Questions


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

    Questions23 Mar 2010 06:45 am

    Hi,

    I just found your blog today off Plants are the Strangest People Blog.

    I had stopped at a garage sale one day looking for pots. I saw an unusual plant and asked the lady if I could have a cutting. She couldn’t find the cutting she thought she had, so she ended up giving me a pot of the plant. She said she did not know the name of it but it has a red flower when it blooms.

    So, I have looked thru books and on the internet. I think it is a Epephyllum, but I cannot find one that has a red flower. It looks like Epiphyllum anguliger, but the book says that has a white flower.

    Can you tell me what it is? I have attached pics of it.

    SDC10002

    Thanks for any help you can give me. I looked through your blog all the way back to last May in hopes of finding my plant posted.

    Jan

    Jan,
    What you have there is a Cryptocereus anthonyanus, which is an epiphytic cactus from Mexico, much as the Epiphyllums are, however unlike the Epi’s, there are not 100s of cultivated varieties.

    It looks like you have a beautiful specimen with lots of healthy green growth. In general you can treat it like an orchid. They prefer bright indirect light, and we would grow them indoors here in Northern California. Water about once per week, no more than that, and add bloom food in the spring to get those big red flowers.
    Peter

    Questions11 Mar 2010 08:00 am

    We mix our own cactus soil, designed for everyone who lives other than in the desert, so there’s no sand in it at all, which is a good ingredient if you live in the desert, but we don’t. One of our regulars asked a question about the ingredients in our mix.

    Hi Hap,

    I was looking at your pre-mixed soil for sale (the one that’s recommended for a very fast draining soil for cacti); I noticed that there is a percentage of COIR in the mix. Doesn’t that retain moisture, thus, creating a less desirable draining vehicle. Maybe it has some other attributes that justifies it’s addition to the mix…

    Thanks,
    Faraz

    Now, I would answer this differently than Hap, who does a good job of just getting down to basics. I would have said something along the lines of Yes, it does hold some moisture – all plants need some moisture… But that would have been rude of me, so it’s a good thing Hap answered instead.

    Faraz,

    Our soil mix is mostly lava and pumice, the organic materials are coir and composted rice-hulls. Both of them are nice and rot resistant, both being the seed-husks of water transported seeds, means they are filled with natural anti-fungal properties, which leads to long term soil stability and healthy plants. Coir and rice-hulls can last eight to ten years in potting soil. Commonly used peat only lasts about two to three years, and has a host of other drawbacks as well…. The coir and rice-hulls are both “long fiber”, so they do hold moisture, but not too much. They also “bond” nutrients well, so the slow release complex organic fertilizer we add has a good life span in the soil mix.

    Hap

    Questions01 Mar 2010 07:56 am

    I purchased these a little over a year ago from your Cactus Jungle. They seemed to be doing well, then suddenly developed this white substance at the end of the spines. At first it was just on the larger “barrel” cactus, but now it is on one of the smaller ones, too. Also, one of the smaller ones “shrunk” into the rocks. I see the white substance also on the flesh of the cactus. The spines come out easily and it seems to be shrinking. Do you have a diagnosis? What treatment, if any?

    Thank you very much for your help. I really enjoy these cacti and want them to survive.

    0401 0399

    Nancy :-)

    Nancy, it appears that your cactus have spine-mealy bugs. They can be treated with a paintbrush and rubbing alcohol and a treating with neem oil.

    The cactus that shrunk into the soil appears to have passed on.

    If you can bring them down to us we’d be able to treat them and figure out more definitively what’s going on.

    Ian

    More from Ian after the break… (more…)

    Questions24 Feb 2010 09:22 am

    Hi,
    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
    Charlotte

    Charlotte,
    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!
    Peter

    Questions23 Feb 2010 12:37 pm

    Q. I have a cold, dry apartment — 65 degrees when I’m there and awake in the winter, 55 otherwise. A few hours of sun a day. Jade plants, pencil cactus, Christmas cactus and such do well. I’d like to get some plants with more colorful foliage. Also, something that’s more vertical than most succulents — like the big thorny euphorbiaceous I used to see at the flower show, perhaps? Can I get something small locally and have it grow? Ed, Arlington.

    A. Most houseplants require indoor temperatures between 65 and 70 degrees. Succulent plants, such as your pencil cactus and jade plant, will tolerate cooler conditions. Below, I recommend some succulent and tropical plants with colorful foliage and vertical statures that you can purchase locally and grow indoors….

    read on…

    Did I ever tell you that I went to college in Mass.? No? Well that’s good because I went to college in Michigan. I grew up in Massachusetts.

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