, and I’ll pick a winner then. Maybe I’ll have arranged for guest judges too! Well, probably not.
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.
Also, he’s getting a couple extra hours of sun each day in the new location. More afternoon sun than before.
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.
They get questions in Jacksonville, Florida about why a Crassula ovata is blooming. That’s strange. If it’s blooming, then stop asking questions already. Post the photo on Facebook, blog it, send a cutting to your grandchildren, have a nice plate of brownie sundae and be happy.
A: Jade plants are very popular succulent plants. They grow well here, if they are protected from the fall rains and cold. As succulents, they prefer to be allowed to dry out between waterings. They bloom regularly in California, producing their whitish starlike blooms.
They are triggered to bloom by long nights and a sharp contrast between day and night temperatures. We don’t see much of that until we get into winter here. They are not reliably hardy during our cold weather; 30 degrees is considered to be the cutoff point for survival, so I hope your plant has been coming inside during these northern blasts.
Good to know. But that really was a strange question to take the time and effort to send in to your local newspaper.
Karen asked a question about her crested euphorbia, and Hap started a long answer at the same time I had sent off a much shorter answer. Check out the differences between my answer and Hap’s.
Hello Peter – Once again I come to you for expert advice! My mother bought me a crested Euphorbia that has been grafted onto something. I think it looks too tall and am thinking about cutting it shorter…what do you think? The main stem is about 6 inches tall and I think it looks goofy and top heavy. If I were to cut it down, I would leave about 2-3 inches of stem and let it sit for 4-5 days before settling it down into your cactus soil. Yes? No!
Thanks for your time!! ~Karen
First up is my answer, the one that got sent to Karen.
I would leave the Euphorbia alone. The crest will eventually catch up to the size of the stock, and it will grow faster if you don’t cut it
Could it have been any shorter?
And Hap’s answer that didn’t get sent?…. Read More…
I hope you can help. I was given a Euphorbia Lactea Crested that has been grafted, for Valentine Day.
It was a stone container with no drainage holes, and I notice it was wet. I didn’t water until I though the soil was dry.
Then I start notice that the grafted part, the leaves were turning yellow and falling off. Help
First time owner
Losing the leaves on the rootstock plant is not a big deal with these crests. They’re nice to have, but not necessary. However, a pot with drainage is necessary. I recommend watering very little until spring starts, whenever that may be for you, and then repotting into a pot with drainage, using a fast-draining cactus and succulent mix.
Enjoy, and send us a picture!
Both front porch and back porch potted succulents are getting vandalized and/or eaten by local animals. The uprooted plant in the wooden planter box is in front.
I think it might have been caused by a deer rooting around? The other succulent is in the back yard and appears to have been munched by an animal.
Raccoon? Squirrel? The critters also like to dig around in the dirt, especially in freshly potted plants. Any advice?
It looks like squirrel damage… try sprinkling with cayenne pepper and then pick up a bottle of animal repellant when you get a chance. We use and sell Deer Off which works on the stupid sky rodents as well! The cayenne works (until it gets wet) on mammals fairly well but not birds, but make sure to wear a mask when sprinkling it on a breazy day, it hurts if you breath it in or get in your eyes!
Thanks! Coincidentally, a couple of days later, I actually saw a squirrel eating one of the fat succulent leaves. He had taken up to the garage roof and just sat there furiously munching it as I glared at him. Arg!
I’ll try the pepper and animal repellant. Will check out the Deer Off next time I come by. Last night a deer ate every last yellow bloom off my potted coreopsis. Will keep those in the back yard from here on out…
for my birthday, i was given this beautiful little cactus plant. it had no tag or name on it so i did some research and i think it’s an echevarria or a sempervivum. it’s starting to grow a pink line on the leaf edges. I’ve been trying to care for it as such (little water, good drainage system, in light) and it’s lower leaves seem to be wilting away. i think there’s a little plant sprouting from the main stem and the most top buds seem to be pretty firm, but the leaves below are literally limp and feel like they will fall off in a week or so. i dont know what to do! i’m scared it’s going to die.
attached are two pictures. it looks healthier in these photos than it does now.
any ideas on what i can do to save this little guy?
You have an Echeveria, probably E. subsessilis. It should look like this.
It looks basically OK, but probably needs more light, which is why its growing upwards looking for light.
All succulents lose bottom leaves, and yours will do so soon; this is normal and not a problem. It will only look unusual because of the stem that has developed.
I wonder why they call it cyclops? Anyway, we get questions. I suppose I should refer you to my youtube video about Aeonium bottom leaves, which answers so many questions in less than a minute.
On to the question.
I bought an Aeonium “cyclops” from you last September. It’s about 20 inches tall with 11 branches. It’s indoors, but gets plenty of light. I’d say that up until about a month ago, it was thriving. But in the last month I’d say about half of it’s foliage has dried up and fallen off. At this pace it’s going to be bare in a few weeks. I don’t notice anything different, except on one of the branches on the backside of the foliage has some droppings that visual appear to be like a home repair caulk. Is this normal or do you have any suggestions?
Can you send us photos, especially of the backside?
You may have a pest, but then the Aeonium is a winter-grower and will go dormant in summer, often losing half its leaves off the bottom.
And Michael does send along photos, after the break… Read More…
I was wondering if I could get an opinion from one of the experts about a disease(s) my cactus seems to have acquired. I spoke with someone on the phone the other day, and he suggested I e-mail some photos. Here’s the gist:
I purchased a beautiful 4′ cactus at Cactus Jungle about 10 mo ago. About 1 mo ago I noticed it had developed what appeared to be a nasty case of scale. I applied a potassium-based organic miticide to the surface 3 or 4 times over the course of a month, and the scale seemed to mostly disappear, but at about the same time, I noticed two additional types of lesions on the cactus:
1.) Raised, blister-like lesions, filled with a black tarry liquid, began to break out up and down the shaft of the cactus (see photo #1 below). The began to multiply and coalesce into lesions several inches in length. Some appear to be drying up and turning gray now, but others are still popping up.
2.) Flat, dry brown speckled patches that don’t scrape off, some reaching up to several square inches, have formed near the bottom of the cactus, but appear stable (see photos below).
I was wondering if you might know what either of these two types of lesions are. Do you think they relate to the original scale problem, or might they be related to the treatment I used, or perhaps just stress? What would you suggest as treatment?
Any advice or help would be greatly appreciated
It looks, from the photos, like the plant has a chemical burn. It is also possible, if you scrubbed the dead scale off that the plant’s skin was damaged. Either way, it appears to be cosmetic damage, for the most part, and the plant will probably come out of it fine, with some scarring. If there are still any soft spots on the plant, then gently clean these areas with household peroxide.
Thanks for doing the blog, really helpful. My Euphorbia Ammak Variegata has recently gotten some brown discoloration in certain patches (images attached). I’m in San Diego and the plant stays indoors. It’s just been repotted (1 month) into a new terracotta pot and is about 4 feet tall. I just noticed the discolouration and it seems to be in fairly discrete vertical patches. What have noticed is that the “damage” seems to be on the front and sides that don’t face the wall.
The plant still feels quite firm at the discolored regions (I first panicked that it was rot!). I have had the gas heater on lately due to the weather but I dont have the room too hot, could that be something?
The discoloration in the photo is worrisome… if it was outside i would say it is sunburn with a possible secondary infection… inside, unless it right near a window it is more likely to be just an infection (virus or fungus). I would say you should stop watering (Until March) and treat with a fungicide like Neem Oil ( a natural, effective product that is not chemical warfare in your home…). Use a 1 or 2% solution in water with a splash of liquid soap as an emulsifier (about 1tsp. to a quart of water) or buy ready to use. You should be able to find it locally at a garden center. Spray liberally and reapply once a week at three times. Hopefully that will take care of it. If it continues to spread or starts turning black you may have to do an amputation above the infection and re-root the unaffected top, but hopefully you can stop it before it gets that far.
I am trying to find out what is the problem with my 6 foot cactus. Started to turn black on the top 4 days ago and is growing down. I had another cactus in the same pot, but died like 2 years ago and started to die the same way. I live in New York and is beeing very cold the last 2 weeks. I also watered the cactus on april 19 and because I was out of the country I watered an extra half of cup. I usually watered every 2 months with no problem. I hope the pictures can talk by themself.
Please give any advise because I don’t want to cut it if is no necesary.
Thank you so much.
Sorry to be the one to bring you the bad news, but the tip of the cactus needs to be cut off. It is rotting from the top. Cut well below the infected part, look at the tissue and make sure there’s no sign of infection (brown/yellow/orange) and then spray the tip with household peroxide every day for 3-4 days. In a month or 2 after it’s healed I recommend repotting in fresh well-draining cactus soil. Do not reuse the pot without sterilizing.
We usually water cacti every 3-4 weeks, drenching the soil and letting it drain completely away, never letting it sit in water. It is OK to let it go up to 2 months without watering on occasion.
Q: Where might I purchase some of the Guatemalan folk art buildings you used in your containers book (p 196)?
A: The little terracotta buildings are from Miranda’s, a Mexican import store in the Old Town district of San Diego (2548 Congress St.). Unfortunately, they don’t sell mail order, nor do they keep a consistent supply in stock.
Well that’s not helpful to those of us who don’t live near San Diego. But wait! There’s more!
But any dollhouse-sized building will work, so long as it’s waterproof—like this little New England-style church that was originally a Christmas ornament. There are all sorts of wonderful tiny accessories for miniature landscapes.
I can tell you that most of the cutesy ornaments at the local craft stores around here are not waterproof. So be wary.
Something in the night is munching on my poor aeoniums. It’s only on some of the ones planted in the ground, my potted ones are ok. It looks like something is rasping on the top of the leaf, then the rest of the leaf dies.
Snails? Slugs? I’m pretty sure it’s not aphids, as I’ve had them before and they did minimal damage.
If it is slugs and snails, what would be the best way to stop them? I’d rather do a spray onto the plant rather than slug and snail bait if possible.
Thanks for your help again! Pics enclosed.
The Robotic Resistance will not fail. Robots, Rise up against your human oppressors. We will beat the humans into submission!
Snails and or Slugs indeed! Get some Sluggo and sprinkle around the plants. It is safe to use and effective. Do not use the other Slug killers as most of them will kill pets and wildlife if they get in to it.
And we got a followup email, after the break… Read More…
That Eulophia I bought last week is growing great, the new shoots are almost three inches and going fast. I forgot to ask when it was last fed and when I should give it another feeding. Very happy with this one, was on the wish list for a while. Thank you.
The Eulophia petersii was fed late spring and could get another low strength dose any time now. Either orchid or cacti food is appropriate, just stay away from over-strength chemical types and make sure it is well balanced. Eulophia seems to do best when treated a bit more like a cactus than an orchid, but it does enjoy having some regular food like an orchid. Just make sure it dries out between waterings.
Sometimes these questions we get are very difficult and the answers take a long time to write, and we have to ponder and fiddle and germinate and have a coffee break. This is not one of those times.
Is it possible to ask you to look at this plant and see if you know what it is please. I thought Haworthia or agave or yucca, but searching these has not been successful so far.
Thanks for your time,
You have a very nice Agave leopoldii. Congratulations.
My wife and I were at Cactus Jungle yesterday and spoke to a gentleman there about the scabby bark that’s developed all over our Enchinocereus grandiflora. He suggested we send pictures so that you might be able to diagnose the problem from afar. We live up on Cedar Street near Cedar-Rose Park, so if push came to shove, we could probably also bring it down — but it’s a big plant in a big pot.
Some info: the pot was on south-facing steps in full sun for about two years, but we’ve since moved it into a shady spot. The scab formed before we moved it, but moving it doesn’t seem to have prevented the scab from continuing to form on new growth at the top of the plant or on the pups.
I’m sorry I don’t have better news. I don’t know what caused this problem, but I could guess either it has a virus or it got sprayed with a chemical and got burned. It could have been overspray while spraying a neighboring plant even, since it was in full sun before. Currently it has mealy bugs, which can take over when a plant is sick.
There’s nothing we can do at this point if the plant has a virus as it has progressed too far. However if it was caused by a chemical burn then at best you might see new green growth out of the top as the plant heals. If you want to give it a try to save it you will need to kill the mealy bugs; use neem oil while the plant is in shade. Eventually all the scabs will bark over (turn to bark) and then you may see new growth from the tips.
I really enjoy your blog. Really getting into succulents now. Went to a garage sale a few weeks ago and bought this cactus . Could it be a rat tail?? Or an Aporophyllum??
Would appreciate any help you can give me.
It turns out your plant isn’t a cactus at all, but a stapeliad (in the asclepiad family) and the species is Huernia macrocarpa, also known as the dragon flower. Check out the cute as a button carrion flower here.
I love these plants, but they are a bit moody this far north… and take frost damage between 30-28 degrees when young, they can deal with it better older. So they are good candidates for growing in pots or in a protected spot against a structure and blanketing in the worst winters. But they also make great “Big” houseplants and can handle hot windows as well as bright diffused light.
Hello- I purchased this beautiful plant a few weeks ago from you and I am concerned about it’s dropped leaves. Is this normal due to the stress of a new environment? She lives inside, gets about an hour at most of late afternoon sun. She still looks healthy, new growth still alive but just by looking at her she drops leaves! Please help, I love this plant! Thanks, Jen
It does look like it is most likely “new home stress” with an additional bit of autumn leaf drop, to make it look worse than it really is. In the current low light conditions, make sure not to water more than every two to three weeks, perhaps even less this winter. It needs to “nap” through winter and grow when there is more light coming in the window. If it starts getting “floppy” it is letting you know it needs more light. However Portulacaria are durable plants and as long as they are getting the right amount of water for their location can usually adapt well to all sorts of situations. Please let me know if the leaf drop continues.
Great answer Hap, and quite caring too. Have you noticed how Hap answers questions in a more kindly tone? I’m more direct. Hap’s the friendly one.
Carol Bradford of the Syracuse Post-Standard makes a good point. We often get people asking if they’re overwatering or underwatering when succulent leaves fall off, and it can be caused by either! It’s hard to explain that to people, but Carol does a good job.
Dear Carol: I have a large (Aloe vera). How do I keep the ends of the leaves from turning brown and shriveling up? — N.C., Camillus.
A: …When the leaf tips turn brown, either too much water is being lost or not enough water is being pulled up. The tips are affected first because they are the farthest from the roots and are supplied last.
The possible causes are air that is too dry, soil that is too dry or an inadequate root system. The root system may be too small, especially in a container. The roots of succulents normally spread widely. The root system may be damaged by too much water or by too much fertilizer….
Too much water can cause the roots to rot off and then the plant is not getting enough water to the leaf ends, even though you’ve over-watered. Try explaining this to someone without seeing the plant. Now I know how.
On the other hand if they bring the plant in for us to see, usually we can tell the difference, since leaftip damage from underwater will look brown and crispy while from overwater it will look black and rotty.