Questions


Questions12 Jun 2014 01:20 pm

I am not sure what is going on with this Alluaudia. It seems to be having issues.

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Michael

Michael,

That’s not good. I don’t know what it is. I would isolate the plant first. Then try dipping a paintbrush in rubbing alcohol and lightly rubbing to see what happens. But since I don’t know what it is, I can’t really help.

I’ll post it on the blog tomorrow and see if we get any responses there.

Peter

Questions12 Jun 2014 09:10 am

I recently became the caretaker of these plants. They have not had much
sunlight and I am acclimating them back into full sun over the next few
weeks. I am keeping them under a mesh tarp to let them get diffuse sun
and I plan to put them into larger pots with some fertilizer (3-3-3). Is
there anything that you can help me with based by just looking at the
picture or do you see any thing I should change with my plan? I am
guessing they are mostly some form of Euphorbia erythraea forma
variegata but am not really sure.

euphorbia ammak

Thank you for your time,
Rich

Rich,

Aside from the Opuntia which is the only cactus, the white ones are Euphorbia “Ammak” and the green ones are either the green version of “Ammak” or are probably Euphorbia trigona.

Depending on where you live they may need to be indoor. They are only hardy down around 32F, so we recommend them indoor in the SF Bay Area in the Winter.

Fast draining cactus soils for all of them. The cactus needs some good sun. The Euphorbias can handle light shade to full sun.

Do not fertilize a lot or these will grow into giant trees too quickly. Very little water – every 3 to 4 weeks should be fine, although more if it is sunny and hot.

Peter

Questions30 May 2014 09:41 am

Hello,

Yesterday I bumped my cactus, Mr. Popcorn, and on of his arms fell off/over. I’m not sure why…is this rot? What should I do about it?

IMG_2228

The soil is the soil he came with, with a little from the woods that I got several weeks ago and mixed in. Do I need to get a special kind? Also, could you tell me what kind he is? I’ve tried researching it but I’ve had little success.

IMG_2236

Here are some pictures.

Thank you so much!
Monica
P.S. Does he look healthy? Should he be greener?

Monica,

Your cactus is a Mammillaria elongata. The soil mix is too rich, and looks too wet. The arm has fallen over because of rot which was caused by too much water. Generally we recommend a fast draining cactus soil, no forest products. Water about every 3 weeks, and only a little more often in summer if it is in a hot and sunny location. Make sure the soil has completely dried out before the next watering.

You’ll need to cut out the rotted arm, digging out any rot in the soil too. I recommend spraying the base of the remaining plant with Neem Oil which is a natural fungicide and should help keep the rest of the plant from rotting.

Good luck

Peter

Questions24 Apr 2014 10:34 am

I have had this aloe in my backyard in Concord for almost 20 years. I have rarely watered it, because it was doing fine on its own. this winter after the big freeze, it was damaged. I have enclosed 2 pics. the plant is about 2.5 ft high, flowers almost 4 ft. What if anything should I do about its leaves? I trimmed some the dead tops off, is that the right thing to do? Would this plant survive being transplanted to a container? ( I know , no guarantees! ) its way in the back of my yard hidden behind a big rosemary bush.

aloe

Thanks for any advise!
Jeff

Jeff,

The Aloe looks fine overall. You can trim the ends if you want, but its not necessary – eventually they’ll take care of that themselves.

You might want to fertilize it this spring. We sell an organic fertilizer for succulents, Cactus Meal, or you can use a Kelp Meal too.

It should survive being transplanted, but it will take a hit since you’ll have to trim back the roots when digging it up. You might want to divide it when you get it out of the ground. Also, make sure to use a fast draining cactus soil.

Peter

Questions15 Apr 2014 10:32 am

Hi Peter!

I bought this succulent from your store last year while visiting on vacation. I was wondering if it doesn’t look healthy to you. I’ve been keeping it on my back porch where it gets some shade and its watered every 1-2 weeks. Would love to hear your thoughts and advice.

photo 1

Thank you!
Jen

Jen,

The little Sempervivum looks OK. It’s probably not getting enough water since it’s still in the fiber pot, which dries out much faster than if it were in a terra cotta pot. Also, I can’t tell exactly from the photos but it may have bugs in the center. If it does you should spray it with an organic insecticide like Neem Oil.

Peter

Questions14 Apr 2014 09:26 am

Hi folks,

I got this guy a couple of years ago but just thought to check it’s species now. I’m pretty sure it’s the monstrose variety of O. subulata, though mine’s a lot more gangly than most images I’ve seen.

photo-1

I live in Calgary, Canada, so this is a houseplant. We have long, miserable, dark winters, so this thing’s stalks grow in alternating thick and thin segments in tune with the sun’s position in the sky (the sun’s only up for about 7 hours on dec. 21, and very low in the sky). I’ve got it in a sun room with floor to ceiling east, south, and west windows, so it gets as much light as a plant can get in Canada without being outside or in a greenhouse, but I find it still gets gangly and topples over. I’m wondering if there’s anything I can do to encourage it to “wood up”, or if I’m better off just pruning the stalks that get so long they fall over.

Also, would you recommend allowing this to spend the summer outside? We’ve got about 3 months of guaranteed safe night time temps, but when I try doing that with my epiphyllums, it seems like our summer is just long enough to trigger much more robust growth than I can achieve inside, but not long enough for any new branches to fully mature. I usually find that anything that grows outside on those guys falls apart inside, melting completely by mid January. Not sure if I’d see something similar here.

Anyway thanks in advance, you’ve got a great and very useful blog!

Adam

Adam,

Two things you can do to keep your O. subulata monstrose’s growth more regular.

1. Repot into a bigger pot.

2. Reduce water to every 6 weeks when there is less direct sun.

These are hardier than the Epi’s and can take colder night-time temps by about 10 degrees F., so you might be able to have it outside for 4-5 months or so. And then when you bring it back inside reduce watering a lot.

Peter

Questions&Reader Photos29 Mar 2014 08:28 am

Hello Peter,

You were giving me some advice there at the nursery a few days ago about
possible choices of cacti and succulents for some planting that I’m hoping
to do here at my place in Kensington.

One of my neighbors has a succulent (I think)that I like very much. It’s
shown in this photo.

Echeveria Fireball

Can you identify it? Are these things available?

Your advice will be much appreciated!

Yours sincerely,

James

James,

That is an Echeveria “Fireball”, a very nice succulent. And we do not have any growing right now. We may have some by mid summer. We do have a lot of other Echeverias that are that big, even if not that red.

Peter

Questions19 Mar 2014 10:34 am

My Sick Euphorbia Lactea

My cactus is sick. A few weeks ago it was fine and beautiful, maybe a few tiny (pin prick or freckle sized) raspberry red dots on it, then – BAM – I looked at it yesterday and could barely believe it was the same plant. I don’t know what to do to treat this plant and protect my other plants.

20140312_190734 20140314_121706

It has strange rings (brown filled with raspberry/pink edges) and brown spreading patches. I’ve already looked online a little and couldn’t find anything like it.

Is it terminal and I should start chopping off branches to try to grow a new plant before the disease spreads to the entire plant? Do I isolate and treat all the plants in the one pot or is this a Euphorbia-only fungus? Isolate all the plants within a ten foot radius?

Also, will I get a response via email or will I have to check the blog? Both?

Katie

Katie,

It looks like a virus from the ring pattern. I don’t know what caused it but it could have been from a sunburn – if the plant was put out into direct sun after having been inside or protected, or if it got turned around. If the infection is on one side of the plant only then that indicates it was caused by a sunburn.

You can try to treat it – I can recommend Oxidate by Biosafe, which is a ready to use disease control, or Neem Oil, both of which we carry. But the prognosis is only 50/50. If the plant survives it will have scarring.

Go ahead and isolate the plant in the meantime.

You can also check out the blog now – the answer is there too. Share with friends!

Peter

California Native Plants&Questions18 Mar 2014 08:42 am

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Dudleya brittonii, the Giant Chalk Dudleya from Baja California. Now don’t argue with me here – I have an answer for any objections you might have to my answer below.

Q: How do you differentiate between a dudleya and a echeveria?

-Mary
(via Instagram)

Mary-

They are very closely related! But Dudleyas are California native and summer dormant, while Echeverias are Mexican and winter dormant. Also Echeveria flowers are more brightly colored.

Peter

Questions09 Mar 2014 11:28 am

Hi,
Your blog came up in a Google image search for plant identification. I was hoping you could tell me a name for attached photo.

succulent1

Thanks so much,
Kathryn

Kathryn,

Well the picture is extra tiny, but I think that’s an Agave attenuata.

Peter

Questions17 Feb 2014 10:56 am

Aeonium Cyclops flower

Aeonium Cyclops flowering

Hi

I think I know the answer to this but thought I’d ask anyway. Is there anything I can do propagation-wise with the flower?

Aeonium Cyclops edit

Thanks –
Karen

Karen,

Sorry but there’s not much you can do with that once it starts blooming. If there were other branches going, you could cut off the flowering one and the others would have a better chance of survival. You can still cut it off and it’s possible you would get branches from the cut end, but Cyclops is not a prolific brancher, so you might be better off just enjoying the bloom stalk.

Peter

Questions08 Jan 2014 12:02 pm

Dear Peter,
Hello. My name is Brian, and we met today as I bought an aloe plant at the register. While I was there, I asked you about my sansevieria plant’s health.

Sansevieria

Attached is a picture of my plant currently. I water this plant every four weeks/month. When I feel the new leaves, they feel kind of soft and not very turgid. So, I would like some advice about what to do to make my sansevieria better. Thanks, and I hope to hear from you soon.
Sincerely,
Brian

Brian,

Your Sansevieria looks OK. Overall it probably wants more sun, or some sun, but they are very resilient for a few years with very low light levels. If you were to give it more sun then you might want to water a bit more often.

I think the plant will just look like this in these conditions, and that’s OK.

Peter

Questions27 Dec 2013 09:01 am

I’ve attached a few photos of my cactus that I’ve had for 10-12 years. My friend gave it to me as a joke because I kill everything, including ivy, thinking that maybe I could keep it alive by just leaving it alone. So for those 10-12 years it sat in the same window and never moved until 2 months ago when I switched jobs and it came with me. It’s been getting brown spots like I tried to show in the picture. This office may be a little colder than the last one but no more than 5 degrees-the sunlight may also not be as direct -instead of sitting on the sill it’s on a cabinet behind it and a little to the side. Also, I’ve never repotted it because I don’t know what to get or how to do it.

euphorbia2 euphorbia

I’ve tried researching online but I haven’t been able to identify the type. So, my 2 questions are: Do you know the type/name? and is it dying? If so, (my 3rd question I know) what can I do to save it?

I appreciate any and all advice!
Thank you,
Laura

Laura,
Your plant is a Euphorbia, possibly Euphorbia hermentiana. While not in the Cactus Family, it is very hardy like a cactus as you have experienced for the last decade or so.

It’s a little hard to tell from the photos, but there is some rot, and maybe a lot spreading through the plant, but maybe not. If the problems are isolated it should be able to come through.

The first problem is that it has never been repotted. Euphorbias are remarkable in being able to stay underpotted for so long! But not for ever. Add in the move, and many plants will experience shock from a move, and that can be enough to cause these problems.

These Euphorbias can handle bright indirect light, so the new location should be fine. But you will need to reduce the amount of watering for the lower light levels.

I recommend spraying the rot portions with a good quality organic fungicide; we sell Monterey Neem Oil.

The big problem is going to be repotting, which can cause more shock. You may want to try to stabilize the plant before repotting. Then you can follow along here: How Do You Repot a Euphorbia?

Good luck,
Peter

Questions&Reader Photos05 Dec 2013 08:36 am

Hi Peter,

I hope you can help me out with an unusual repotting problem.

A well-meaning friend of ours recently sent us a “cactus garden” as a gift from an online website, pictured below:

IMG_2479

Any idea what the different species are? The online vendor simply labeled them all as “cacti”.

Well, the various cacti and succulents are doing fine so far, but now I think they are starting to crowd each other out. I was hoping to repot them, but the potting soil that they used is as hard as concrete! I can barely dent it with a hammer!

IMG_2483

Yes, it is that hard. I can’t even pull the wood chips out of the soil!

I have no idea what crazy concoction they are using as a soil. The directions that came with the garden only say that, “The cactus soil is a blend of nutrients combined with a hardening compound. It was scientifically developed to provide a healthy growing environment for cactus while also providing protection during shipment. Although it appears hard and impenetrable, the soil does absorb water and distributes it throughout the planter.”

Have you ever run into this strange potting medium before? If so, are the poor plants going to be okay in that stuff as they grow? And if not, what is the best way to get them out safely so that I can repot them?

Finally, it is currently winter here in southern California, and the cacti are sitting outside on our back porch. Should I wait until the spring growing season before attempting to repot them? And how much space should I give them?

Thank you for all your help!

Sincerely,
Jonathan

Jonathan,
You have 3 cacti and 3 succulents. This type of potting is not intended as a long term solution, so yes they do have to come out of the concrete (and they do add gypsum, i.e. concrete, to the mix to get it to harden). So basically you will be rescuing the plants.

If they are healthy now, I would wait until spring. If they look desperate, then go ahead and get them out now.

I don’t have any secrets for rescuing them – get the whole thing out of the pot and chisel them apart as best you can trying to save some roots where possible, but allowing for the fact that these may be cuttings you are starting with once they are out.

Pot them in dry fast-draining cactus soil, keep dry for a couple weeks. I would try a 4″ pot for each plant, if I am judging the size correctly.

Succulent Species:
Crassula ovata (Jade)
Faucaria felina (Tiger Jaws)
Pachyphytum, maybe longifolium

Cactus species:
Cleistocactus strausii
Mammillaria
Parodia

Peter

News&Questions03 Dec 2013 11:09 am

The Times Herald Tribune Record prints interesting cactus questions from their readers.

Q: What is the difference between a Thanksgiving cactus and a Christmas cactus?… — Sara, Eldred

A…. The Thanksgiving cactus generally begins flowering in mid- to late November and continues into December….

The Christmas cactus normally begins to flower about Christmas and continues flowering into January.

That was easy! I could answer newspaper questions too! Someone, quick, get me a column! I want at least 25 column inches every week!

Questions06 Nov 2013 11:42 am

Hello Cactus Jungle!

I started out life living next to a Echeveria Dondo. Alas, my plant mate did not survive being abandoned as an office cubicle plant. I believe that I am 3 or 4 years old from the tag that came from my plantmate.

I have gone through many neglectful owners but my story does have a happy ending. I have found a plant guardian that is now dedicated to taking care of me! I have even grown 3 inches under her watchful eye. She wants to take care of me the best she can, but she knows nothing about me.

photo(1)

Can you please help tell what I am and what I need to be at my max levels of happy? Thanks!

McMullen the Mystery Plant
Sent by Christina L.

Christina,

I’m not sure what exactly type of plant McMullen is, but it is probably a Kalanchoe that wants more light. However, it could be a vining succulent like a Dischidia or Hoya too, but probably not.

I’ll post the picture to the blog and see if anyone comes up with an idea.

Peter

Questions&Reader Photos27 Oct 2013 06:59 am

Peter,

Thanks again for reserving my ‘Ebony’

Please find attached the 2 cacti that I cannot ID without help. Let me know if I have something worth dividing, planting or tossing.

SAMSUNG  SAMSUNG

Thanks,

John

John,

The one with the smaller stems is Parodia leninghausii. This will have a lot of beautiful big yellow flowers. These can safely be divided and propagated in the spring.

The more sprawling one is probably an Echinopsis, but I wouldn’t be able to ID the species until it blooms. It’s probably easy to propagate from stem cuttings. Both look like they need to get out of the wood boxes and into something bigger. I would generally wait until March to repot these.

Peter

 

Questions&Reader Photos19 Oct 2013 11:15 am

Hi Peter,
We were wondering about these two cacti given to us by friends. The tall one on the left seems to want to branch (we got a cutting off a 3-4 foot tall potted specimen). The short guy we think is a gymnocalyceum, and have always been a bit puzzled by its odd coloration (kind of dayglo yellow and pink). It was potted in fine sand and really suffering when we got it 2 years ago. Not sure what either of their specific needs are (minimum tolerated temp, sun exposure, etc).

photo 2 photo 1

Thanks for your help!
Marion

Marion,

The tall one is a Cereus. The short one could be a Gymnocalycium, but I wouldn’t know for sure until it blooms. The coloration seems to be an effect of the sun and probably the soil too. It can handle less than full sun, and may need to be repotted into fresh fast draining cactus soil in the spring.

In the San Francisco area I would recommend watering every 2 to 3 weeks through the summer, less in winter. They are probably hardy down to about 30F.

Peter

Questions&Reader Photos11 Oct 2013 11:24 am

hi — i’m in northwest Wisconsin. wondering if you can identify a vine-type cactus, as far as I remember I got at a garage sale. Attached is a photo. I came home on my lunch hour today to take a photo of the single flower that had bloomed — good thing I did, cuz I just looked at it and the flower is drooped and lifeless. Evidently they only last a day?

cactus flower

I’ve had it about 4-5 years I think. It was root-bound so I divided it a few months ago. Some of the spikes are 3 feet long, long and narrow. There are others that are narrow, then form into a paddle, then get another narrow spike on the end. There are also rows of brown strings that form on the spikes, point toward the light. It’s in an east window.

Hope you can find the time to answer me.

Thanx —

Debbie A.

The cactus is an Epiphyllum, or Orchid Cactus. It is possible it is one of the night-blooming varieties – the blooms only last one night – although most epiphyllums will bloom during the day for 2-3 days. The brown strings are aerial roots – it is looking for tree branches to grab onto.

Peter

Questions02 Oct 2013 08:38 am

Hello,
Would you be so kind as to tell me if there is something wrong with the two specimens? One is a Fairy Castle Cactus (I think) with brown spots forming and the other specimen (no idea what kind) is discoloring or developing bark. I am new to all this. Growing the cacti indoors under fluorescent lights with reflectors set about 12 inches above the plants.

WP_20130906_008 WP_20130906_009

Thank you!!!
Steve

Steve,
The round cactus, probably a Gymnocalycium, looks like it might be rotting. If the lower portion that is turning brown is soft then the plant is not going to survive. It looks like it may be too much water for the light conditions.

The Fairy Castle, or Cereus, looks fine from the photo. The spots could be scale, an insect that you can clean off by spraying rubbing alcohol directly onto it which will kill it and break down its shell, and then you can wipe it off with a soft paintbrush. Or it could be some damage from neighboring spines that have healed over. The plant looks like it could probably use more light and less water too.

I don’t know where you are or how hot it is there, but assuming that it is not too hot then growing these under lights I would water every 3 to 4 weeks only.

Peter

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