We Get Questions


I recently purchased some Ultra Soil and noticed that it contained lots of seeds. Do you know what these might be (photo attached)? The seeds in the photo are from one trowel-full of soil.




The seeds are “Grape Pomace” which is the seeds and skin solids of wine grapes left over after the “wine crush”. It is used as an organic way to adjust the pH of the soil and compost. It is a long lasting component in the rice hull compost we use in our soil blend, the rice hulls which are the bulk of the compost, are the little slivers that sort of look like tiny canoes that you can see in our mix. Occasionally we also have to add additional Pomace to our finished blend, if the lava and coconut coir we use in the soil mix, are not acid enough to get the pH where we want it. As the Pomace breaks down it also gives micro-nutrients to the plants. Grape Pomace is also great to use on blueberries, rhododendrons and azaleas because it acidifies the soil. And since it is a local by-product it also helps us fulfill our goals of sustainability.

Take care,

Cactus Wren Questions

The Arizona Republic answers an age-old question.

Q: How do birds manage to stand on saguaros without any problem?

A: A little bird, such as a cactus wren, doesn’t weigh enough to exert enough pressure on the spine to pierce the skin.

That is so true.


I wonder why they call it cyclops? Anyway, we get questions. I suppose I should refer you to my youtube video about Aeonium bottom leaves, which answers so many questions in less than a minute.

On to the question.


I bought an Aeonium “cyclops” from you last September. It’s about 20 inches tall with 11 branches. It’s indoors, but gets plenty of light. I’d say that up until about a month ago, it was thriving. But in the last month I’d say about half of it’s foliage has dried up and fallen off. At this pace it’s going to be bare in a few weeks. I don’t notice anything different, except on one of the branches on the backside of the foliage has some droppings that visual appear to be like a home repair caulk. Is this normal or do you have any suggestions?


Can you send us photos, especially of the backside?
You may have a pest, but then the Aeonium is a winter-grower and will go dormant in summer, often losing half its leaves off the bottom.


And Michael does send along photos, after the break… Read More…

We Get Bog Plant Questions

Can a Venus flytrap thrive outdoors all year in the foggy west side of Daly City? There are days where there is plenty of sun, but the temps. are usually around 50’s-60s. Do I need a terrarium?


Venus Flytraps are hardy in much colder climates than ours. They do require plenty of sun, and must be planted in a bog environment with slightly acidic soil.

But just to be clear, hardy outside means it will die back to the ground every winter, and spring up new every spring, fresh and green and ready to eat bugs.

Editors Note: Daly City is just south of San Francisco.

They Get Bad Kitty Questions

 …in Cleveland.

Q. My cat knocked my Christmas cactus out of the window. How can I save it?

A. All is not lost when a “bad kitty” takes down a good houseplant. If the main stem or trunk is in good shape, the plant can be repotted and pampered to replace what was lost….


Washington Cactus

In Olympia, they ask the following question,

Did you know one of the newest gardening trends is growing exotic indoor plants, like orchids, ferns and succulents?

Well? Did you? I wonder which succulents they consider exotic.

Aerial Roots


I have a lovely little potted succelent (an echeveria, I believe) that I purchased from you some time ago and it has started to behave oddly. The best way I could describe it is to say it has started “rooting”. Or rather one limb has been sending out root-like shoots for a month or so. At first I thought it would stop when it failed to find land or water to “root into” but it has persisted. I’ve attached photos in order to clarify my poor attempts at describing this. You’ll notice it is only one segment of the plant that is doing this, the other is acting quite normally.


My question: Is the plant begging to be repotted? And if so, should I separate the rooting segment from the main one and transplant it? Or should I just leave it be?

Thanks very much!


Your plant is sending out a huge number of aerial roots! Odd, perhaps that side of the plant is more humid than the other?. just kidding. Basically you can do any of the options you asked about. If you repot it will get bigger faster, or cut off the root crazed part, let it sit a few days and then pot up in a new pot in dry-ish cactus-succulent soil and don’t water for a week or two. If the roots bother you in a freakish alien sort of way… you can also just cut them off. It won’t hurt the plant.

Take care,


According to Google News

Q: I have a lovely cactus that my boyfriend gave me. It is a tall, columnlike cactus that at times has a crown of flowers. It was doing very well in my old …

The Forum of Fargo-Moorehead has a question. I presume they have a completed question and an answer to go with it, but I can’t find out since I’m not a subscriber. All I get is this first sentence. Harsh. But then, that’s ND for you.

I think blogging is taking its toll on my sanity. For years when I couldn’t get a full article, I would just ignore it. But now here I am quoting the first sentence and letting the whole thing hang. Maybe I’m getting lazy, or senile, or petulant. I like petulant.

Prickly Problems

Hi Cactus Jungle

Could you tell me why this cactus is turning somewhat white…
Last year, I bought some kelp because it was turning yellow
and that did the trick, but now it seems to have a new color.


what to do?



Did this Opuntia get turned around or moved recently? It looks like sunburn-bleaching… plants, like us have to develop a “suntan” to protect themselves from UV and if the north side is turned to the south or it is moved from inside to outside in to sun it can get a sunburn just like we can on our first spring trip to the beach.

You may need to trim off the top really damaged pad and let the lower part heal. It should “bark” over time.

Good luck,

thanks…I guess it had already had gotten “tough” from last
summer’s “all day in the sun” experience…guess not..

We Get Questions

…that we can’t answer, so they supply their own answers!

Dear madam, sir,

Thank you for your wonderful website. I especially visited it while trying to identify a newly aquired plant. I think it is a type of euphorbia (it has milky sap) but I am not sure. This specimen is approximately 70 cm tall and 6cm thick. It has a mintgreen color and the blooming stalks are fuchsia colored. Unfortunately the flowers have whithered but they seem to have been pinkish. I have visited a lot of sites but haven’t been able to identify it. Could you help me with this problem?


Thanks in advance for your help,

I am sad to have to admit I haven’t been able to identify your Euphorbia. It is an amazing looking plant and there is nothing like it in my books. At least with such large bloom stems… so you may have to check your local science library and see if they have a complete set of Euporbiacea Journals and slog through to see if you can find it. Of course it could be a cool hybrid and then it will be even harder to identify.
Good Luck,

And then the unthinkable happened. Jan found the answer without us!


Thanks for your kind reply. I have used your suggestion and contacted the head of the national herbarium in Leiden. He knew the plant to be a monadenium spectabile (aka euphorbia spectabile).

Thanks again,

Spectabile, indeed.

How Do I Get a Cactus to Flower?


Oregonian here with a growing cactus collection in a greenhouse. Some of my cacti flower regularly, mostly Mammillaria. I’ve always wondered when a cactus appears to be producing a flower, is there anything I should be doing to promote the flower’s growth? Take it outside, more light, less light, feed it, water it, don’t touch it, don’t move it…. you get the idea. I don’t get too many flowers, and I try to acknowledge their dormancy period during the winter to help the spring/summer flowering, but still have mixed results. Fortunately I have what appears to be an Echinopsis flower coming and I don’t want to screw it up?


There are 2 different issues here:

1. How to get more flowers. We use fish bone meal as a bloom food in late March or early April (now is not too late.) Using a regular cactus fertilizer is also a good idea in the spring.

2. Once the bud is already there, nothing needs to be done to promote its growth. However, there are things you can avoid doing to prevent it from aborting. It’s best not to replant any plant that has started blooming, as the shock can cause the blooms to abort. It’s also best not to change it’s environment too radically, like bringing it from inside to full sun outside. To keep blooms longer, avoid high heat.

Hope that helps

And as a bonus, enjoy a blooming cactus:


Rebutia perplexa

Notice all those flower buds all over the tiny cactus? That’s another secret to getting cactus blooms: Pick a cactus that produces lots of flowers, like a rebutia.

How Do You Repot a Euphorbia?

Have you got any tips for potting a (large) E.Trigona? I just can’t get my head round how to do it.

How can you tell that a plant is underpotted? What should I look for?

We generally like to see as much plant mass above the soil line as potential root mass below.

Repotting euphorbias is difficult. They have a caustic white sap (latex) that is very dangerous, and with all those branches banging against each other when you repot, the likelihood of getting it on you is high. So what we do is wear a lot of protective clothing, including goggles and gloves, and pack between the branches with bunched up newspaper to keep the branches from scarring each other.

Then you use a tool to separate the roots from the sides of the pot. Lay the whole thing flat on a tarp on the ground. With 2 to 3 people, gently ease the plant out of the pot. Generally you don’t want to disturb the roots too much for succulents, but if it is completely pot bound, then a small amount of root massage to redirect the root tips is recommended.

Place the plant into the new larger pot (we recommend terra cotta) with fresh fast-draining cactus soil so that the top of the soil line stays in the same place. Fill around with more soil, and you’re done. Don’t water for 2 weeks to let the roots heal, and the plant should begin to thrive again.

Good luck,

This was a follow-up to a previous question about an underpotted plant.

We Get Cactus Questions

Hi Hap and Peter
Attached are a couple pictures of the cactus. I was wondering if you could help me figure out what the problem is? I don’t know what kind they are. They get plenty of light. They are outdoors (obviously). They are wilted and a reddish-orange color.



They look like they are just in “winter mode”, some hardy prickly pear dump all their water, go limp and weird colors to concentrate their sugars, so they can survive freezing during the winter. They should perk up as spring progresses and they wake up for spring growth.

(Editor’s Note: I’ll bet you didn’t see that answer coming.)

We Get Questions

I was a big dingus and left my super cool cactus buddy in the rain. 🙁 He looks sort of light green now with some yellow places. Did I kill it or can this be fixed? He’s inside right now, draining.



Let him dry out, keep him warm and watch the yellow patches. Yellow is s sign of stress as well as a the start of an infection. Don’t water for 3 or 4 weeks. You might want to treat with Neem Oil in a 1% solution after it has dried out. Either use “ready to use’ or mix about a tsp of neem in a quart of warm water with a few drops of hand soap or glyserine to help emmusify, shake well and then spray all the plant and let the runnoff soak in to the soil. Keep away from the sun for a day or two. Neem is effective, natural and in the “chemical warfare class” so it is something you can use without needing a spacesuit to apply.

Good luck,

Michigan Kalanchoe Watering Question Blog Post

I have a Kalanchoe, but haven’t quite got the hang of watering it yet.  Do I drench it like if it were actually raining, or do I give it just a small amount?  Sorry if this shows up twice, I was having a poor connection.


We like to drench our succulents every 2 weeks, and let the water completely drain away, making sure the plant never sits in water. This requires a fast draining soil, and a pot with a drain hole.

It is also possible to dribble water more often, but it is more difficult to get good results.



The Victoria Times-Colonist reprimands a reader’s cactus.

Dear Helen: Early last month, a friend who is something of a cactus expert was not pleased to see a Christmas cactus in full bloom in my kitchen. She said these plants ought to be in a rest period from late January through most of March and not in flowering mode during that time.

A: Bad, bad plant. And naughty you for allowing such behaviour….

Black Echeverias

Hi there,

I bought 3 black knight echeveria’s a while ago. Being a complete novice, I had no clue when the mealy bugs began to feed on them. Despite my efforts late in the infection to combat the mealy bugs, the plants’ leaves all fell off and I purchased 3 new repotted echeverias in September. They’ve been doing well, until a few weeks ago. One of the echeveria’s is looking quite small compared to the other two. I came back from a vacation today and noticed about 3 leaves from the larger two were wilting and came off quite easily. I meticulously studied the plants for a sign of infection. NO LUCK! All I noticed was that they have a few little black holes on the bottom of a few leaves and that they look wilted. Can you suggest what to do?

It’s cold in Vancouver, BC (in fact it snowed about 1 week ago) so they’ve been inside all winter. I’ve kept them in a room that gets at least 3-5 hours of sunlight, WHEN IT’S SUNNY. The room is colder and they are right next to a glass door. I water them maybe 1/4 c. every 2-3 weeks. Except, when I noticed it looked like they were wilting I watered them a little more. The soil doesn’t feel wet, rather, slightly damp. The water is able to drain if they are too wet.

I’m at wits end and need some advice. Thanks. I’ve attached some photos.

dscf0174 dscf0179



My first guess is the smooth polished pebbles are staying wet under the leaves and causing fungal infections. As a rule of thumb we do not use smooth rock as a mulch or decorative top-dressing since the surface tension of water loves to cling to smooth round pebbles and stay wet forever. This gives a place for mold spores to “hatch” and start eating the leaves. Try to find black lava rock or a nice crushed black gravel which is rough and faster drying to use under the rosettes. You can keep the polished black rock on the exposed surface, but don’t let the leaves touch it. It should help keep them from staying too wet. Also during the winter water them well, but only about once a month. They should dry out completely between watering’s. It is OK if they look a little thirsty during the winter since they are basically asleep.

You can treat the plants with 1% Neem Oil solution to help fight off any infection they currently have. Just don’t spray and have in bright sun right away, treat, put somewhere shady for a day or two and then move back to the sun.

Good luck,

Toots Answers Your Questions

From the Press-Enterprise, one of a rapidly shrinking number of newspapers:

Q: I saw a hanging basket plant called orchid cactus that is supposed to have fancy flowers. Before I give it a try, I’d like to know how it is grown.

A: Unlike the desert cacti we see most often, the orchid cactus, Epiphyllum, is a jungle plant. In their jungle environment, they usually grow as epiphytes, with their roots exposed to the air and rain. It’s not possible to grow them that way here, but they will grow quite well in hanging baskets filled with a rich, fast-draining soil mix.


We Get Questions

I have a small cactus, only about an inch and a half tall. I left it on my radiator while I went home for spring break, and it curved in a right angle towards the window. Thinking it wanted light, i put it on the sill above the radiator, where it proceeded to turn a pale, bleached color. I would like to keep this plant living the best I can, and am wondering now if it should be watered more/less, and how much light I should be giving it.

Thank you,

It sounds like your cactus got a sunburn. It depends on how severe it was as to whether or not it will come out of it. Can you send us a picture?

As for watering, in general we recommend watering every 2 to 3 weeks, drenching the pot and letting it drain away. Cactus like lots of light, so a west or south facing window is best. Always keep it a few inches away from the glass because heat can build up at the surface. Also, as you’ve discovered, moving a cactus, or any plant, from low light directly to full sun can cause a sunburn.


May I ask the help of your expertise?


I am told this is a “Burbank Spineless” variety developed especially to feed cattle. But it has a serrated edge and a particularly interesting veining pattern in relief on the pads that I have never seen on any Opuntia. It does bloom yellow.

Thanks for your time,


It looks to me that is most likely not one of the Luther Burbank clones, but is Opuntia undulata. A variable species from Mexico (probably Aguascalientes). In habitat it is said to get 10 feet tall. Here in Berkeley, it rarely gets over four feet tall, but I have only been growing it for about three years so maybe someday it will pile up that high…

Great plant, the young pads are great nopals and the fruit is tasty too.

Take care,


Sad Cactus

Hi Guys

Just curious…can you tell me what happened to these two plants?



Too much rain water? or is it something else



Looking over your photos, my best guess is a combination of rain followed by the several real cold snaps we had, cause frost/freeze damage and that opened them up to infection. The Cleistocactus (the tall fuzzy one with multiple arms) looks like the damaged arm should be trimmed off with a knife and the cut part at ground level splashed with hydrogen-peroxide, so the infection stops with just that arm. Clean your knife and recut the top part above the infection so you have clean green tissue with no signs of orange and black, splash it with the peroxide, let it heal and dry for a week or two inside and replant and it may root (Cleistocactus are slow or tricky to root but in never hurts to try). I would also suggest pulling out the mammilaria and tossing it, so it does not spread the fungus infection to the other plants.

Generally those cacti are hardy here but if they are wet and then we get real frosty they can be damaged.

Take care,


We Get Questions from Malaysia

We like questions from all over the world.

Interesting addition to this morning’s post about a hylocereus in habitat, we now get a little bit of hylocereus used as a root stock for a grafted cactus.

hello. im elya and i need ur help!! i have a hibotan cactus. its a cactus left by my late best friend. so it really means a lot to me. i hope u can help me.

well,firstly,i have no idea whatsoever on how to take care a cactus. in fact,i just know that its called hibotan cactus today when i searched the net. u see im a university student and im very busy. so i really dont schedule when i water it. and at first i just leave it in my room. and i am a very very careless person. i knocked it down for 3 times already i think. the rest are done by the wind. and when its knocked down,usually it will fall out of the pot. with the soil still attached to the cactus. i know i know,im very careless.. but yeah. i still love it so so much though. hmm.. anyway,in 3,4 days now,the cactus’ head is going black!!!! i think i over water it i guess!!! here’s the picture of it. i hope it can still be saved. oh yes,my university is kinda in a rural area and i dont even know if theres a gardening store nearby. i hope its still saveable……


hope to hear you soon.

p/s: please reply to my email. and u can post it in the blog if you like. thank you. hope in hearing you soon.

— elya,Malaysia

What you have is a grafted and irradiated cactus on top of a hylocereus base. The colorful grafted top portion is dead and probably just came to the end of its mutated lifespan. It was a nice touch of color while it lasted.

However, the hylocereus base can survive and grow into an amazing plant. I recommend you cut off the dead portion, spray the cut end with hydrogen peroxide to help it heal, and repot the rooted base in fresh, fast draining cactus soil. Keep dry, and don’t water for a couple weeks.

Good luck

Strange Answers to Simple Questions

In Syracuse NY, they go off topic and make strange pronouncements about succulents.

Dear Carol: What can be used to make dried flowers less fragile to handle? S.H., Elbridge.

Dear S.H.: …Some plants dry well and others don’t. Flowers that dry well… tend to be papery in texture while still growing…

Flowers that don’t dry well include succulents, such as sedums.

Well, La Dee Da.

Straight Talk About Sick Plants


Attached are several pictures of my indoor cacti that have been going downhill for the last couple of months. Basically it appears that some of them are rotting from the inside and others seem to have some kind of spider on them and there is a sticky substance on them.

Any help would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.




The cactus is dead, or almost. The succulents are infested with mealy bugs, and etiolated due to insufficient sunlight. Given the level of infestation, the plants need to be unpotted, treated, cuttings taken and repotted into fresh soil.

With what needs to be done, I recommend you bring it by the nursery so we can take a look and see what’s salvagable, and we can also do the treatments and repotting for you if you like.

ID a Plant


I am a plumeria grower and a friend sent me some unknown cuttings last season that have grown very well in my rock garden at home. I have attempted to id this plant with a few friends at different botanical gardens with no luck. They suggested asking a few professional growers in Cal. if it could be id by those with more local knowledge. Any help would be appreciated, I have given several cuttings to friends in my area now so many of us are at a loss! I have attached a picture. My friend has told me in late spring in Cal it forms a stalk with a bloom head of multiple purple flowers. Any help would be greatly appreciated so I can give this plant a name.



Aloha Nursery


It looks like you have a very happy Calandrinia grandiflora. It should send up amazing purple, poppy like blooms all summer long. I find they bloom best if ignored and under watered. They are native to Chile and Peru. Though they must come from lowlands, since they do get knocked back with a heavy frost here in Berkeley. I think they could handle more cold if they were drier, but our winters are usually wet.

Take care,

Sick Cactus




I’m writing with a care question about my potted Echinocereus grandiflora I bought at Cactus Jungle about a year or 18 months ago:

It has developed scaly, brownish yellow areas near the base and midsection of the main plant and on a few of the larger offshoots. Any idea what this affliction is? Can it be reversed??


Please help! I don’t want this guy to die.

I live in SF and currently water the plant thoroughly once-twice a month in spring/summer and maybe two times total from september-march. I put it outside in the summer when its hot but otherwise it sits in my sunniest window area (only 6-7 hours of non-quite-direct sun though). Should any of that change?

Also want to say that I have been extremely happy with this plant, and all the others I’ve purchased at CJ, as well as all the in-person advice at the store in Berkeley. Thanks!

Look forward to hearing from you,


It is a fungal infection. You should treat with a fungicide as soon as possible. We would treat it with the product MildewCure followed by Neem Oil few days later. Re-treating after seven days. Hopefully that will stop the infection. The plant will carry scars, however once it is healed the pups will eventually grow large enough to hide the worst of it.

Good luck,

And just to add: When bringing a plant outdoors after the winter, even if it’s been in a sunny window, you need to harden the plant off or it will sunburn. That means taking a week or two bringing it out into progressively more sun until it’s been accustomed to the UV.

We Get Questions About Euphorbia Trigona Spots


Please take a look at my Euphorbia trigona and give me an advise.


I am concern with spots, overall unhealthy look, slow growth and size of a current planter.
Thank you.
Sincerely, Natalie

Your Euphorbia is under-potted, and is showing signs of what look to me like both frost damage and possibly some sunburn. Overall the plant looks pretty good, but repotting to a bigger terra cotta pot and out of the plastic around the end of March, but not before, should help. Also, we recommend having it indoor in the winter, and out of full sun.
Let us know if you have any other questions

Echeveria Grow Big!

Hi Peter,
As we were just discussing on the phone, I have an Echeveria hybrid that I purchased from your fine company back in June. As you can see from the photos, since then it has grown quite tall and I am wondering what I can do for it. Also, the second photo shows the top of the trunk that split yesterday. What have I done wrong and what can I do for the split trunk?
Thank you very much for your time.



As we discussed, it does appear that your echeveria is not getting enough sunlight. The split developing at the top is because it is top heavy, and because the stem is not strong enough. What I recommend is waiting til late March, if possible (if the head is about to break off then don’t wait) and then cutting the rosette off with about 6″ off stem, clearing off the bottom leaves as necessary. Spray the cut end with household peroxide to help it heal and keep out of the sun for 1 week to let it dry. Then plant about 4″ deep into fresh dry soil, and wait another week before starting to water. Make sure the plant is in a warm sunny window and it should begin to root pretty quickly. Given the thickness of the echeveria stems, we often use a rooting hormone to help the plant root faster, but it’s not necessary.

You can then cut the rest of the stem down to about 3″ above the soil, removing all dead leaves, and the rooted stem will probably grow new rosettes. Spray the cut end with the household peroxide also, and keep out of direct sun until the tip heals a bit.

In general, we recommend these echeverias have 4 hours of direct sun per day, so a south or west facing window is ideal.

Let us know how it goes,

Photo With Thumb and Questions

Dear Sirs,

This could be my third e-mail to you guys regarding strange cactus disease/bug/fungus (all of which were generously answered). Hopefully this isn’t becoming annoying. I do appreciate your time and check in to your blog frequently. Here’s the latest.

Two photos of a Myrtillocactus pup. This is the first trouble I’ve had with it. Seems to have some kind of big orange spot? Its not a “scar” like other spots that occur. Any suggestions, I’d hate to lose this one.

The second cactus I can’t ID. I do know it may have burnt a bit this summer (you can sort of tell from one photo to the other). It appears like this one maybe toast (the black spots appear to be brown-rot like, but I cant say for sure). I worry the winter is too far away before I can re-pot. Even so the problems appear to be high on the cactus.

Both cactus are in a greenhouse in Oregon, which we keep dry (and usually bug free believe it or not!?!!?). It doesn’t get cooler than 50 and we open it up during sunny days. This winter I have been limiting water to approximately monthly, or as they needed. I don’t think overwatering is an issue but who knows.

img_0976 img_0977

Any input is appreciated.

Happy to help when we can.

The Myrtillocactus looks like it has Rust, which is a fungus. We treat with neem oil. You can alternate with a teaspoon of baking soda and a quart of warm water, sprayed on.

The other cactus, probably an Echinopsis, may have the same disease, or another fungus, just further along. You can try to treat the same way, but the prognosis is not as good.

Please note: Where you are using smooth pebbles as a mulch, that is going to keep the plants wetter in the winter. We prefer a rough stone, like lava which dries out faster.

Good luck

Questions? Answers? Followups?

I have a beatiful euphoria cactus that my daughter bought for me last mothers day[may of 2008]- it grew beatifully during the summer but now the leaves have turned brown and fallen over. I’m devistated! Can it be brought back to life? I thank you for your response!

If it is a Euphorbia, then the plant is deciduous, and probably has just lost its leaves for the winter. However, if you’d like to send me a digital photo I can take a look.

The follow-up here was that the plant wasn’t just losing leaves, but entire branches were collapsing, however Norma wasn’t able to send photos, so the best we could do was offer this advice:

Unfortunately I can’t really diagnose any further without seeing pictures.
In general, you can cut the dead top portions off and let the lower portions heal. Be sure to get all the dead and rotting parts. Spray with household peroxide to help the wounds heal.


August 2020

US Constitution


We Get Questions

Email your questions to:

blog [at] cactusjungle [dot] com