Q: We have two large cactus – both approx 5 feet tall – 18 years old. Not sure their type but they grow tall and straight with many 8-15 inch offshoots. We live in Georgia – left them outside all summer and they flourished. We left them outside one night too many though and we had an early frost. They used to bleed a milky white, now they are bleeding a redish brown sap, they have turned a sickly army green color and the tips are black. Most of the prickles are gone and several branches have fallen over and gone limp. Our beautiful plants are dying. Please if you have any advice on how we can save these plants, let us know immediately. We will do anything.
A: It sounds like they really froze hard. Keep them warm and dry and see if they perk up. If the black starts spreading, they are rotting and you need to cut it off to clean tissue to stop the infection. Clean the knife between cuts with rubbing alcohol. After a week or two of dry warmth you could give it some liquid kelp to try and perk it up. Kelp works like a multi-vitamin and growth stimulant.
I have a Christmas Cactus, (pink flowering, 18″ long ‘paddle’ leaves),
that is said to be from a cutting in Kansas, ca. 1865.
Is there a possibility it is a rare, unknown or presumed ‘extinct’
Do you know of any experts, collectors or breeders that might like a
sample to check it’s DNA -Maybe it could be of value as a foundation plant!?
There’s a Dec 8, 2015 article from UGA, (University of Georgia Ag
Extension), Extension about some cacti being 100, 150 – 200 years old!,
“Confusion about the Christmnas Cactus – They aren’t from the desert.
Oregonian here with a growing cactus collection in a greenhouse. Some of my cacti flower regularly, mostly Mammillaria. I’ve always wondered when a cactus appears to be producing a flower, is there anything I should be doing to promote the flower’s growth? Take it outside, more light, less light, feed it, water it, don’t touch it, don’t move it…. you get the idea. I don’t get too many flowers, and I try to acknowledge their dormancy period during the winter to help the spring/summer flowering, but still have mixed results. Fortunately I have what appears to be an Echinopsis flower coming and I don’t want to screw it up?
There are 2 different issues here:
1. How to get more flowers. We use fish bone meal as a bloom food in late March or early April (now is not too late.) Using a regular cactus fertilizer is also a good idea in the spring.
2. Once the bud is already there, nothing needs to be done to promote its growth. However, there are things you can avoid doing to prevent it from aborting. It’s best not to replant any plant that has started blooming, as the shock can cause the blooms to abort. It’s also best not to change it’s environment too radically, like bringing it from inside to full sun outside. To keep blooms longer, avoid high heat.
Hope that helps
And as a bonus, enjoy a blooming cactus:
Notice all those flower buds all over the tiny cactus? That’s another secret to getting cactus blooms: Pick a cactus that produces lots of flowers, like a rebutia.
Have you got any tips for potting a (large) E.Trigona? I just can’t get my head round how to do it.
How can you tell that a plant is underpotted? What should I look for?
We generally like to see as much plant mass above the soil line as potential root mass below.
Repotting euphorbias is difficult. They have a caustic white sap (latex) that is very dangerous, and with all those branches banging against each other when you repot, the likelihood of getting it on you is high. So what we do is wear a lot of protective clothing, including goggles and gloves, and pack between the branches with bunched up newspaper to keep the branches from scarring each other.
Then you use a tool to separate the roots from the sides of the pot. Lay the whole thing flat on a tarp on the ground. With 2 to 3 people, gently ease the plant out of the pot. Generally you don’t want to disturb the roots too much for succulents, but if it is completely pot bound, then a small amount of root massage to redirect the root tips is recommended.
Place the plant into the new larger pot (we recommend terra cotta) with fresh fast-draining cactus soil so that the top of the soil line stays in the same place. Fill around with more soil, and you’re done. Don’t water for 2 weeks to let the roots heal, and the plant should begin to thrive again.
Greg asks if we can identify this bamboo and recommend a barrier for it.
I am sorry but there is not enough detail in the photos to identify which species of bamboo it is. Can you take a photo of the whole plant with some sort of size scale, as well as a close up of a branch node of one of the mature canes? As far as barrier (if the scale is what I think it is) the 40mil Rhizome Barrier we stock should be sufficient, it stops running bamboo up to 1-1/2″ in diameter if installed correctly and if you police for “jumpers” (rhizomes that go over the top and then dive back under ground) twice a year. The barrier is 30 inches tall and needs to be buried 28 inches, so there is a two inch lip above the soil. You can surround the grove of bamboo and glue the barrier to its self to make a buried bottomless pot. Or if this is invading bamboo from a neighbor, run a trench along the property-line and install the barrier as a single long line.Of course if it is a large grove it can come around the corner of the barrier with time, so some policing will need to be done at the ends of the barrier.
I was in last week and bought a few things to start out growing cactus from seeds. At you employees recommendation, I bought the small green seedling container, some coir, and some activated carbon. I put added the quite wet (but not soupy) coir, added 20 or so seeds to various spots, and then covered in a pretty fine layer of pulverized carbon (used a pestle and mortar). It is now sitting in out bubble window with the other plants. The lid is on and the humidity inside must be at 100% or close to it. Since I only have the seeds I put into this container, any other ideas for carefully germinating my seeds and not losing them to some other competitor would be IMMENSELY appreciated. That includes things like extra supplements, additives that modify PH, or anything that would be beneficial.
Cactus seeds like warmth to germinate, I try and get the temp up to about 80-85 degrees. You do need to watch that the seed dome is not in direct hot sun, or it could get too hot and cook the seedlings. The humidity is good to help break the seed’s dormancy, but do lift the lid now and then to give them some fresh air. Cacti can take a few weeks to even a year to germinate so be patient. After you see little green things that look like transparent green candy rice grains poke a few holes in the plastic lid to let in more air. As it starts drying out faster with the air, you will need to mist occasionally. Watch for mold and algae, though that is why you were told to use the charcoal, but in humid environments it can always be a problem. A low strength mist of Neem Oil usually takes care of it if it does cause problems. Plan on leaving the seedlings in there for about a year, though once they get some size and spines you can wean them off the humidity dome.
Hi again. Thanks for all of your work on the web, you tube and the blog. I appreciate it.
I am moving to Utah and need to decide whether to take my tiny little seedlings with me. You might remember but I bought the small green tray and used coir and crushed carbon as one of your employees suggested. I also took your previous advice and bought your linseed oil and have given the tiny little green rice-sized cacti a few mists with it (1:1 with distilled water). However, I do have some questions:
1. First (a few questions), I hadn’t sprayed the seedlings in many weeks. A couple of days ago I noticed that two seedlings (is this the correct name?) were covered in a white mold of some type. I misted them again with linseed oil and today they look good. My question is – do I need to worry about this? How often should I mist with linseed oil, and can I overmist? I still haven’t put any holes in the container for fresh air – is the mold related to humidity possibly? They’ve been in the container, in a bubble window for 2 months. No direct sun, no watering, etc.
2. Second, as I mentioned before these are very special cacti to me and in some way I want them to grow to maturity for their own sake (sounds goofy I know, but..) – so I am contemplating giving them to a trusted friend to take care of. I’m concerned that such delicate seedlings couldn’t make it through a Utah winter (indoors obviously). I would be willing to use a reptile warming mat or anything if you thought that they would do as well in Utah as they would here. What would you do in this situation? Like I said, I am willing to invest some money to make cacti work in Utah, even if it means buying a serious light source for the winter months.
Thanks so much,
That was a long question. Let’s post the answer after the break… Read More…
I have a very large cactus, about 6 foot from the bottom of the pot to the top of the plant, that I can no longer keep in my house. I am giving to to my sister as she has a bigger house and more favorable conditions for the plant. So sad to give it up. It started off as a 12 inch single shoot cactus. I have had it for about 8 years. My sister lives about 25 minutes away from me. Please help with any suggestions as the best way to transport it to her house.
You have a beautiful specimen Euphorbia abyssinica. That is going to be a challenge to move. I recommend keeping it upright at all times, preferably in a moving van. You will want to wad up newspaper and put it at around the joints where the arms come out, and then wrap the whole thing tightly either with a blanket or newspaper pieces taped to each other, to keep the arms stable during transport. You’ll need at least 3 people, maybe four, making sure one person handles the top of the plant while the others lift the pot.
Please keep in mind that as a Euphorbia this plant has a milky white sap that is caustic at best and some people are allergic to it so it can be poisonous. Wear long sleeves, eye protection and gloves whenever handling this.
I have a couple of cactus that are in need of serious re-planting. And I want to make sure it gets done right.
I have included some pics. Looking for any advice on the best way to go about this.
Those are some impressive looking cactus! I assume you are not going to try to replant the whole clusters, but rather are asking about taking cuttings from the fallen branches. Generally we recommend take tip cuttings and about 2-3ft. in length. Use a serrated blade, like a bread knife. Take a clean cut at a slight angle. Spray the cut end with household Hydrogen Peroxide and then set it aside in a shady location for a week or two so that the cut end callouses over.
When you are ready to plant, if it’s in a pot use fast draining cactus soil. Plant it 4 to 6 inches deep into the soil and stake it up. Don’t water for another week or two. Then start regular watering (every 2-3 weeks in the Bay Area, more or less depending on where you live.)
I purchased these succulents from your garden about a month ago. They were planted directly into the soil 3 days from purchase and given a little water. Since then it’s rained a few times and I never saw any puddling. Others rooted very well, when lightly tugged on they didn’t bend or shift. A couple of days ago I noticed some of the other succulents weren’t doing so great. Attached are the ones that didn’t do so well.
– Photo (forgot the name): It seems the stem had rotted and fell limp. Is the soil not draining properly?
– Sedum hispanicum: Not sure if there’s anything wrong with them but they seemed a bit soft and not as hardy as the day I purchased them.
– Sempervivum: As you can see from the picture the succulent is just black! From the second picture the succulent is slightly elevated from the soil level just like the others.
The first one I think is an Echeveria that is turning into a single bloom stalk. The roots have definitely rotted because of the moisture. I recommend cutting the roots off the stem, bringing it inside and letting the cut portion heal for a week. Then you can replant it into dry cactus soil in a pot. If you’d like, you can bring it in to the store and we can take care of it for you.
The one Sempervivum that turned black has died, and should be removed. The Sedum looks OK, but it’s hard to tell from the photo for sure.
So the basic problem here is too much moisture around the roots. You have a wood-based black mulch on top and that is holding in the water, not letting the soil dry out. This is a good thing for perennials and annuals, but for succulents the soil needs to be able to dry out, so I recommend removing the mulch you have and using a rock mulch, like lava or drain rock.
I can’t tell what the soil is, but if it’s a clay soil it also needs to be amended for faster drainage.
Let me know if you need any more help with these.
Q: Hi there,
Just wondering if you could give me some pruning advice…. Euphorbia candelabra on her terrace… overlooking the River Thames… too big for the space….
Is it possible to prune it back? One of the cactus experts at the Hampton Court Flower Show here told me it would die if I did so… it will have irritating sap…
Any info you could give would be much appreciated. I don’t come across many outdoor cactus here in London, usually just red geranium and buxus balls and so could do with a bit of your much more expert guidance.
Look forward to hearing back from you
Then we get the compact answer:
Yes, you can prune the Euphorbia, if it is done right it will not kill the plant, but it will cause them to scar and then branch over the next few years. You should prune now during warm weather so it has a chance to heal before your wet and cold winter. It should be easy to cut with a pruning saw or a serrated knife. The sap on Euphorbia candelabra is very toxic so make sure you wear safety glasses or use a full face shield, chemical resistant gloves and long sleeves. You do not want the sap in your eyes, as it can cause blindness! To stop the “bleeding” use 3% Hydrogen-peroxide from a druggist, put in to a spray bottle and spray the cut heavily as soon as you are done cutting. It will make the sap stop flowing fairly fast, but watch for splatter while you spray (a real good reason to wear a face shield).
Good luck (and we would love an emailed photo of a before and after to put up on Cactus Blog).
Anyway to save this Echeveria?? Is that even what it is?..
Had this for 3 years now and would hate to see it die.
Could it be cut and repotted above the weak stem area?.. Looks like it is still getting water from the stem though.. I also noticed that it has root like protrusions coming off it.
Any help would be great.
It’s hard to tell right now, but it is probably an Echeveria.
The base of the plant is not really saveable but the small rosette at the end of the stem can be rescued. Trim the stem about 1-2″ below the leaves, making sure there is no rot in the portion of the stem you are keeping. If you see rot, keep cutting higher up until there is not rot visible. Spray the cut end with hydrogen peroxide to help it heal. Let it dry for 2-3 days, and then plant it in a new pot with fresh cactus soil, keeping it dry for at least another week. I would recommend throwing out the existing pot and soil. If you want to reuse the pot clean it with bleach first.
I’m hoping for a little help regarding an issue I have with a very large and beloved peruvian apple (cereus) cactus. This cactus is probably 20 ft tall with a large trunk (about 2-3 feet in diameter) and many, many, many branches. The previous house owner bolted a wire to the house and then wrapped it around the cactus trunk (about 3 ft up from ground) and back to the house. The issue is of course… the cactus has grown and the rubber tubing around the wire has disintegrated allowing the wire to begin cutting through the cactus. Probably 1/4 to 1/2 inch divot into the trunk. So my question is… should I cut the wire and pull it out of the cactus? And is there anything I can put on the damaged area to prevent infection? Any help would be greatly appreciated.
Yes, cut out the wire ASAP! It can girdle the cactus and eventually kill everything above the wire by strangulation…. Any injury to the skin can be painted or sprayed with standard hydrogen-peroxide to disinfect and help seal up the damage. If the green “Skin” is cut all the way around you may loose the top so make sure to take your time and remove the wire carefully so not to do any additional damage. If you can email us a photo we will try and give you more complete advice.
Came across your excellent blog and had a question I could not find an answer for. There are lots of instructions and advice on how to cut portions off of a small cactus, but I have a large cactus that is about to grow through my eight foot ceiling!! I’d like some advice on cutting it in half and repotting the cut portion. I’d really appreciate any help you could give me. My guy looks like this.
Thanks in advance for your help.
Your Cereus is actually fairly easy to cut and re-root. You should be able to cut it at any height you like and then root the top cut as a new clone. The stump will eventually branch, so you should think about cutting somewhere about the height of the chair rail so it has room to grow in to a multi-branched tree form.
We use a pruning saw or a serrated bread knife to cut column cacti, cut at a slight angle with the down slope side towards the wall, so the scar is less evident on the stump. You can wrap the top piece you are cutting off with a towel or carpet scrap to make it easier to hold while cutting.
With the height it looks like it is a two person job, one holding the top and one using the saw. After you have cut off the top piece, spray or paint the cut ends with household hydrogen-peroxide to disinfect and help seal the injury. Re-treat daily for a couple of days to make sure it does not catch a fungus or bacterial infection. The top piece should be stood up against the wall on newspaper and let dry for a week. After a week the cut tissue should be scabbed over (think abrasion scab like after a bike crash…). Generally you don’t need rooting hormones for this type of cacti, but if you have some on hand or have any liquid kelp you could treat the cut end before potting it up to speed up rooting. If you use IBA rooting hormones only use it at low strength. Then pot up in dry cactus soil (fast draining and chunky). Stake as needed. Keep dry and warm for several weeks and then water.
It should grow roots in a month or two. If it starts to look dehydrated during this time frame you can mist the column at night with water. Cacti only open their stoma at night to transpire as it helps them preserve water in the deserts, so misting during the day will not help. You can give the stump a bit of low strength fertilizer to speed up branching and help it through the trauma of loosing it’s head.
Well, it may be a little too late for that, what with the pictures.
Hi, I called a few weeks ago about my cactus, attached are photos. I just moved from Richmond to Martinez and my cactus started turning a beautiful deep red color on one side but now it has a disturbing orange stripe down the center. Is it ok? Thank you in advance for your help.
Your Euphorbia looks like it has both sunburn/sun-stress and a fungal infection. The red is sun and the orange/brown/black is a sign of a fungus infection. I suggest spraying it with Neem Oil at 1 or 2%
solution. This will hopefully stop the infection. Spray to the point of run off, in the evening, not morning or afternoon as the oil can add to the sunburn. Respray after a week.
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?
Thank you for your time,
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.
Q: I bought a Mission cactus last year. The tag said to water it well until it “was established,” but I didn’t really know how much water to give it after that. I looked up Mission cactus on the Internet and most sites said little or no water, or arid dry. It has grown quite a bit since I planted it, and even now has small new growth on a few ends. Lately though it has twists and folds with a yellowish color in the middle of the “hands.” I have no idea whether I am watering it enough or too much as it doesn’t respond much differently. I really like this plant, and it is a focal point when anyone comes through our gate into the courtyard.
A: Mission cactus is basically a beavertail or a nopal-type cactus.
When you are watering a cactus it is important to water it deeply but infrequently. This is what is meant by telling you to water it “well” until it gets established. If, by chance, you interpret that to mean watering frequently with small amounts of water, you run the risk of having it fall over when it gets bigger or possibly killing it….
If you click through to read the rest of the article, you’ll find out a lot more about growing cactus in the desert, like,
Many cacti will indicate they need water through the appearance of their “skin.” Their outer surfaces will become slightly wrinkled…
fertilize it once a year…
All good advice, and the article is just chock-full of advice.
…about the question people ask us, “Why is my cactus/succulent (turning yellow) (losing leaves) (turning brown) (dying)?”
But then I decided that I didn’t want to answer that question.
If I were to answer it, I’d have to ask questions back to the questioner. For instance, I might ask, “Do you know what the species is?” or “When was the last time you repotted it?” and of course, “How often do you water?” and finally, “Can you bring the plant in or send a digital photo?”
Often people try to describe the plant, “Oh it’s green and it’s got long thingys on it, but it’s not too spikey…” or “It’s got round leaves” so I’ll point to a plant and they’ll say, “No that’s not it, it’s taller than that” or “More round”.
That’s enough whining for today. Go back to enjoying your Saturday afternoon. Go on…. You don’t have to go outside, but you can’t stay here…
Hello! I was wondering if you might be able to identify the attached for me? Someone thought it might be an Echinopsis – but the flowers look wrong for that to me. If you have any suggestions, I’d appreciate it very much!
Again, I really enjoy your blog, and read it all the time.
Thanks very much!
Very nice cactus! And not an Echinopsis at all. It’s a Parodia magnifica. Very distinctive.
I was just in Cabo San Lucas and saw these palms? everywhere, what are they and can they be grown here in the bay area?
Sorry it took me so long to get back to you, I have to admit, I sort of had a “blonde moment” and just couldn’t put a name to your plant for a bit… but it finally came to me and I sort of blurted it out at dinner last night… plant nerd alert.
It looks like it is a Ravenala madagascariensis or “Travelers Palm”, which is not a palm but is in the Streliziaceae family (Bird of paradise family). It is not really hardy enough to grow here… but if you have a protected spot you might be able to pull it off up against the house or in a courtyard. It can also be grown as house plant, but you sort of need a big space. I have seen it’s relative Strelitzia nicolai “Giant Bird of Paradise” which looks similar growing in Berkeley and SF.
I am a plumeria grower and a friend sent me some unknown cuttings last season that have grown very well in my rock garden at home. I have attempted to id this plant with a few friends at different botanical gardens with no luck. They suggested asking a few professional growers in Cal. if it could be id by those with more local knowledge. Any help would be appreciated, I have given several cuttings to friends in my area now so many of us are at a loss! I have attached a picture. My friend has told me in late spring in Cal it forms a stalk with a bloom head of multiple purple flowers. Any help would be greatly appreciated so I can give this plant a name.
It looks like you have a very happy Calandrinia grandiflora. It should send up amazing purple, poppy like blooms all summer long. I find they bloom best if ignored and under watered. They are native to Chile and Peru. Though they must come from lowlands, since they do get knocked back with a heavy frost here in Berkeley. I think they could handle more cold if they were drier, but our winters are usually wet.
Hap gets right to it and identifies a mysterious, though fairly common, mesemb.
I’m wondering if yourselves or any of your readers can help identify this plant from Lanzarote in the Canary Islands. When I collected some dried fruits/seed pods in Sept ’04 I took a picture of some still succulent fruits, which look a bit like raspberries, with red and colourless ‘cells’. The seeds were in the black pods in the centre of the fruit.
I came across the seeds again this spring, and they’ve proven viable after almost five years. The plants are a few months old now, about 2 inches tall. The biggest leaves are roughly 2 inches long, fleshy and rubbery with clear cells on both sides of the leaves, the undersides having bigger cells.
Cool map. Hap seems to think he knows what it is. Do you agree?
It looks like you have Mesembryanthemum crystallinum, an interesting “ice” plant native to South Africa. It has naturalized all over the world, in both temperate and Mediterranean climates. It is so wide spread because it is a quick growing, salt tolerant plant that could be grown in pots for both cheerful flowers and edible fruit and “greens” for cooking that was useful as a treatment for scurvy. So sailors traded seeds and plants all around the world and even grew it aboard sailing ships. It is believed it made it to the Americas on those early sailing ship in the 1500s.