Questions


Questions15 Jun 2010 08:56 am

Hi Kevin,

When you have a chance, can you tell me what these are? I got them from different places.

The first one was given to us, has beautiful bloom;

Second one hitch-hiked with another plant I bought, with a big round root under all that tentacles and had a ring of tiny yellow flowers a while ago;

3rd one I got from Target, reminds me of someone wiith a bad hair day;

4th one spread like waves/snakes.

I cannot find these from any books I have, so thought you might be able to help. Is it OK to trouble you? or is there another source I can ask about plants?

Thanks!

Lillian

Here are the attached photos:

149

149

536

536

537

537

538

538

Lillian,
You have:
149. Crassula falcata, also known as the propellor plant.

536. is a crested Euphorbia, possibly Euphorbia flanaganii

537. is definitely Euphorbia flanaganii, also known as Medusa’s Head – would certainly qualify as bad hair…

538. Tephrocactus articulatus v. papyracanthus, or the Paper-Spine Cactus.
Peter

Questions07 Jun 2010 07:23 am

HI, I was wondering if you could tell me what kind of plant this is, and if it is unusual for it’s size. It was growing for some time then this tree like appendage came shooting out of it. It is well over the top of our 1 story home. Easily close to 2 stories high. Picture is included. Thanks for your response.

Mike
Vista, CA

Mike,

Your plant is an Agave that it is starting to bloom. It looks like it is an Agave americana or “Century Plant”. The blooms will open soon and look amazing, the stalk will eventually (over the next year or two…) dry out and be a sculptural corpse… Agave bloom stalks were often used as alien trees in old science fiction films. Agaves grow for a long time (but not really for a century) and then bloom and die. However there should be “Pups” or baby plants around the base of the blooming mother plant that will repeat the cycle, as Agave have a habit of cloning themselves before trying to do “sexual reproduction”. If there is another Agave bloom in you area and you have Agave moths, you might even get seed pods. If not the flower stalk will sometimes try another cloning strategy and grow plantlets where the blooms are, that eventually helicopter down and root in where they land.

Take care,

Hap

Questions05 Jun 2010 07:30 am

Hello,

My son is very worried about his cactus. He has had it for about two years and it started to turn black (please see attached photos) two weeks ago. We live in Wisconsin, and his cactus receives about 8 hours of sunlight a day. Any advice would greatly appreciated.

Thank you,
Tony

Tony,

The cactus is mutant Gymnocalycium that is grafted on top of a Hylocereus stem (the green part). It is a chimera pair so that the bottom graft can feed the top bright-colorful part that lacks chlorophyll since it was likely exposed to gamma radiation to kill the chlorophyll and bring out the wild otherworldly color. The sad reality is the mutated part is generally short-lived because it has compromised immunities and can’t build all the proteins it needs.

The black infection showing in the photos is likely a fungal infection (it could also be a virus). If it is a fungus it may respond to being treated with a fungicide. We use Neem Oil, which is usually effective, while having low (to none) toxicity issues around mammals (us, kids, pets…). Neem Oil is used in toothpaste and cosmetics. You should be able to find a ready-to-use Neem Oil product at your local nursery. Follow the directions and spray it down well. Retreat after a week. Hopefully it will stop the infection, but the top graft will always be scarred. If the infection continues the top graft may fail and turn all black; if it does cut it off and treat the green base with Neem. The Hylocereus base is actually a cool jungle cactus that can be treated more like an orchid and if it starts growing new arms it can eventually bloom and even fruit, which are those cool and tasty looking “Dragon Fruit” you might have seen at the grocery store.

Good luck,
Hap

Questions&Reader Photos29 May 2010 07:33 am

You never know what kind of common names you’re going to get from a cactus.

(Here’s) a picture of a cactus I have that blooms once every May.  Four tall white flowers that look like umbrellas. I would like to know what kind of cactus it is. Thanks.

Nancy

Nancy,
That’s an Echinopsis alright, formerly known as a Lobivia. As for the particular species, it’s hard to tell from the photo, but it might be Echinopsis subdenudata from Bolivia.
Peter

Questions27 May 2010 08:48 am

Hi, we had a cactus planted in our front yard about six months ago. It’s getting browned and hard at the bottom, but not mushy (which I thought would indicate overwatering). The browning is working its way up the plant, but if it IS overwatering, of course I don’t want to continue to contribute to that problem by watering it more thinking it’s too dry.

Any suggestions!? Thanks!

Matt B
San Diego

Matt,
It’s a little hard to tell exactly what I’m looking at there. It’s probably just barking, i.e. the plant is turning into a tree and creating a trunk at the bottom with bark. On the other hand, it could be an infection. The key question is: Is the area soft or firm? Firm is good, soft is rot and that would be bad.

If it is soft, then given the location of the rot, you probably need to cut the plant down and get rid of the root mass. You can then save the branches, let them dry in shade for a week or two, and then plant them in a fast draining cactus soil.

A warning: This is a Euphorbia and it has caustic sap. Wear protective clothing, long gloves and eye protection. Don’t get any of the milky white sap on you.

What rot in a Euphorbia looks like.
Peter

Peter, I really appreciate your response.

It’s hard – very hard – and inching upward even though I’m not watering the plant at all, so it sounds as though it’s barking.

Again – thanks so much!!
Matt B

Questions26 May 2010 08:46 am

Hiya guys,
I just got back from my tour of the US,
and my buddy gave me some cow’s tongue opuntia when I was passing thru New Mexico.
I was wondering if the fruit is edible and the same as standard prickly pear.
I never see this in the Bay area, is it rare out here?
Thanks!
Jay

Jay,
All opuntia fruit is edible, just some taste better than others, some are less spiny and easier to get at than others, and some are already bottled in fancy sweet vinegars made in Italy.
Peter

Questions24 May 2010 06:40 am

Peter,

I’m heading to a wedding and would like to bring a hand-made succulent arrangement as a wedding gift.   What are some succulents that can survive the lack of sun that Eugene has most of the year?  Are there good resources that show which succulents would work well in that climate zone?

Thanks!
Jordan

P.S.  I’m thinking it can be an indoor arrangement to help regulate the ridiculous amount of rain it would get otherwise outside in Eugene.

Jordan,
The best options for low-light succulents are the Haworthias. They tend to be small, but there is a lot of variation in the look. Also, there are a number of Crassulas, green Aeoniums, and even some Aloes that can handle fairly low light levels, though not full shade. For outdoor in Eugene, there’s a book called “Hardy Succulents” that list lots of succulents and the colder zones they can handle.
Peter

Blogs&Questions&Reader Photos21 May 2010 03:04 pm

Hello… I’m a regular reader, and very occasional commenter on your blog… you may remember me from a prickly pear cactus jelly post you linked to… [Ed: Yes we do remember!] regardless…

I bought this plant in July of 2008. When I bought it, it was labeled Mammillaria species… and that’s it. Nothing else…

I’ve included 4 pics… 2 of the plant when I first bought it, which I posted on the blog in hopes that some kind, kind person out there knew or could blindly guess the species. They couldn’t…

there’s also one with blooms from last year, and a current pic showing fruit…

If you could help me ID the thing, I’d really really be grateful… thanks for your trouble…

Claude from Random Rants and Prickly Plants

Claude,
I typed up a response and saved it in drafts, and now its missing, so I don’t know if you’ve already received an answer from me, but you have a lovely Mammillaria perbella. The fruit in one of the photos is edible, though tiny, and only if you haven’t used chemical insecticides. If grown outdoors, it would be way more spiny, but yours is looking great.
Hap

Also, see here on Claude’s blog another picture of the Mammillaria in question. And don’t miss out on the beer can garden post. Really, you don’t want to miss it.

Questions06 May 2010 08:56 am

hello!

I had this cute lil plant that was doing just fine until a few days ago i decided to let it have some direct sun for a few days. I’ve had them in the pot for about 2 months on my back porch which gets mostly indirect light all day rather than direct blasts of sun. I haven’t watered it for at least a week and a half, if not longer.

planty

Over the weekend, I brought it out on a little table in the backyard and it seemed fine Sat-Sun. Today was my first day in the backyard since Sunday and poor little plant- what’s happening?? It’s all yellow and limp, looking sad… Is there such a thing as too much sun? Can you help me figure out what’s going on, and if there’s something I can do to help the situation?

Thank you!!
Christina

Christina,
Your plant has a sunburn. Generally, you cannot take plants from shade or from indoor into direct sun – they need to be “hardened off” which means getting them a little sun at first, and gradually bringing them out into more sun over a week or two.

At this point, its hard to tell if they will survive, but get it out of the full sun, into a bright location, and hope for the best. It will definitely lose most of its bottom leaves, but hopefully there will soon be new growth from the tips of the plants.
Peter

Questions&Reader Photos04 May 2010 06:43 am

Hi,

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??

ygpE17A

Would appreciate any help you can give me.

Thanks,
Jan

Jan,
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.

Nice!

Peter

Questions21 Apr 2010 10:34 am

We saw Euphorbia Characias ssp. Wulfenii and Euphorbia x martini on your blog. Are they evergreen plants? Since they’re listed as perennials, we’re worried that they would die back or be half-dead in the winter. Our project is in San Jose, where winters can get down to 24 degrees F.

Thank you,
Carrie

Carrie-
Both of these are hardy and evergreen in San Jose, and we do have E. martinii in stock (as well as a bunch of other evergreen spurges). We do have some other Euphorbias that are deciduous, but not these. Perennials here in California are often evergreen; we use the designation perennial (survives year after year) in distinction to annual (survives only one year), and we also refer to whether plants are evergreen or deciduous.

Actually, we don’t use the label “annual” on any of our plants, since this is California where lots of plants that are annuals elsewhere are perennials here and we choose not to grow any outdoor plants that don’t survive the winters.

Peter

Questions20 Apr 2010 07:16 am

I purchased this lovely little variegated agave (Tag just said Agave ‘mediovariegata’) on a recent trip to California. One pup was visible at the soil surface. When I pulled it out of the pot, I found half a dozen more pups trying to grow out the drainage holes (see attached photo). How is best to handle the subterranean ones? Can I separate them now, or should I put it in a bigger pot and let them make their own way to the surface?

agave mediopicta

Much thanks,
Joseph

Joseph,

The name is Agave medio-picta “Alba” and it will eventually get 6 ft. across. Congratulations on all the hidden babies. You can go ahead and separate them all now if you want, and get each pup into its own pot with a fast draining cactus soil. Gently pull them off, and they should separate without needing to cut.

Peter

Questions&Reader Photos17 Apr 2010 07:31 am

Yes we can!

First, we have the preliminaries:

Hello,

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,
Liz

Hello Liz,

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

Hap

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,

Hap

Questions14 Apr 2010 09:15 am

Hi Hap,

Hope you’re doing well.
I had a couple of aloe vanbalenii that had root rot. I trimmed off as much as I could to expose some white/green flesh. Can I just plant them into the ground now (the soil is well draining and dry).

2010-04-06 11.16.06

Thanks
Zac

Zac,

Yes, replant in fresh fast draining soil and keep on the dry side for the next few weeks. They should reestablish pretty quickly if the weather turns back to be warm and sunny… if it stays stormy and cool they would likely prefer to be potted and under a rain shield of some sort for the next month.

Take care,
Hap

But wait! There’s more! (more…)

Questions&Reader Photos07 Apr 2010 07:02 am

Apparently we’re not the only ones to get this question; the email was also sent to Berkeley Hort, Magic Gardens and Westbrae. I hope we gave the best answer.

Hi,

I recieved a plant with flowers that look like the picture attached to this email. I don’t know the plant’s name so I am not sure how to care for it. I was told it was a dancing orchid but most the care sheets I found online for dancing don’t look remotely like the flowers in the attached picture. Do you know the name of the plant in the attached photo? Most of the flowers along its long stem are dying now, should I be cutting the stems?? Could you maybe direct me to a website with information on how to care for the plant in the attached photo?

031307dancing_orchids

Thanks,
Joanna

Joanna,

You orchid is a Brassia, or commonly known as a “spider orchid”.

Brassia pretty much just takes standard orchid care… here is a link with specific information.

You can trim off the spent bloom-spike after it dries out, but don’t cut it off until then as they can occasionally re-bloom from the same spike if they are really happy.

Take care,
Hap

Questions&Reader Photos06 Apr 2010 08:08 am

Hi-

Several years ago, I purchased the succulents in the attached photos from you, and they’ve done beautifully. These plants are on the patio in the full sun – and cold temperatures.  They flank patio steps – one on each side. This past winter, one survived and is doing well, and the other looks terrible, yet has new growth at the base and a bloom and some new growth emerging from what appears to be dead stalks.  Here are photo descriptions:

_MG_0483

IMG_483 = Healthy Planting

_MG_0485

IMG_485 =Nearly all dead (freeze) Planting. Note new growth and Blossom

My questions are:

  • Given the new growth, should I do any trimming back of dead growth or just allow the new growth to continue?  I feel no trimming will leave it leggy and very different from the other one in appearance, size, etc.
  • What is this plant’s name?
  • Is it still correct to cut the stalky blooms once they’ve been around a while?
  • Thank you!

    Lynn S.
    Alamo

    Lynn,
    First, what a lovely and happy Aeonium c.v. “Whippet” you have in the first photo.

    OK, on to the 2nd plant. Aeoniums can be frost sensitive, and we had a hard freeze this past winter, so it looks like it took damage then. The good news is that the plant is still alive, and has already started growing out of the damage. However, the rest of the plant is dead, and can be trimmed back whenever you’d like, now that spring has arrived. After all the cut branches have healed over, you may want to replant it into a smaller pot for it to grow back.

    If you’re unsure about how much to cut, you can always bring it in to the nursery and we can trim it back for you.

    Peter

    Questions&Reader Photos05 Apr 2010 07:02 am

    We loved visiting your nursery last month, one of our favorite stops in Berkeley. I am from the St.Louis area and have a nursery here. Can you identify the succulent in the photo for me? I am having trouble finding a name. A lot of our stuff from San Diego comes in without i.d. tags.

    download

    Many thanks for your help!
    Chris Kelley

    Chris,
    You have a very healthy Pachyphytum oviferum, also known as Moonglow. Make sure the plant is not overwatered in the teacup, which I assume has no drainage.

    Hope your spring is going well; we’ve had a relapse of winter this weekend :(
    Peter

    Questions01 Apr 2010 07:58 am

    Hi,

    I was looking for some help about my coral cactus. I received it as a gift a month ago. I’ve only watered it two or three times and I leave it by the window with the most light. Today I noticed the plant browning between the stem and white fan. I don’t know if it can be saved or not…any advice on how to care or save the plant? I also attached pictures.

    DSC04181

    Thank you so much!

    Debbie

    Debbie,

    I am afraid to say from your photos that the graft looks like it is infected and well on the way to failing. The plant should be allowed to dry out completely and treated with a fungicide. We use Neem Oil, a natural easy to use and non-toxic (to people or pets) product which is an effective fungicide and insecticide. It is not as aggressive as synthetics, but much safer to use. If you use a more aggressive fungicide, read and follow the directions carefully and make sure to wear chemical resistant disposable gloves.

    Sorry I do not have better news. Good luck and take care,

    Hap

    Questions&Reader Photos28 Mar 2010 05:05 am

    I bought this as a little plant from you guys two years ago an it’s grown an insane amount! What is this? I’m so curious about it.

    photo-33 photo-34

    Thanks,
    Geoffrey

    Geoffrey,
    Wow! That’s a very happy Opuntia (Austrocylindropuntia) subulata monstrose. Really a beautiful specimen. It probably has another year before it needs to be pruned back in that pot.
    Peter

    Questions24 Mar 2010 09:17 am

    A: Cut the wire.

    Hi,
    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.
    Thanks,
    MJC

    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.

    Good Luck,

    Hap

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