Rotting Cactus

Q: Hi. I called your store last weekend and had some questions about a cereus cactus I have that appears to have scales but also seems to be “dying” from the top down. I was told to email some photos of my plant, so I’m sending them now. I would really appreciate your looking at them and advising me of what I can do to salvage my cactus. If you have any problems accessing the pictures, please let me know.

Thank you very, very much for your time and assistance.



A: Jenny,

It looks like your plant has both scale insects and an infection, viral or fungal (most likely brought on by the bugs…). You should spray with Neem Oil to kill the scale. You can then clean off the dead ones with a small paint brush dipped in rubbing Alcohol. For the infection, I hate to say it but you need to cut off the top a couple of inches below the “icky” part and then look at the cut part to make sure there is no black or orange spots in the soft tissue, if there are you need to clean the knife with alcohol and re-cut lower down until you only have clean green tissue showing. Then pour household Hydrogen-Peroxide over the cut to sterilize. Do this again for the next few days to make sure the infection is dead.

It will scar up and then branch around the cut and in a few years it won’t be that noticeable.

Good Luck,


Question We Can't Answer

Sometimes we reply to people’s questions even though we really don’t have an answer for them. And then I post them so the whole world can see my failures. Like this one:

Q: Good Morning. My name is Jennifer & I live in Wylie, TX a suburb of Dallas. I am interested in installing a cactus garden in my front yard, but I honestly don’t know anything about cacti. I searched online to try to locate a local landscape designer, but haven’t been able to find any that specialize in cacti and succulents. Do you happen to know anyone in the Dallas/ Fort Worth area?

Thanks in advance for your assistance.


A: Jen,

Sorry but we don’t have any good landscaping contacts in the Dallas area. You might want to try the Texas chapter of the Cactus and Succulent Society.


California Questions

They Get Questions that are answerable with the application of a good dose of California Natives. The San Luis Obispo County Master Gardener tells all:

Q: I want to cut down on water usage, and I’m thinking of getting rid of my lawn. What can I plant instead of grass?

– Sally Somers, Los Osos

A: Many gardeners dislike the amount of labor and water that a lawn requires. However, they may hesitate to get rid of turf grass because they picture the alternative as a yard full of pebbles studded with cactus. While cacti and succulents can be attractive, we have many other good-looking, drought-resistant substitutes for grass on the Central Coast….

Low growing forms of yarrow, rock rose, and (native) ceanothus are also good choices. Most of these flower seasonally. An unusual possibility might be a native bunchgrass meadow studded with California wildflowers. Another alternative could be a well-mulched grove of native trees or shrubs such as manzanita.

Scale on Your Cactus

We Get Questions about pests, yes we do.

We ask people to send us photos, and they do, boy do they.

Q: cactus jungle,

here are the pictures. please note the white dots in the picture. what causes these? (lack of light or water, too much light or water?). also given the size of the smaller cacti, should any of them be transplanted to their own pots or can they all live together in the same pot as shown in picture 2 [not shown]? how much water should they be given being that they only get about 2-3 hours of direct sunlight? thanks for your help!


A: Jon,

Thanks for sending the photos, they are quite clear: your Pachycereus has scale, an insect that attaches itself to the plant and sucks the juices out. This is treatable.

1. Spray the plant with neem oil to kill them. We mix 100% neem oil, which is safe for cacti. Don’t use the 70% solutions, like “Rose Defense,” which are not safe.

2. After 2-3 days, carefully clean off the scale with a q-tip dipped in alcohol.

Finally, your plants are all fine in the same pot, but they need more sun. Not enough light is making them prone to the scale. Slowly bring them into a location that gets more direct sun, waiting a week after they’ve been treated. I recommend a minimum of 4 hours of afternoon sun, which means near a west or south facing window.

Water every 3 weeks, drenching the soil and letting the water drain away. You should lift the pot up on pot feet or bricks so it is never sitting in water in the saucer.

Good luck,


New Garden in Walnut Creek

The Ruth Bancroft Garden has a new entry garden. Ruth Bancroft answers your questions about her gardens in the Contra Costa Times:

Q: We like the look of your new garden alongside the gate on Bancroft Road, and we would like to do something similar in front of our house. Can you offer some tips?

A: Our entry garden is officially called the Lloyd Davis Entry Garden, after the late Lloyd Davis of Orinda, from whom many of the specimen plants came that were used in creating it. It features an array of cacti and succulents with a covering of gravel spread on the ground between them. This gravel is called “¾-inch Lodi” and came from Mt. Diablo Landscape Center in Concord.

You’ll have to read the rest of the article to find out her advice for replicating this garden at your home. I don’t want to spoil the surprise ending.


We sometimes get questions that we have never gotten before. Like this one:

Q: Hi,

I have a bunch of cacti that I keep indoors (I live in NJ.) I have a large yucca species that has developed an infestation of tiny centipedes in the soil. How do I get rid of them without killing the plant?

Any suggestions would be helpful.



A: Anne,

Centipedes! Really, now. We recommend a soil drench with neem oil. It’s also sold as rose defense, which will work fine as a soil drench, but don’t spray it on cacti since they need 100% neem.


What About Oklahoma?

We get questions from Oklahoma. It seems they want to grow plants outside, even in Oklahoma.

Q: Hi,

I live in Central oklahoma … (zone 7) I would love to have a succulent bed, the only thing I have are hen and chicks and they do great here… Can you recommend some items that I could order, that would be good for this area? My bed is about 3 foot wide and 18 feet long.. I want something really awesome looking, with low maintenance… Can you help?

Beautiful website.. best I have seen….


A: I would recommend Lewisia, which are zone 3, and have amazing blooms. We do have many different species of the Sempervivum (hen and chick) that would work. This summer we should have in Delosperma congestum which is hardy. Most of the sedums (all that we carry) are hardy. For Euphorbias, the spurges, like E. characias, and others, should all do fine. Kniphofias and maybe even Bulbines should work. For cactus, you could try Echinocereus viridiflorus, Opuntia fragilis, Opuntia basilaris.

That’s all I can think of right now.


We Get Questions

Mike from Korea has asked me about what “cultivated variety” or c.v. means tacked onto the end of a species name.

Q: I don’t exaclty understand what the “cultivated varitety” means.



A: Mike-

There are 2 basic ways hybrids are made:

1. Cross pollinate 2 known plants, and create what is known as a “hybrid,” i.e. graptoveria is a hybrid between a graptopetalum and an echeveria.

2. Select a naturally occuring variation. This is then called a “cultivated variety”.

For instance, there are many hundreds of hybrid echeveria species, some of which are “c.v.” or “cultivated varieties.”

If we don’t know what it is, we use the terms hybrid or c.v. interchangeably, since they are both just guesses. In general whichever way it was created, it is a hybrid.


Dead Cactus Questions

Q: Hello

I am trying to find out what is the problem with my 6 foot cactus. Started to turn black on the top 4 days ago and is growing down. I had another cactus in the same pot, but died like 2 years ago and started to die the same way. I live in New York and is beeing very cold the last 2 weeks. I also watered the cactus on april 19 and because I was out of the country I watered an extra half of cup. I usually watered every 2 months with no problem. I hope the pictures can talk by themself.

Please give any advise because I don’t want to cut it if is no necesary.

Thank you so much.


A: Carmina,

Sorry to be the one to bring you the bad news, but the tip of the cactus needs to be cut off. It is rotting from the top. Cut well below the infected part, look at the tissue and make sure there’s no sign of infection (brown/yellow/orange) and then spray the tip with household peroxide every day for 3-4 days. In a month or 2 after it’s healed I recommend repotting in fresh well-draining cactus soil. Do not reuse the pot without sterilizing.

We usually water cacti every 3-4 weeks, drenching the soil and letting it drain completely away, never letting it sit in water. It is OK to let it go up to 2 months without watering on occasion.

Good Luck,


Can you ID a Cactus?

Q: Please identify this cactus plant. I purchased it at a drugstore without a “name tag” but did have two fake flowers attached’ Thank You, John J.

A: John,

Your cactus is a Cereus hildmannianus monstrose, or commonly called ‘Fairy Castle’. It is a dwarf mutation of Cereus hildmannianus (which grows to tree size) and is native to southeastern Brazil and northern Argentina. Your plant will stay small and have many branches. The largest Cereus hildmannianus monstrose I have ever seen was only six feet tall, though I have seen the non-mutant species about thirty feet tall.

Good luck with your plant,


Oy, that’s tall.

We Get Questions

Q: Dear Cactus Blog,

First off I have to say that I’ve really enjoyed your Cactus Blog ever since I stumbled across it a little over a year ago! I’m hoping you can help me with some cacti I recently purchased from one of the local home centers. The clerk explained to me that a large percentage of their cacti and succulents were on clearance because a former employee had insisted on watering them along with the regular plants, and as a result the plants were ailing. Always one to appraise the bargain plants, I couldn’t resist bringing home a pot with two 4′ cacti -despite the unsettling spots on them. I figured I’d likely never have a chance to get this size of cacti at this price, and if they didn’t make I wouldn’t be out too much. But please help me keep these gorgeous plants!

I’ve attached pictures of the cacti and the troublesome spots. The spot on one (cactiB.jpg) of them seems drier and more firm and hasn’t changed in the two weeks I’ve had it. However, the spot on the other seems dark, a bit soft, and has grown -today I even noticed what looks like white mold.

The clerk explained that the plants hadn’t been watered since the water-happy employee had left, and I haven’t watered it at all either -I even raked some of the soil away from the bottoms of the stems. It is currently in our back porch, a sheltered area, but roughly same temperature as the outdoors. It currently only receives filtered southern light (the only other room with southern exposure is also unheated).

Any recommendations you could make would be greatly appreciated!

Many thanks in advance,


P.S. It was labeled as Trzo. Euphorbia Amak Variegata “Golden Candelabra Plant”, is that correct? What does “Trzo.” stand for?

A: Michelle,

Since I don’t know where you are, I can’t tell you if they should be indoors or out, but we don’t let our Euphorbia “ammak”s get below freezing.

As for the damage, I’m afraid to say it is rot. The rot that is at the base of the plant that’s molding is bad. You need to cut the plant off above the rot, throw out the base, and let the top part heal. Spray with household peroxide, let dry for 2 weeks, and then place in fresh clean dry soil.

The rot up higher can be trimmed out and cleaned with peroxide and kept dry until it heals.

Please note that euphorbia sap is caustic. Please wear rubber gloves and safety goggles. If you get it on you, don’t touch your face, and wash it off immediately.

Long term the plant will be happier in a terra cotta pot with high quality cactus soil.

Finally, the “Trzo” designation is the name of the pot style (i.e. “terrazzo”).


Fertilize Your Cactus in Spring

Q: Peter,

Mom asked (as we live right down the road in Santa Cruz) when, roughly, we can assume the various cacti are out of their winter dormancy. I know this varies according to the individual species but as we have over 40 different ones, we’re just looking for some general guidelines here. Normally we stop feeding in Oct and start again in May. Are we doing this right?

Thanks again,


A: Sondra,

It is a good rule of thumb to wait until May to fertilize cacti, and stopping in October (Stop in September in colder climates). Succulents, on the other hand, may be winter-growers and would be on a different schedule.

At the nursery, we like to start fertilizing as early as possible, and so it varies each year. This year it looks like we’re now coming out of winter, with only occasional rain still to come, so we’ll start feeding some of the winter-stressed cacti in mid-March with kelp meal, adding our own cactus meal fertilizer in mid April.

Neem seed meal is another good spring fertilizer helping to protect against root fungus while feeding the plant for increased green growth and bud set.


Bonus: Here’s my very short instructional video about cactus and winter stress.

Can you Identify an Agave?

Q: Do you what kind of Agave this is ?<br />
<br />
Thanks, <br />
Tim<br /><br /><img width="432" hspace="5" border="2" src="/blog/uploads/misc/agave.jpg" /><br /><br />Our answer is after the break…<br /><br /><br /><a href="">Continue reading "Can you Identify an Agave?"</a>

They Get Questions

<a href=";entry_id=1720" title="" onmouseover="window.status=’′;return true;" onmouseout="window.status=”;return true;">Ruth Bancroft</a> answers questions about cactus soil.<br /><br /><div style="margin-left: 40px;"><span style="font-style: italic;">Q: I planted a cactus using a standard bagged potting mix, and placed it on the porch in a sunny spot. Now it looks like it is rotting and I am afraid I have lost it. Could the soil mix have caused this?<br />
<br />
A: Because cacti and other succulent plants require good drainage, it is best not to use a standard potting mix. Instead, use a mix with extra-good drainage. There are commercial cactus mixes available, but you can easily create one yourself by adding materials to promote drainage into ordinary potting soil. Sand, pumice, perlite or crushed rock such as decomposed granite can all be used for this purpose (do not, however, use sand from the beach, since saltiness may cause problems). At the garden, we use a custom blend that is about half sand and pumice, and the other half soil.</span><br /></div><br />They use a very different mix than we do. We don’t use sand at all. And we don’t start with a standard potting mix either since they all have either forest products or peat, and cactus and succulents prefer a more neutral blend while we prefer a more environmentally friendly blend. We start with coir fiber, some rice hulls. We add lots of pumice and lava rock (not perlite, which is a more energy intensive additive.) And nutrients, don’t forget the nutrients.<br /><br />

Poked by an Agave

Q: I’ve read your previous postings which indicate that cactus thorns are not poisonous. However, my mother had a run-in with our Agave Americana last year, getting poked in the arm. The vein swelled up and within a few days the swelling had gone down. She still has problems with pain. The same cactus got my finger today; 5 hours later it is stiff and sore and pain is radiating up my arm. I used peroxide immediately and an antibiotic ointment but it doesn’t seem to be working. Is there anything you can recommend? <br />
Thank you,<br />
Sondra<br /><br />A: Sondra,<br />
Agave are not cactus, and there is an important difference. But first, let me insist that I am not a doctor, and any lingering pain should be seen by a doctor.<br />
<br />
OK, so Agaves, unlike most cactus, do have a nasty sap in them, that many people will have a reaction to. Whenever you are handling them, transplanting them or pruning leaves, we recommend long sleeves, gloves and eye protection.<br />
<br />
But I think the real problem with them is that the leaf tips – i.e. the spines – are huge and thick and very sharp. They can go in pretty deep and cause real wounds, nerve damage, etc. I know I can have lingering pain from getting poked that’s probably caused by the time it takes for the nerve to heal. (I once had a pinched nerve and it’s the same type of pain).<br />
<br />
Whenever we get punctured by a cactus or agave or other sharp plant, we make sure to remove any spines left behind, wash thoroughly, use a local disinfectant and then we like to apply a topical pain reliever. It is a wound so we watch for signs of infection.<br />
<br />
But if the pain does persist, we also have been known to go see a doctor.<br />
<br />
Hope this helps, and you and your mother get to feeling better.<br />
Peter<br /><br />

We Get Follow-ups

Follow-up to <a href=";entry_id=1704" title="" onmouseover="window.status=’’;return true;" onmouseout="window.status=”;return true;">yesterday’s question</a> about barrel cactus, and how to tell if they’re alive.<br /><br />Q: It seems firm, here’s two pixs. Thank you so much for your help! I lost my Mom, her plants are my daily visit with her.<br />
<br />
Susan<br /><br /><img width="396" hspace="5" height="432" border="2" src="/blog/uploads/misc/barrelcactus002.jpg" /><br /><br />A: Susan,<br />
The plant is still alive. It is in desperate need of getting repotted into a larger pot with fresh cactus soil. There are also some spots of rot on the plant (the soft brown spots) and you should spray them with a fungicide, like Neem oil.<br />
<br />
Good Luck,<br />
Peter<br /><br /><br />
<br /><a href="">Continue reading "We Get Follow-ups"</a>

We Get Cactus Fungus Questions

Q: Hello,

I spoke with someone from your store on the phone this afternoon about a problem with one of my cacti. They suggested that I email a closeup of the affected cactus. This yellowish covering is now over much of the surface area of the plant. I’d appreciate any suggestions for treating the problem. Thanks,


A: Mark,

It does indeed look like a fungal infection of “Rust”. Your plant should be treated with a fungicide as soon as possible. Under normal situations I would recommend spraying the plant with a 1-2% Neem Oil solution, an effective, natural fungicide that has limited toxicity to humans and pets and I think you should start with it. Spray liberally with Neem to the point of run off and keep your plant out of direct light for a few days. Reapply after a week. It may take several treatments to kill off the fungus. There will be scaring of the plant tissue, but the orange should fade. Neem Oil is available in 100% that you mix yourself or a ready to use diluted spray, either one will work.

Unfortunately it may be that your plant is so infected with rust, that you may need to resort to something nastier to save your plant. But the systemic fungicides should only be used at last resort and handled with extreme caution, they are designed to cross the cell barrier and do not

care if it is a plant’s cell or your skin cell. If you go that route use chemical resistant gloves and follow the directions completely. Systemics are dangerous and like I said only to be used at last resort.

Good luck,


They Get Questions

When in England, Ask Dan about your garden issues. <a href=";entry_id=1705" title=",,2253409,00.html" onmouseover="window.status=’,,2253409,00.html’;return true;" onmouseout="window.status=”;return true;">He’s at the Guardian</a>.<br /><br /><div style="margin-left: 40px;"><span style="font-style: italic;">Q Hi Dan, Eight years ago somebody brought me a wonderful cactus that was about 6ft tall. It has stood in my hallway for the past eight years slowly getting taller! It is now at its maximum height for my hallway and I would like to get rid of it. I was wondering if there was a retirement home for cacti? It’s so big I can’t move it and I obviously don’t just want to destroy it as it is magnificent. I thought that some place might want to take it off my hands and wondered if that kind of thing went on. Any advice you could give me? Many thanks.<br />
Sarah</span><br /></div><br />That’s not a garden question. I was fooled into thinking he offered helpful advice to people who want to grow their plants in the harsh and unforgiving climate of England. Well, here’s his answer anyway.<br /><br /><div style="margin-left: 40px;"><span style="font-style: italic;">A Hi Sarah, Is there a local school that might take it off your hands? Failing that, you could try your parks department. There may well be greenhouse space for such a specimen. You could also try the British Cactus and Succulent Society (</span><br /></div><br />My god, I had no idea. That’s no answer at all. Why not just tell her to place it on craigslist? I mean, they have that over there don’t they? I don’t know. Let me check. <a href=";entry_id=1705" title="" onmouseover="window.status=’’;return true;" onmouseout="window.status=”;return true;">Yep, there it is</a>. Hey! I could answer UK questions too! I could be a garden advisor all over the world! Growing clematis in Indonesia? I’ll tell you what you need!<br /><br />

We Get Questions

Q: I have a barrel cactus about 4" x 4". It has looked the same for what seems like years, how can I tell it’s alive?<br />
<br />
Björnvik <br />
<br />
A: You can gently poke it with a pencil, and if it gives resistance, then it is alive.<br />
Or you could send us a clear closeup photo and we can take a look.<br />
<br />
Some barrels are miniatures and won’t get any bigger (like the gymnocalyciums) while others really do want to grow much bigger (like the ferocactuses)<br />
<br />
If it is still alive and the right species and you want it to grow bigger, you should probably repot it into a 6"-8" terra cotta pot with fresh well-draining cactus soil (which we do sell) in Spring, and make sure it is getting at least 4 hours of direct afternoon sun. Water it every 3 weeks.<br />
<br />
Good Luck,<br />
Peter<br /><br />

We Get Questions

It’s Aloe dichotoma time in Massachusetts:<br /><br />Q: Hi, my name is Marc and I live in Massachusetts. I have a Aloe dichotoma as a house plant and it looks good. I have to battle mealy bug once in a while but other than that it is a really easy plant. I do notice that the very tips of some of the leaves seems to dry out, turn brown all awhile the rest of the leave looks healthy. Do I have to be concerned? I am not sure if this is a disease. I water the plant about 2 x a week. It is in very well drained soil (sand and light compost mix)and I suspect the plant is somewhat or at the beginning stages of being root bound. So I do not think I am rotting t roots with too much water. How much light should this plant receive? Lastly, I know that when it is winter here it is summer in their native country (S. Africa). Do I need to do any additional care or timing of the care to coincide with the seasons of the southern hemisphere? Look forward to your response!<br />
Do you ship plants to the East Coast?<br />
Regards,<br />
Marc<br /><br />A: Marc,<br />
<br />
We water Aloe dichotama every two to three weeks in the summer and very little in the winter. They are heat loving dry desert plants. But if yours is growing and doing well I wouldn’t really suggest changing your routine. Ours are mostly outside year round so they take different care than indoor plants. While leaf tip browning is pretty common in Aloes, it is a sign of stress, but if it isn’t too bad don’t worry about it too much.<br />
<br />
If you are having mealy-bug problems make sure you monitor the roots as they will get in the soil where you can’t see them and suck all the life out of your plants. And leaf tip die off is a sign of stress. Aloe dichotoma is more or less dormant in winter, keep it nearly totally dry particularly if it is somewhere cool (at or around 40°F) while it is dormant. Since the nursery is in a winter rainfall area we grow our Aloe dichotoma in gravely soil and in rose pots (extra tall Terra Cotta) Tall pots drain fast because of the column weight of the water and with the taller sided have more air exposure for the clay to dry out.<br />
<br />
And yes we ship plants to the East Coast.<br />
<br />
Good luck,<br />
Hap<br /><br />

We Get Broken Aloe Questions

Q: Hi,<br />
We had a misfortune today with our Aloe plicatilis that we purchased from you guys. We came home and it had broken from the pot. The root and part of the trunk is still attached in the potted soil. I placed it in water, but I am not sure if it will survive!!!<br />
Please help!<br />
Thank you<br />
Tanya<br /><br />A: Tanya,<br />
<br />
I am sorry to hear your Aloe is damaged, hopefully it can be saved. Please take it out of the water, succulents like to be dry when healing from an injury.<br />
<br />
Let it dry off and clean any part of the stem that is broken with household Hydrogen-Peroxide. Give it a week or two in a warm dry place and re-pot in dry soil. You can use a stake to hold in upright while it regrows roots. It may take a few months to grow new roots. Do not water for two to three weeks after replanting.<br />
<br />
You can also bring it buy the nursery and we will see what we can do to speed it on its way to recovery.<br />
<br />
Take care,<br />
Hap<br /><br />

They get Fungus Questions

The Worthington Daily Globe (ND) gets questions about fungi. We should all get questions about fungi. I like questions about fungi, how about you?

Q: I have a home outside of Palm Springs, Calif. Several years ago, I purchased a couple of cactus plants on a lark…. 

In the past few months, I have noticed… one plant… has tan/brown ringlike circles on three ridges. There is one lone circle at the base and the rest are at the top. Is there something that I should be doing to prevent further destruction?

Oddly enough, I did not expect to find a cactus resource hosted by someone in North Dakota. I have never visited your campus, but my brother-in-law is a member of the football coaching staff.

A: You have a home in Palm Springs and a brother-in-law on our Bison football coaching staff. What a nicely tangled web…. I suspect, from what you have told me, that your cactus might have a systemic fungus infection. If you could send some photos, it would make my guess more certain.

Yes, it’s true, photos do help. Did you know that the Bush Administration is planning on shooting down a failing satellite with unproven star-wars technology? Experts scoff at the idea.

They Get Questions

The Las Vegas Review Journal takes questions from their readers about cactus. Good deal all around.

I have a question about my cacti. They have been wilted or thin for about 8 months. I bought them in October 2006 and planted them in the ground. Then, about March 2007, I placed them into containers…. They were wilting somewhat before I replanted them. 

What is wrong with them? Do they have a fungus? Also, I forgot what kind of cactus they are.

A: Your cacti do look pretty bad. All of the pads are shriveled like flattened raisins. Cacti like this are usually suffering from water stress: not applying water often enough.

It also can be a sign of root or pad rot developing below ground. Keeping a soil too moist can rot roots and the pad below ground. That, too, is water stress since there are not enough roots for the cactus to bring water to the pads.

These problems are remedied by making sure the soil you use drains easily after irrigating and scheduling your irrigations less frequently.

If the pads and roots appear to be healthy, then the plants are, most likely, not getting watered often enough. Water plants in the ground less often than the same plants growing in containers. The smaller the container, the more often you will need to water. If those same plants were in small containers like yours, I would be watering them every couple of days.

Now, there’s a lot more if you follow the link. It’s quite the extensive discussion of water stress in cacti in Nevada.


We Get ID Questions

An interesting mystery:<br /><br />Q: Hi! <br />
Bumped into your website today, and saw that you answer cactus/succulent questions, so I figured maybe you could help me ID this plant. It’s a seedling that is growing in the pot with my haworthia. It was already in the pot when I bought the haworthia a year ago, so all I know is that it’s over a year old. When I got it, the seedling was, I think, less than half an inch tall. It had two small round leaves at the very bottom (would those be cotelydons?), and one of them is still there, but the other fell off. No other leaves or spines though. Now it’s a bit under two inches tall, and it did most of the growing in the summer. I don’t know how to describe the plant, besides that it’s flat, so I attached two pictures. I also dug it out a while back, to see what kind of roots it has, and it pretty much has just one root that goes straight down, about half an inch long. Not much in terms of small rootage. It seems to do fine with the same light and watering that the haworthia gets, but then I have no idea what it is and what it’s supposed to look like… For all I know it was supposed to be 10′ tall by now, and all covered in deadly spines or huge pink flowers. Or deadly pink flowers. Or something.<br />
Do you know what it could be?<br />
Thanks in advance!<br />
-Lena<br /><br /><img width="324" hspace="5" height="432" border="2" src="/blog/uploads/misc/plant_id_1.jpg" /><br /><br />A: Lena,<br />
I love cool mysteries! But I have to say I am not sure if I can help you. My best wild guess is perhaps it is a Pedilanthus of some sort, perhaps one of the Pedilanthus tithymaloides sub species. Perhaps it will get some sort of leaf or bloom in the spring and we can try again.<br />
<br />
Hap<br /><br />

We Get Questions

Q: Hello- Do you carry a form of cactus called a “forever flower” it has small pink flowers oval leaves and grows tall and skinny. If you are familiar I would like to know the full scientific name and where they are from. If you can help out with these info. that would be great.

thanks for your time.


A: Kendra,

I am not familiar with “Forever Flower” as a common name, however from

your description I am guessing you are talking about Euphorbia milli, a

very cool succulent native to Madagascar. It is in the family

Euphorbiaceae, so it is not a cactus, but a similar looking succulent.

There are a number of hybrid clones that come in a rainbow of bloom

colors and sizes. They are wonderful plants as they bloom almost

non-stop year round. We grow the standard species, as well as some of

the “Thai hybrids” that have larger, showier blooms. Links here, here, here and here.

Please look over the links and see if this is the plant you are

interested in.


We Get ID Questions

Q: Hey there–<br /><br />I have two cacti whose scientific names have evaded me for a while. The first one I saved from Walgreens– he’s grown from a little under half a foot to a little over a foot or more. The other one I got at a Lowes, but didn’t come with a tag saying what kind of cactus.<br /><br /><img width="324" hspace="5" height="432" border="2" src="/blog/uploads/misc/IDRalph.jpg" /> <br /><br />The large green one in the photos attached is the one I’m most curious about, seeing as the other seems easier to find and identify.<br /><br /><img width="304" hspace="5" height="432" border="2" src="/blog/uploads/misc/IDLoretta.jpg" /><br /><br />Thanks!<br />Natalie<br /><br />A: Natalie,<br /><br />&quot;Ralph&quot; is a Cereus hildmannianus monstrose, commonly called &quot;Fairy Castle Cactus&quot;. &quot;Loretta&quot;; is a grafted Gymnocalycium mihanovichii &quot;Hibotan&quot;, or Moon Cactus or Ruby Ball. It’s grafted because it does not have the ability to make it’s own food, as the chlorophyll was irradiated out of it, to make it that &quot;out of this world color&quot; the green hylocerues below the red ball is feeding the mutant above… the true species is sort of a terra cotta red with a green stripes. <br /><br />I hope that helps<br />Take care<br />Hap<br /><br />

They Get Cold Weather Questions

It’s Spring in California. It was hot yesterday. Warm in the monring, sunny all day, and hot in the afternoon. The plants loved it, and so did I. I’m not bragging, mind you, but there’s freezing temperatures all across the upper midwest today, and I pity you all. <br /><br />From the <a href=";entry_id=1649" title="" onmouseover="window.status=’′;return true;" onmouseout="window.status=”;return true;">Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel</a>:<br /><br /><div style="margin-left: 40px;"><span style="font-style: italic;">Q.I have a very large cactus (Euphorbia Tree) that normally thrives in our sunroom.<br />
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We had several very cold days and it got much too cold in that non-insulated room.<br />
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All of the new growth on the cactus has either shriveled or turned light greenish-yellow and is droopy. This cactus stands about 6 feet. What can I do to revive it?<br />
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A. If the damaged areas continue to deteriorate or show no signs of improvement, it is time to do some pruning.<br />
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Remove the dead portions back to a healthy stem. If older parts of the plant are firm and normal color there is a good chance you can save the plant.<br />
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Prevent future cold damage and continue to give it proper care and time to recover. </span><br /></div><br />Colder days indeed. After winter damage, when spring finally arrives in your part of the country, we recommend a good dose of kelp meal.<br /><br />

They Get Questions

The <a href=";entry_id=1647" title="" onmouseover="window.status=’’;return true;" onmouseout="window.status=”;return true;">Arizona Republic</a> is taking questions, and it’s all about the kalanchoes today.<br /><br /><div style="margin-left: 40px;"><span style="font-style: italic;">Question: About a year ago, I propagated a cutting from a very colorful kalanchoe. The cutting has gone very well, filling a 12-inch pot, but producing no blossoms. How can I encourage this fickle kalanchoe to produce flowers? During its short life, the plant has been in a patio receiving, perhaps, four to five hours of sun.<br />
– Bill Ispirian, Scottsdale<br /><br /><img width="250" hspace="5" height="400" border="2" align="left" src="/blog/uploads/misc/012608garden-autosized258.jpg" /> Answer: There are many species of kalanchoe plants. These succulents produce a profusion of long-lasting blooms. Most are cool-season bloomers and flower in winter and spring.<br />
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Kirti Mathura, Desert Botanical Garden horticulturist, said those sold at the garden will bloom yearly and do well as patio container plants. Others sold in retail outlets often are forced to bloom so they are available throughout the year.<br />
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If you want to experiment, keep your kalanchoe in a cool, dark place. Some growers use either a piece of shade cloth (available at plant nurseries) or even a box to cover their plants.<br />
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By covering them up to 14 hours a day in a cool place, you may be able to force the plant to produce buds.<br />
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Once they bud, remove the covering and place in a well-lighted area. Kalanchoe prefer a well-drained soil rich in organic material. Watering once a week should do it, but let the soil dry out before watering again. While it is in the dark, water only half as much as you normally would.<br />
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Mathura said you can fertilize your plant, but use a fertilizer that contains more phosphorus than nitrogen to promote blooming. Too much nitrogen promotes more leafy growth, she said.</span><br /></div><br />Now you know. I like that phrase. It’s very compact.<br /><br /><br />

We Get Questions

Q: Hello,<br />
We’ve exchanged vm regarding the aloe plant I received for Christmas that simply isn’t doing well. I have watered it only once since receiving it and as you can see from the photos, the entire base of the plant seems moldy and rotten. The plant appears to be doing well from the perspective of the upper leaves. Is there anything that could be done on your end as pruning the bottom leaves seems odd and difficult given the nature of thick leaves, etc?<br />
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Best regards,<br />
Sandra<br /><br /><img width="324" hspace="5" height="432" border="2" src="/blog/uploads/misc/IMG_1557.JPG" /><br /><br />A: Sandra,<br />
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Overall the Aloe looks fine. All succulents will lose bottom leaves, especially in the winter, and that is what is happening here. However, since the bottom leaves are so big and thick it just seems bad when they turn black and die off, but it is normal. We recommend cutting them out; you can cut the leaf edge as close in to the stock as possible and then gently pull and usually the leaf will come right off. If you are unsure how to do this, or still would like us to take a look at it, we can do that. Just bring the plant on by and we’ll take a look for you.<br />
<br />
Peter<br />
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Followup Question after the break… <br /><br /><br />
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<br /><a href="">Continue reading "We Get Questions"</a>

They Get Questions

<a href=";entry_id=1625" title="" onmouseover="window.status=’’;return true;" onmouseout="window.status=”;return true;">The Wasington Post</a> gets a question from someone looking for a common succulent in the DC area.<br /><br /><div style="margin-left: 40px;"><span style="font-style: italic;">Q. I am trying to find an indoor succulent known as donkey or burro tail. This is a delicate plant that doesn’t hold up well to shipping. Do you know of any local source?<br />
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A. Burro tail ( Sedum morganianum) is a fairly common succulent that can often be found in garden center cacti and succulent sections. If your favorite garden center doesn’t have the plant in stock, the staff should be able to get one for you.<br />
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The fleshy leaves of this light-loving succulent are prone to break off, but shipping has improved in recent years and many mail order firms do such a good job of packing that plants withstand a lot of jostling with no injuries.<br />
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There is also a selection of this plant called Burrito that does not shatter in shipping.<br />
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It is available from Highland Succulents ( If you mail-order it, you will most likely get an unrooted cutting.<br />
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Burro tail is easy to root: Simply remove the leaves from the lower portion of the stem and stick it in cactus soil. Keep it just barely moist, and it will root in a few weeks. Rooting and growth will be best in spring, when more light is available; you can also grow the plant under a high-intensity discharge lamp. </span><br /></div><br />So that’s where it is – not in the area at all. You know, we carry it and can ship it too (and they would be rooted!) <br /><br />You know, these are strange question to be asking one of the premier national political newspapers in the middle of a campaign season. I think a better and more timely question would have been where to find nopales on the menu of a fancy mexican restaurant in DC. Because they’re delicious.<br /><br />


August 2020

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