My beautiful barrel cactus has developed orange areas. Mostly they’re along/near the ridges, although there are some small spots further down. This side of the cactus does have some past scarring (from frost I believe). Is this orange a treatable thing? Will I lose the plant?
Tony, It looks like a form of “Rust” (a fungus). I recommend you treat with Neem Oil, a natural fungicide that works well on cacti and succulents. You can spray it on in a 1-2% solution once a week, for three treatments and it should take care of it. There may be some long term scaring where the fungus is, but usually if it is treated quickly enough it heals up and is not too disfiguring. Like all oil treatments don’t spray on a hot sunny day, only spray in evenings or on overcast days so there is no chance of the oil causing sunburn. Good luck, Hap
We get lots of questions around here, some with photos, some with shocking photos. This question first came to us over the phone, and so I asked for a photo…
Please tell me what u think this disease is! Jody. Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry
Here’s the photo…
And the answer is…
Jody, That’s scale. A lot of scale, on your Pachycereus marginatus. The plant might be able to be saved, but it will be permanently scarred. Spray it down with rubbing alcohol to kill the buggers and break through their shells and then carefully wipe them all away with a soft paint brush. Then spray the cactus down with neem oil and drench the soil with neem, and reapply a few more times. In March you should repot it into clean soil, and spray the roots completely too with the neem.
We often get questions about plants that are doing fine. People in our neck of the woods often buy the plants from us looking perfect and expect that it will stay that way forever. Here’s a case of a plant that is fine.
I’m attaching a picture of my pregnant onion that I bought from you in December. The ends of the leaves just started turning brown and it’s working its way up the leaf. It is still giving birth and is growing a very long bloom stock. What can I do to stop it from turning brown? I’ve been keeping it outside in full sun and just letting the rain water it.
Now, just because the plant is fine, doesn’t mean the choice of posing your Ornithogalum caudatum on an ottoman in front of a black leather recliner is fine. Just sayin’. My actual response:
Mark, The plant looks basically fine. It’s probably just not enough water, since we’ve had very little rain recently. You can trim the leaves back to the green without harming the plant. Also, it’s putting energy into the bloom stalk right now, and not into new leaves, so you won’t see much new leaf growth for a couple months. Peter
Here is one of our client’s Aeonium ‘Schwartzkop’ in bloom. Wondering how to prune this once it is finished blooming. Looks like nearly every floret is blooming. Please advise.
David, Oh dear! Cut the branches with flowers off as soon as they start to open, and enjoy them in a vase. Letting them go to bloom on the plant will kill the whole plant. Oy! Peter
Hi Peter, Oy veh is right!!! So if we cut off the blooming branches, there will be nothing left? If this is a Black Swan moment, perhaps we simply replace? Please advise Professor Peter!
David, It looked to me like you had a few branches that were not going to bloom, but if close to the whole plant is blooming, then enjoy the show and replace the plant when it is done. You can also take cuttings of the 2 or 3 non-blooming branches and reroot them individually. Peter
In that odd way of synchronicity that the world sometimes has, I picked this plant up at the grocery just a few hours before I came and read your post on Rhipsalis pilocarpa. Is this the same plant? I suspect it is related, if not actually a R. pilocarpa.
I neglected to put something in the photo for scale, but that is a three inch pot it’s in.
I am in Phoenix, and if this is a cloud forest dweller, I am going to have to do something special to meet it’s needs. Any suggestions?
Thanks for all your great posts and information, Jennifer
Jennifer- The plant is probably Rhipsalis cassutha which is a much more common plant. It’s also a jungle cactus, and would need to be in shade, or indoors, in Phoenix. They also make good terrarium plants, or moist vivariums for forest lizards.
Water every week, and more often in your summer heat. Peter
I purchased an Himalayan red bamboo plant from you a few year ago for Brentwood, CA. The plant has thrived and grown well. It planted in sandy soil and is mostly shaded. It has encountered a spell of cold weather and the leaves have lost its green color and the plant appears to be smaller or withering. This just occurred, last year the plant kept its color and appeared to be fine.
What can I do to restore the plants green or healthier condition?
I’ve attached a photo, any advice will help.
Thank you very much, Ken
Ken, The plants look like they took a bit of winter frost damage, nothing too bad. They look pretty good, actually, and should be able to come out of it this spring without any real problem.
I recommend a dose of Kelp Meal or Liquid Seaweed at this time, and follow up with a high nitrogen organic plant food (We sell Bio-Turf at the nursery) in mid-March. Bamboo are heavy feeders, so we do recommend fertilizing 2-4 times per year. Peter
My Orchid Cactus has develped these orangie spots. They look ugly and menacing as there are more and more appearing everyday. What product can I use to get rid of them, short of cutting the branch off?
Thank you! Lillian
Lillian, Your Epiphyllum has a fungus known as Rust. I recommend a strong organic fungicide sprayed on immediately. We do have a couple products at the nursery we can recommend, but if you are not local, we would suggest 100% neem oil at a 2% dilution. Peter
They like their succulents black on the Isle of Wight. That leads, inevitably, to Black Rose.
Marie Langford e-mailed me the other day and asked if I know of any nurseries on the Island which specialise in ‘black’ plants, most especially succulents. One such is (A)eonium arboreum Swarzkopf. I bought one during a garden visit when Alan Titchmarsh was our high sheriff a few years ago now….
But I can recommend the tall, arching, tree form of this aeonium with its large heads of deep, purple-black foliage. If anyone knows where this and other black succulents can be easily obtained by Marie on the Island, please e-mail me and I will pass it on.
I like that title, “high sheriff”. I wonder what you have to do as a sheriff to become a high sheriff. Clearly a knowledge of succulents is required, which I have, but is that all? There must be more to it than that.
Hi…can I get a little advice? I moved into a new home with a fantastic agave about four months ago. We recently had a cold snap here in Phoenix (if you can believe that), and it’s looking sickly now. Is there anything I can do to help its recovery?
It does look like cold damage. There’s really nothing you can do at this time of year to help the plant. It looks like it will eventually come out of it. You’ll know when you see new leaves starting to grow out of the middle, and then you can start cutting off the older dead leaves. But you shouldn’t really start any pruning until spring. At that time, after you see some new growth, I would recommend fertilizing with something like a Liquid Kelp, or other low-strength growth stimulant, but not until the plant has started coming out of winter dormancy.
I think the cankers on my cacti are a fungus. Regardless, I am not sure whether there is any hope (treatment) for the first one and whether the second is suffering from the same problem. Any help/advice would be much appreciated. I live in Oakland, CA.
It does look like a fungal issue. You can treat with Neem Oil, which is a natural and usually effective fungicide. We usually use it in a 1-2% solution in water with a drop of soap as an emulsifier. Spray to the point of run-off on an overcast morning or in the evening, but not on a sunny day as oil treatments on sunny days can cause burning. Retreat after a week at least twice. It should deal with the fungus, though the scaring will always be there, though eventually it will bark over and just add character to your plants. We carry Neem Oil at the nursery, and can talk you through it’s use.
Take care, Peter
Thanks for the prompt reply. I will stop by, say hello and buy some Neem oil from your store.
I was contemplating getting rid of the cactus because it looks so sick, so you saved it.
BTW, can this fungus spread (wind, etc.) to other cacti in the garden?
Love your blog and your helpfulness.
Don, I do recommend spraying the plants that are near the infected one, the fungus can spread. Peter
I bought a Rebutia krainziana cactus from a plant show in San Francisco last spring. At the time I bought it, the cactus looked as it should; short, round, plump, spiral pattern of spines, and was blooming. I decided to keep this cactus on my work cubicle, which is next to a window. However, over the summer the cactus grew to be an irregular shape…it’s now very tall (10cm), and cone shaped. The top of the plant is very narrow, and it slowly starts to round/plump out towards the lower half of the plant. The spines are also no longer arranged in a spiral shape and are not fully formed (there are very few actual spines in the white spots on the upper half of the plant). Other than the abnormal shape of the cactus, it looks perfectly healthy. I’m just wondering what’s going on with the plant, and if there is anything I can do to get it back to its original round, plump shape. Could lighting be an issue?
It sounds like it is not getting enough light. Can you send a photo or bring it by the nursery? Anyway, try getting it a minimum of 4 hours direct sun, or adding a full spectrum light bulb within 12″ of the plant.
Per your request, attached is a picture of my Rebutia. Would it be okay to keep my cactus outdoors (I live near ocean beach in San Francisco), or is San Fran weather too cold for it?
Kristen, That is an extreme case of not enough light. Quite the interesting shape! It can survive just fine outside in SF, but it would do better in a terra cotta pot with a fast draining cactus soil, and no saucer – you never want it sitting in water.
When you bring it out into the sun, it will need to be “hardened off” which means giving it progressively more light over a couple weeks, and not putting it straight into full sun.
There are some amazing carrion plants out there, in the Asclepiadaceae family. Including the Asclepiads too! Who knew the Milkweed Family and the Stapeliads were related.
Anyway, so on the recent foray into the jungles of Florida, we found this stunning stapeliad at a nursery and we snapped up a few for parenting. We should have plants ready if we’re successful, in a year or so. I took this picture of the tiny bloom with my cell phone camera and this was the best I could get it while on the road.
This plant was left outside for some cold weather and only recently was brought back inside.
Thanks for spending so much time with me and my mother last week. She is surely an opinionated woman! As a world-renowned rosarian, she does know quite a bit about floriculture…just not everything. Anyway, thanks again for being so gracious with us.
We talked about the possibility that my Euphorbia may have a virus, having been kept outside. I took a picture of each side (it’s three sided) and then two close-up pictures of the discolorations. It looks like only one side is badly marked. What do you think? Still a virus? Should I toss it? The top part that is unaffected is only about 1-2 inches tall – is that enough to bother? It’s been inside since we talked.
Thanks for you opinion on this one.
The plant definitely has a virus or fungus. It may be savable, with aggressive treatment. You will need to isolate the plant, and try treating it for 3 months. If the wounds do not heal over by then you should dispose of it and the pot and the soil. (You can sterilize the pot if you prefer.) I recommend Neem spray on the plant and in the soil, every 10 days for 4 treatments.
You can enjoy the giant pyramid bloom stock, and hope the rest of the plant survives, or you can go ahead and cut off the blooming rosette right now, which will save the plant, and leave you with a low shrubby plant for now.
Cut the stem for that one rosette off down low, and you can place the large cutting in a vase and enjoy the blooms that way. Spray the cut end on the plant with household hydrogen peroxide to help it heal, and it should branch from that point later in the winter. Peter
hello, for my birthday, i was given this beautiful little cactus plant. it had no tag or name on it so i did some research and i think it’s an echevarria or a sempervivum. it’s starting to grow a pink line on the leaf edges. I’ve been trying to care for it as such (little water, good drainage system, in light) and it’s lower leaves seem to be wilting away. i think there’s a little plant sprouting from the main stem and the most top buds seem to be pretty firm, but the leaves below are literally limp and feel like they will fall off in a week or so. i dont know what to do! i’m scared it’s going to die.
attached are two pictures. it looks healthier in these photos than it does now.
any ideas on what i can do to save this little guy? sk
Sarah, You have an Echeveria, probably E. subsessilis. It should look like this.
It looks basically OK, but probably needs more light, which is why its growing upwards looking for light.
All succulents lose bottom leaves, and yours will do so soon; this is normal and not a problem. It will only look unusual because of the stem that has developed. Peter
I love your blog. It’s so entertaining just to see all those interesting plants, and also great to be up to date on the latest cactus news. Thanks!
I was hoping you can help me identify this vagina looking little guy I picked up at our local nursery. After preliminary googling, I wanna say its some sort of Crassula? It sort of has those triangular leaves like the other ones, but a bit more baroque I guess. Does it grow tall like little towers, or does it stay fairly closed to the ground? It’s in a community pot now with bunch of other succulents. I’m kind of hoping it spread a bit and won’t get too tall. Any ideas? I really would appreciate your help.
I have to admit I have not seen this plant before, at least looking like it does in your photos. I agree it looks Crassula-esque but without seeing a flower, I am leaning that it is more likely to be one of the succulent Tradescantia (or close relatives). They have the stacked, alternating leaves that your plant has. I will post it on the blog and see if any of our readers has a better idea. Regardless, cool plant and when it blooms it will be easy to decide what it is.
I’m wondering if you can help me. I have a Moonstones plant that has been sort of sickly ever since it got jostled during my move a few months ago. A bunch of its leaves turned blue and shriveled and fell off — I assumed they had just been bumped loose. But now the main stem is turning this sickly blueish gray and becoming shriveled too. Do you think it’s possibly sick? I attached a picture. I’m hoping I don’t lose the little guy! 🙁
Love, gina Chatham University MFA
I’m sorry to have to inform you, but your plant is not going to make it. You can try to rescue some of the top leaves that haven’t started to rot yet. Pull them off and plant the tip end gently in fresh cactus soil, and they might form new plants in about a year.
I haven’t seen my morning hummingbird visitors for a few days.
They were going at a cactus flower outside my living room. I live in Redwood City in a flat area. I’d appreciate your response. Thank you.
Camilla Rosos, Redwood City
…They’ve probably moved to a warmer spot until the weather improves….
I’ve excerpted the response for you, so you can click through if you want to see the rest of it, but the gist of it is that it was cold. Cold. And then the hummingbirds left. Maybe they’ll return as it warms up, like yesterday. Did they return yesterday? I don’t kno9w. Someone should check with Camilla and find out.
My father won’t let me have a cactus in the front hall. He says it has to be in my own room, but he knows I don’t have good sun in there! My poor little mammillaria will die if I can’t put it in the front hall.
By the way, I’m 32 years old and moved back home last year after losing my job. But this is just like the time he wouldn’t let me have a frog when I was 14.
Frogless and Soon to be Cactus-Less in Pomona
Your dad is going to need your support in the next few years when he loses his job too and is no longer employable, being a 59 year old curmudgeon with no computer skills. Remind him that you will be paying the mortgage at that point, and see if he’ll let you keep the cactus in the front hall now.
I’m a blog reader from Manila, Philippines, and also a newbie urban gardener and cactus lover! I am just fascinated by these spiky little things, and it’s always fun to look at all the shapes, colors and textures that they come in. While I was walking around our neighborhood garden center, I chanced upon this cactus that’s a perfect half-circle shape!
Could you tell me what it is and is it at all rare? Thank you!
Misty, A nice find at your local garden center! What you have there is a Mammillaria geminispina crest. It’s not the most common of the Mammillaria crests. It is a very nice specimen, but I wouldn’t consider it too rare. Peter
I’ve got an Opuntia that is growing too fast, and my husband is worried about our 4 month old baby get stuck with the spines.
I said we should wait until the baby can walk before worrying, but my husband thinks we should get rid of the plant entirely right now. What should we do?
Stuck in the Suburbs
Unless your husband is propping the baby up against the cactus while he’s off fixing his evening cocktail, you shouldn’t have to worry about the baby getting stuck at this young age.
As the baby gets older, I would recommend keeping the prickly pear well trimmed back so that there aren’t any wild spiny pads attracting the attentions of your inevitably wandering toddler. In fact, if you cook the freshly cut pads and feed them to your family, it’s a win-win.
Use this recipe for a healthy and happy family life for years to come:
Prepare the cactus pads as described in the preparation section above. Once you have removed the needles, nodules and thoroughly washed the pads, slice into bite-size pieces. Sauté the sliced pads in a small amount of butter for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside. Beat the eggs in a mixing bowl; add shredded cheese and the sautéed cactus pieces. Pour the egg mixture into a skillet and scramble. Serve warm with salt and pepper to taste.
Everything seemed to have weathered the freeze up here. I did cover them with a sheet – so that helped. Now, my mother arrived for dinner tonight with this cactus she picked up at the grocery store(!) I has yellow flowers on the top and lots and lots of little sprouts all over the larger trunks. Now, the flowers are glued on paper – which elicits a big OMG!! Is this thing even real at all? What do you make of it. J Hehe!!
Karen, You have the Fairy Castle Cactus, Cereus hildmannianus monstrose, with glued on paper flowers. Grocery stores often glue on paper flowers. I don’t know why. Peter
I just visited the Garden Gallery in Morro Bay – which is the only other place I will buy cacti or succulents – other than Cactus Jungle J and I found these three plants. You can see that one, perhaps a “Stapelia” or “Huernia” will be flowering soon – I will send a picture of the flower when it happens. This nursery is bad at naming or identifying their plants but he looked up that one in a book. The one with the long leaves had no name on it but I don’t think it’s that unusual. As for the thorny guy, they had no idea what it is called or where it came from. It looks like the base trunks were broken off as they branched from that area…perhaps to propagate the plant?
So, if you would, please…what are these called and what if anything special do I have to do for them. Thanks!
PS… My Astrophytum asterias is blooming again!
Karen, 1. The first one is hard to ID without seeing the blooms, but it could be Stapelia variegata or one of the Huernias. It doesn’t look like that’s a bloom coming – it looks like a horn, which will have lots of seeds. They’re in the milkweed family, and so they have milkweed horns with seeds that can float away on the wind. Best to grow indoors with a little bit of morning sun.
3. Alluaudia procera from Madagascar is a shrubby plant that will lose its leaves in winter. They are often cut to try to induce multiple branches. Don’t let it get below about 45. Water every 2 weeks when it has leaves, and every 4-6 weeks when it doesn’t.
Send photos of the blooming astropyhtums – it’s always very exciting! Peter
I love small cactus. But I have a problem keeping them alive. I have tried keeping several cactus and they always end up the same – and in a fairly short time: they shrivel, looking loose and floppy around the top, and turn a sick yellow-green mushy color around the base (see attached photo).
Because they look shrivelled I assume that I am not watering enough, so I water a bit more – but to no avail. The attached photo is a cute little cactus in a 2″ pot I bought at the store about 2 months ago – and have been giving maybe a couple of tablespoons of water about every 2 weeks (it is on my desk at work, at it is farily dry here so it dries out very quickly). I feel terrible that such a cute little plant should look so unhealthy. My roommate in college had a fairly healthy cactus that he carefully gave 1 tablespoon of water every month – which didn’t seem like much to me, but his cactus was still alive after several years. Does that mean I am over watering mine? If so, why does it look like a deflated baloon? Does this species require more water than my ex-roommate’s cactus? Should I really soak it when I water it then wait for it to dry, or just slightly moisten it periodically per current practice? And what periodicity (obviously the current rate isn’t working!)?
Any advice would be appreciated. David
In general we recommend watering cactus every 3 weeks – drenching it and letting it drain away so that it never sits in water. Overall, watering every 2 weeks but a smaller amount is probably fine, so I would look elsewhere for the problem.
First off, where do you live? Your local humidity levels can impact a watering schedule. Next, how much sunlight is the plant getting? We recommend a minimum of 4 hours of direct afternoon sun through the spring and summer. And finally, the plant is in a tiny plastic pot with what looks like a houseplant soil mix, so in general we would repot into a 4″ terra cotta pot with a fast draining cactus soil.
Q: Where might I purchase some of the Guatemalan folk art buildings you used in your containers book (p 196)?
A: The little terracotta buildings are from Miranda’s, a Mexican import store in the Old Town district of San Diego (2548 Congress St.). Unfortunately, they don’t sell mail order, nor do they keep a consistent supply in stock.
Well that’s not helpful to those of us who don’t live near San Diego. But wait! There’s more!
But any dollhouse-sized building will work, so long as it’s waterproof—like this little New England-style church that was originally a Christmas ornament. There are all sorts of wonderful tiny accessories for miniature landscapes.
I can tell you that most of the cutesy ornaments at the local craft stores around here are not waterproof. So be wary.
I came across your blog whilst trying to find more information on my cactus and i was wondering if you could help me? Ive had this cactus now for about 8 years and i really want to find out what type of cacti he is. Ive done some research and ive been told he is a Austrocylindropuntia subulata monstrose (I think i will stick to calling him by his name Flump). But there are also different types of Austrocylindropuntia subulata monstrose from what i belive and i was wondering if you could help pinpoint exactly what he is so that i am able to give him the best care.
Right now i have him in a small pot ive repotted him twice but he seems happy and seems to be a slow growing cacti (but i could be wrong and just not be giving him what he needs) I have attached a picture of Flump any help would be so much appreciated !
Now, the funny thing is both Hap and I answered the question at the same time, not knowing the other was answering too.
Here’s my answer:
Ben, You do have the name right for your cactus. Its common name is the Christmas Tree Cactus, but we prefer Flump. I’m not aware of any other cultivar names for this plant, but an older species name that has fallen out of use is the Opuntia exaltata monstrose. Peter
You can check out Hap’s long form answer after the break. Read More…
Hi Peter: We have visited you numerous times and purchased pots and many plants, and wondered if you could help us determine what is wrong with our succulent and what we might do about it.
We noticed it looking a bit lighter color, and when I looked closer I saw what looks like fungus around the bottom, and it looks sort of furry in places and shiny in other places. We had used your Cactus Meal on it several months ago, and the pot is very dry at this point. I have attached four pictures. Any ideas?
Thanks, David & Heidy
David and Heidy,
I’m sorry to have to be the one to tell you this, but it is too late to be able to save your Euphorbia.
It has a fungus, and probably a virus as well which appears to have traveled throughout the plant already. There is nothing I can suggest to help it at this time. I don’t know what caused the problem, but sometimes these things just happen. Probably the virus came first, and that made it more susceptible to the fungus.
Do not reuse any leftover soil, and if you want to reuse the outside pot, you will need to bleach it first.
I figure you all know these plants by now, and have read my answers to similar questions mamamamannnnny times before, so maybe you could handle this one for me? Best answer, that is also complete and accurate, will win one of our discontinued products. You never know what it will be, but it must be good!
Maybe a water wand, maybe a bird feeder. Hmmm…
So here’s the question and the pictures that go with it.
Recently I got a cactus as a present but don’t know what kind it is.
Could you please help me to detect what kind a cactus it is and to see and tell me weather is it sick (you can see that one leaf Is kind a sick) and what should I do.
Thanks a lot in advance,
Leave your answer for Petar in the comments between now and Tuesday afternoon, and I’ll pick a winner then. Maybe I’ll have arranged for guest judges too! Well, probably not.