Questions23 Mar 2010 06:45 am


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.


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.


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.

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…


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.


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.


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.


More from Ian after the break… (more…)

Questions24 Feb 2010 09:22 am

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!

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.

Questions23 Feb 2010 07:16 am

Hi Peter
I bought the $125.00 bonzai succulent from u this morning!!!


This is my succulent I purchased from Target nursuery!!! Do u know what it is?


What you have, is an Adenium obesum, a caudex-forming succulent from Northern Africa. It likes a lot of sunlight, but needs to be inside in the winter in the Bay Area, so a South or West facing window is best.

Water every 2 weeks, fertilize in spring, and you should should get some very impressive flowers. The flower color will be a surprise since they are hybridized for a whole range of colors.

Questions22 Feb 2010 11:03 am

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.

Take care,


Questions17 Feb 2010 09:09 am

Following up from an earlier post.

Hi Hap and the great crew at CactusJungle.
I hope you’re all doing well…

I have noticed one my Ferox’s leaves is turning brown and mushy. The plant has been under Neem/alcohol treatment for 3 weeks now. Should I just cut off the leaf close to the stem and dab on some 3% hydrogen peroxide? or should I leave it alone and continue with the Neem/alcohol regimen?


By the way, since the solution has alcohol portion (1/4 cup alcohol in 4 cups water); should I rinse off with water after each treatment?

As far as undiluted 3% hydrogen peroxide, can I just spray the undiluted solution on leaves with fungus infected spots/patches? Thanks

Best, Faraz


I would cut the leaf edge about a half inch cut as close to the stalk as possible and then yank it off. The leaf should just peel off at the stem cleanly. Then spray/splash anything that is left with the peroxide.

You don’t need to rinse off after each treatment, and you can spray directly on the leaves!


Questions10 Feb 2010 07:57 am


A local nursery in my neighborhood recently sold out to a large chain store.

They always had a few cactus all of which were good quality, but not at all a “cactus shop”. They mostly specialized in outdoor/landscaping/plants etc for the pacific northwest.

There was an inventory sell off for 50% mark down prior to the ownership change. I swung in there to take a look. Saw this amazing Echinopsis beast (attached). At least that was my ID.


I spoke with an owner who indicated this was a friend of his and it was not for sale. I tried to find out what it would take to change his mind.  Anyway, how old is an Echinopsis like this, what would such a thing cost if it were ever for sale, and where can I get one!



That looks like it is a very nice Echinopsis subdenudata. If we had any that big (we do not, alas! Though we do have a cute crop coming in spring) it would likely be in the $250-300 price range… at least if it is as big as it looks.


Questions08 Feb 2010 08:09 am

Hiya Hap…
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… (more…)

Questions03 Feb 2010 12:06 pm


I found your name on the internet some time ago and had asked you a question regarding a cactus I have. Thankfully you were able to help. I am wondering if you might be able to answer another question for me. I have an old man cactus that is about 25 years old. This morning I was watering it and realized that I used a container that had soap, vinegar and a small amount of peppermint oil mixed with a lot of water (I use this to clean instead of chemicals). Once I realized this I immediately took the cactus to the sink and poured the remaining contaminated water out. I also flushed clean water through the cactus (about a half a quart). Should I take the cactus out rinse all of the dirt off the roots and replace all of the soil, or would this be more traumatic than leaving it? Thank you for any information you might be able to provide.



What sort of concentration was the vinegar? Being acid it can be used as a weed-killer when mixed with soap. But if you flushed the soil with water and diluted it quickly I doubt that it will be a problem. We actually add a bit of vinegar to our water now and then to adjust the ph down, since a bit of acidity releases a lot of nutrients. The peppermint oil will just help kill any bugs in the soil.


The rest of the vinegary conversation after the break… (more…)

Questions01 Feb 2010 11:31 am

Hello there! I just received this plant as a gift and would love to know what it is. I tried my best to search the web but had no luck. Do you have any ideas?




It is a Euphorbia tirucallii, or commonly called Pencil Cactus, though it is not a cactus, but a cool plant from Africa. Just beware the sap of that plant is pretty nasty (it looks like milk), do not get in your eyes or on your lips! Think cayenne pepper pain and a trip to the hospital if it is in your eyes… so wash your hands after handling it. Keep in bright light and don’t over water.

Take care,

Questions28 Jan 2010 10:18 am

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.

1 2

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.

Good luck and take care,


Questions26 Jan 2010 11:29 am

Hi Hap,

Please find below photos of my Ferox we discussed yesterday. 2-3 leaves on the back side are covered with black/grayish stains. Are these something to be worried about?


Thanks for taking the time to respond.



It looks more like sunburn damage… than freeze damage. Is it on the side facing the house?


Hi Hap,

Actually, that Ferox was recently planted; the markings were on it when I bought it. I just positioned the plant so the bad leaves would not be visible from the front.



It is likely abrasion or sunburn from being turned after shipment, which can happen when the north side leaves get turned to face south, they just do not have much resistance to UV.


Questions23 Jan 2010 08:37 am

Hi there, I was told to email you for an ID of this big boy. My awful neighbor tore this beauty out of the ground….is it a ferox, or something else? I don’t see the little red pimples on the backs of the leaves like ferox usually has….


Thanks for any help you can give with it’s ID.


I am still trying to make up my mind, it is hard to tell scale in the photo, is as big as it looks? It is not Aloe ferox, I have a feeling it might be a hybrid, or perhaps your photo is off color on my computer? If it was bluer looking, I would say it is Aloe speciosa, but being so green and upright it looks more like Aloe cryptapoda, but they do not usually get stems, but stay on the ground. I think I may need to sleep on that one…


Questions14 Jan 2010 10:11 am

Hi there, I was told to email you for an ID of this big boy. My awful neighbor tore this beauty out of the ground….is it a ferox, or something else? I don’t see the little red pimples on the backs of the leaves like ferox usually has…. Thanks for any help you can give with it’s ID.




I have decided it is most likely an Aloe salm-dyckiana, which seems to be a naturally occurring hybrid between A. ferox and A. arborescens. There are a couple of other options… but until it blooms, and even then, it will be hard to tell. If you can send a few more photos with close-ups of the top and bottom of leaves I will ponder it some more.

Cool plant!


Questions13 Jan 2010 02:04 pm

Hi from the Big Island of Hawaii,

I have three Euphorbia Lactea plants that I have had for almost three years now. They have been healthy and have been in the same location since I got them. One of them just started having a problem, though, and I was hoping you could give me some suggestions on how to help the plant and perhaps eliminate the problem. About a week ago I noticed a dark, mushy section on one of the fans of one of the plants. I didn’t know what to do but I took a knife and just kind of cut along the border of the mushy part. I didn’t know what to expect but it seems like the fan is continuing to rot along the edge of the cut. I am attaching a couple of pictures for you to see what’s going on. I water about every two months and the other two plants are not having any of these symptoms. I love the plant and I hope there is a way to stop the spread of the rot and save it!


Aloha, Darcy


I have to say the only concrete idea that I have is, it looks like your crest may be outgrowing the ability of the grafted photosynthesizing base plant to feed it. It could be that there is just too much of the fan for the limited green tissue to support. It seems like a weird line of damage, if you were here (or someplace cold), I would say it was likely frost damage. The only other thing I can think of is that it had an mite infestation and that led to a fungal infection. However Albino Crests are easy to lose, since they are dealing with both the lack of chlorophyll and the cresting mutation, which may just be a non-fatal virus. Can you send me a couple of macro-close-up photos of the damage? Maybe I will see something in a closer look…

Take care,


Questions&Reader Photos11 Jan 2010 12:15 pm

I have attached 4 pictures, the same ones I have on my blog.
The two rounder ones are doing fine but the other two seem to not like the cold so much. They shriveled and turned yellow. That’s bad right?

Cactus 1 Cactus 2 Cactus 3 Cactus 4



Your Echinopsis chamaecereus look fine for this time of year (#1 & #2). The Cereus hildmannianus monstrose (Fairy Castles) (#3) is showing frost/freeze damage, being a “miniature mutant” it is less tollerant of cold, wet weather than the true species is. Try and keep it dry for the rest of the winter and hopefully it will grow out of the damage in the spring. But watch for rot, as it may more damaged than it looks in the photo. The Hylocereus (#4) is a tropical jungle cactus and will not usually survive heavy frosts or freezes. It really is a houseplant that needs to be treated more like an orchid than a cactus. Try moving to a warm spot and keeping it dry for a month and see it it comes out of it, all though I have to say from the photo, I think it might be too damaged and is on it’s way to being black slime.

Take care and good luck,


Questions09 Jan 2010 08:28 am

Hello! I’m wondering if you might be able to help me identify this plant . . . and then help me figure out what to do with it.

Last year my husband and I bought a house in El Cerrito with a front yard sporting several cacti and succulents, including the large bushy thing in the attached photo. It’s currently about 5 feet tall, and has long spines intermingled with leaflike protrusions along its branches. We’ve never seen anything quite like it. It has grown extremely fast, to the point that a couple of neighbors have said they’re scared of it!

We are wondering what kind of plant it is, and how large it is likely to get. Since its size and prickliness are a little overwhelming for a spot so close to the sidewalk, we’ve also been contemplating removing it and replacing it with something a little softer. Do you know of anyone who might like to dig up and “adopt” a plant like this, or even just take some branches to transplant? If we have to take the plant out, I’d hate for it to go to waste.




Your cactus is a lovely Opuntia (Austrocylindropuntia) subulata or “Eve’s Needle”. An amazing tree cholla from the Andes. In the wild it only gets about ten to twelve feet high and around, due to the cold. Here in the bay area it lives up to the tree description and can get about 25 feet high with time. However with pruning it can be kept much smaller. It also has wonderful red blooms.


The trick with this plant is to not water it in the ground after it’s first year, otherwise it grows too fast and does not develop the internal wood to support its weight and the branches will break off in storms and high winds.

It is the wrong time of year to transplant cactus and digging a five foot O. subulata is not easy to do safely, so usually I would recommend just cutting it up and saving pieces to re-root, but again that has to be done in the spring or summer. If you do decide you want to remove it please feel free to contact us in the spring and we can discuss the options.

Take care,

Questions&Reader Photos07 Jan 2010 12:39 pm

Hi again…. Is this a colorata? They only grow about this big as adults, these were pups from the mother plant…. Jay



That looks like it is a lovely pile of Agave parryi v. truncata! Agave colorata is similar but a bit more toothy and mean…


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