I’ve been getting tired of people asking for help without thanking us, or even signing their emails. This one, for instance. Hap is more forgiving and will respond by adding the persons email address as the greeting. So I’ve decided to be the email manners police and will be adding proper thank you’s and signatures to their email to us as if they had written it themselves – see below.
Hi. We’ve recently acquired some cactus babies from our neighbors mothering plant. Unfortunately they do not know what cactus plant it is, considering they just recently moved, but they told us we could have the little ones around it. We took some of the little ones.
We were wondering if perhaps you could help identify them.
[Thank you for your help, chickadeesan]
You have babies of Agave americana. This is one of the classic large agave that eventually can be eight to ten feet tall and twelve feet in diameter, so make sure to plan accordingly. They can of course be kept smaller by keeping them potted or using bamboo barrier in the ground to sort of bonsai them…
These are nice century plants, just make sure to wash your hands if you get their sap on you, it can cause a rash. Agave are sort of toxic until they are fire roasted for either agave syrup or making mescal and tequila.
I purchased 2, large black bamboo plants from you in August of 2009. I planted both of them in separate large containers, and they are in our back patio space. The space gets moderate sun and is quite windy. We live in San Francisco (in Noe Valley).
I’ve been fertilizing them 3 times/year with the fertilizer I bought with the plants, and watering them regularly. They’ve both looked great so far – they sent up new shoots last year. I just fertilized them for the spring a few weeks ago – although not with the full “dose” you suggested because I was running low on the fertilizer. One of the plants looks great and is sending up new shoots. But I just noticed that the leaves on the other plant are all dried up. The leaves haven’t started falling off yet, and they haven’t changed color, but the plant doesn’t look good. I’ve started watering it more regularly, thinking maybe it wasn’t getting enough water. But I’m wondering if there’s anything else I should be doing.
Can you send us a couple of photos of the cranky one? It sounds like it may be that it got “crisped” on a hot-sunny-windy day when it just didn’t have enough moisture in the soil to replace what it was loosing to evaporation from the leaves… you can spray the leaves with water and it may help restore any that haven’t totally died… hopefully it can recover. The photos should help me let you know what other action to take. You can also give the stressed plant some liquid kelp it acts as a vitamin shot and growth stimulant.
Take care, Hap
More after the break, with a picture of the crispy bamboo… Read More…
The cactus moth larva often burrows into the cactus pad to feed on the flesh. Dripping ooze on the pad’s surface indicates a hungry caterpillar inside.
This came up in the course of a question from a reader:
Q: I found caterpillars in prickly pear in the cactus garden in the back yard. I looked them up and found pictures — they are definitely the larva of these cactus moths, Cactoblastis cactorum. What should I do to control them? Can I control them? What else will they destroy?
A:Unfortunately, this invasive insect is fairly common along Florida’s coasts. My advice to homeowners with only a limited number of cactuses under attack is to control the pest by removing the eggsticks by hand….
Is this not the most exciting post of the day? No? Then you have no sense of the drama of the cactus moth’s mysterious eggstick.
Entomologists could wax lyrical for hours on the fascinating development of the Cactus Moth’s eggstick. Here, in fact, give a listen to an entomologist. Alright, so that wasn’t an actual recording of an entomologist at work, but rather the USDA’s scientific study of the Cactus Moth’s eggsticks.
Hi Guys, Timber! It just fell over from one day to the next. I guess it got too heavy for its stalk? Now what? Any tips on how to save it, and/or move it to a new container or directly into the ground?
Thank you! Kelly
Ouch! You have a couple choices: Repot in a larger container and plant deeper, with several inches of the stem under fresh cactus/succulent soil, (do the same in the ground) or cut it off and try and re-root it, though it is late in the season to root winter growers like Aeonium (they root best in fall and winter since they are actively growing, this time of year they are starting to shut down for their normal summer dormancy period), but you should be able to as long as you place it somewhere with afternoon shade so it only gets four to six hours of sunlight (you need to confuse it so it doesn’t go dormant while it is trying to root. The stump left behind may or may not resprout.
I need some help or suggestions. Have had this cati for over 10 years..has been in same window same amount of time. Has grown to about 5 ft tall and just one long cacti…maybe a couple small buds on side. We moved and someone places the cacti in the corner in the dark part of house. Now since we found it ..it has looked like it has dried up and fell over in half…..can it be saved.
I’m sorry to have to inform you that your Euphorbia trigona has passed on to a better world. There is nothing there left to save.
I saw this succulent in an accupuncture store in Chinatown, and was hoping you could tell me what it is, and also help me find one. It was about 3 feet tall. Any help would be appreciated. I tried to research it on the internet but couldnt find anything.
The plant is an Aloe plicatilis, also known as a Fan Aloe. We do have them in stock in a range of sizes at the nursery.
I’ve had my beautiful beloved cactus from you guys for about a year. Everything has been great until a week ago when my husband accidentally took a chunk out of it with the patio chair. It appears to be growing black spots of mold? I have sprayed it twice over the past week w/ neem oil. What else should I be doing to save it?
Please help, if it dies so does my husband! Its an outside cactus w/ full afternoon sun. Thanks Jen
Jen, It would be best if you could bring the Echinopsis pachanoi out of the sun while the plant heals. Never spray in full sun, and open wounds should also not be exposed to direct sun.
You’ll need to cut off the damaged part as it has started to rot in the area. It doesn’t look too bad but you want to keep the damage from spreading. Once you get down to clean flesh, then you spray with Hydrogen Peroxide to help it heal and Neem Oil to help fight off any fungus problems.
If you need help with this, we can do it for you if you bring it in to the nursery. Sooner is better. Peter
I love these plants, but they are a bit moody this far north… and take frost damage between 30-28 degrees when young, they can deal with it better older. So they are good candidates for growing in pots or in a protected spot against a structure and blanketing in the worst winters. But they also make great “Big” houseplants and can handle hot windows as well as bright diffused light.
Hi, I hope that you can help me to identify the Euphorbia that’s in the attached photos taken in the past 10 days. I recently took over this garden, don’t really know how well the soil was prepared, but it was planted about 4 years ago. You can see it is not a tall euphorbia…any ideas what it might be? I want to get some more of these to reflect this bed on the other side of the driveway.
Thanks for your help!
It looks like one of the E. characias hybrids, or possibly Euphorbia characias ssp. wulfenii.
Hi there, I was hoping to stop by this weekend to purchase several succulents and I was hoping to ask for some advice. I’m going to endeavor to build a frame of sorts for the succulents, so that I might hang them on the garden fence, like a picture. I was wondering if you all had ever tried it, since it appears to be something that the whole world and their aunt’s seem to be talking about!
If you have, might you have any advice as to how to build it, what materials to use, or if you know of a tutorial I might be able to work through?
Thanks very much for your time and I’m looking forward to stopping by the shop Saturday morning! Kate
We do make them and it’s a bit complicated. We use L-shaped wood and miter the corners to create a box with a lip to attach a piece of hardware cloth or plastic netting to the underside of the lip. Then we fill with green moss up front and rock wool at the back. A piece of rigid plastic on the back holds it all in place. Then we take succulent cuttings and stick them through the mesh and lay flat for 2 to 3 months for the cuttings to root. Like This!
The other options are premade wall systems that can take soil, of which we carry 2 different types.
I got this little cactus in February and finally repotted it today, two months later, since it’s now spring. While I was chipping off the peat stuff from the store, I noticed this odd crack in the bottom, as though the plant had maybe been overwatered sometime before I got it (it would have to be before I got it because it hasn’t gotten any water at all so far with me), but I’m scared it might be something bad. As you can see from the second picture, the top is still nice and green, and even has a bud, which has been there since it was at the store. So it looks fine when planted. This plant is only about an inch across, by the way.
It looks like whatever damage the plant had from the propagator was healed over when you got it. If the top picture is after you replanted it, it will be fine. Wait a week after repotting and then it’s time to start watering.
Hi, My wife and I were at Cactus Jungle yesterday and spoke to a gentleman there about the scabby bark that’s developed all over our Enchinocereus grandiflora. He suggested we send pictures so that you might be able to diagnose the problem from afar. We live up on Cedar Street near Cedar-Rose Park, so if push came to shove, we could probably also bring it down — but it’s a big plant in a big pot.
Some info: the pot was on south-facing steps in full sun for about two years, but we’ve since moved it into a shady spot. The scab formed before we moved it, but moving it doesn’t seem to have prevented the scab from continuing to form on new growth at the top of the plant or on the pups.
Leif, I’m sorry I don’t have better news. I don’t know what caused this problem, but I could guess either it has a virus or it got sprayed with a chemical and got burned. It could have been overspray while spraying a neighboring plant even, since it was in full sun before. Currently it has mealy bugs, which can take over when a plant is sick.
There’s nothing we can do at this point if the plant has a virus as it has progressed too far. However if it was caused by a chemical burn then at best you might see new green growth out of the top as the plant heals. If you want to give it a try to save it you will need to kill the mealy bugs; use neem oil while the plant is in shade. Eventually all the scabs will bark over (turn to bark) and then you may see new growth from the tips. Peter
Hi We have a healthy Echinocactus grusonii of about fourty years age. It has been in the same pot for about the last thirty years. It is growing up into a cylinder rather than being a ball shape. Any thoughts on this? I am wondering if it is to do with the shape of the pot (it is about a 6 inch/15cm cube). The cactus (we call it spiny norman) is about 5 inches diameter and 10 inches tall. Jean-Pierre
Congratulations! E. grusonii’s that survive to 40 then tend to go vertical! They’re called “Barrel” cactus because eventually they take on the shape of a barrel, rather than staying a ball shape.
Barrel Cactus with a barrel shape:
Photo of a barrel:
However, I would recommend a larger pot after all this time. But be careful repotting, you don’t want it to go into shock.
Hello. I was hoping you could help me out. I planted a succulent garden last year, not realizing how quickly some of the plants would grow. It was cute before, now it is an overgrown mess, and the inhabitants are encroaching on each other. I don’t know what to do (dig up and relocate whole plants, take cuttings, or just run away?) or when to do it.
Any information is helpful. Thanks, Holly
Actually, that’s a pretty nice photo of a garden with successful succulents. I wouldn’t touch it, but then some people do prefer a neater garden. I wonder what Hap has to say?
Your plants do look happy! You can prune them back or dig and relocate if you like. Spring is always a good time as long as we are not due for rain for at least a few days, succulents need dry weather and dry soil after trauma (cutting back or transplanting) so don’t water after transplanting or pruning. The bright green rosette plant and the dark burgundy plant are both Aeoniums, native to the Canary Islands which has the same rain cycle we do so are winter growers. They will be going dormant for the summer so keep in mind if you want tor transplant or prune and root the cuttings you will need to do that by mid May. You should keep in mind that since they go dormant they will loose some leaves in summer (this is normal and don’t over water thinking they are thirsty) and so they will “shrink” in size over the summer and take up less space. The two pale lavender plants are a Graptopetalum and a Graptoveria which both summer growers. So you should see them taking off over the next few months. If you want you could leave them to “battle it out” and let them grow together in more wild tangle or prune and relocate to keep more negative space around them to keep it tidy. Both aesthetics are valid, so it is more a personal choice at what look you want for your garden.
After some back and forth that I shan’t bother you with here, we start the conversation mid stream.
Hi thank you for such a quick response! I took some additional photos for you. Orange spots? Rust? I got this guy 3 years ago from a friend, never knew what it was until last year, i was fertilizing him every chance i had got all of last year as i wanted to see the flowers. Come to think of it the snails ate the ends of all the new growth, which were pretty long when they snails got to them, about 3feet long, so it stopped all growth and yet i was still fertilizing, so all of last year it didn’t grow. Maybe it held too much water, weight and fertilizer. Do your nursery grow these? and if so what are their needs? I cant really find any info on this special guy. I have him in morning sun to afternoon sun (3pm) here in California. and only water when dry, about how much longer until i can expect some blooms? Thank you so much for your help, you really helped me understand whats going on, i was about to whack it back and start over! (please ignore my sun burnt variegated fatsia! lol)
That looks like a fungus (rust or similar) so you should treat with Neem Oil in a 2% solution, spray to the point of run-off and keep out of the sun for a day or two. Retreat after a week to ten days twice and that should take care of it. You should scatter some Sluggo around your plant, snails and slugs will eat the blooms before they can open! I have one of these in a large hanging basket in the back of our greenhouse where it is doing it’s best “to take over the world”. I treat it like a standard jungle cacti and grow in an orchid/jungle cactus mix and water about oce a week. I fertilize with a slow release cactus fertilizer once a year and hit it with bloom food (fish bone meal) in the fall and spring. You may be giving yours too much afternoon light, they like bright inderect sun in the afternoon. Think jungles and that they grow up with orchids on tree limbs sort of light. You will get lots of blooms if you treat it more like an orchid than a cactus.
I am from Iowa, and I am fascinated by the saguaro cactus. Why is it that the base of the cactus does not increase in circumference relative to the upper portion as the cactus grows? Saguaros look top-heavy.
I’m not sure I understand your question. A saguaro’s circumference grows along with the rest of the plant. Do you mean a cactus should be as big around as it is tall? That would be silly. Saguaros are a bit top-heavy, I suppose, but they are fairly sturdy. And they are sort of flexible. During the monsoon, their girth can expand by as much as 20 percent as they take in water.
I would have answered this question differently. For instance, I would have noted that the questioner looks top-heavy. Why is that? Is he or she a cactus? I’m just kidding, I would not insult a questioner from Iowa like that. Maybe if they were from Kansas…
I noticed this odd looking browning patch on one of my cacti shortly after I had purchased it. I’m not sure if it’s part of a natural process or if it’s a sign of an unhealthy cactus. Could you shed any light on this? I’ve felt the spot with my finger, and it has a different texture to the rest of the cactus, and it seems almost like a callus of some kind (can Cacti get calluses?). The spot is tougher and more rigid than the rest of the cactus, so I’m just a little concerned. The woman at the store advised me to water it every 2 weeks and give it all purpose fertilizer ever 7-8 weeks, but neglected to tell me the last time either of these had been done while the cactus was in the store, though I promptly watered the cactus when I discovered the soil to be dry as a bone, so I’m thinking that lack of fertilizer may be the cause.
Am I right or entirely missing the mark?
I hope to hear from you soon.
It looks like your plant is “barking” over an old infection or injury. This is normal and is the way cactus age and deal with this sort of thing. But do watch it for getting soft as that means the infection is winning and the plant is rotting. But it looks like yours is doing fine.
I have one cereus monstrose cactus that I have raised from a pup over the last 4 years and is doing very well. It is a deep green blue color and grows quickly. I was finally able to find what I thought was another beautiful specimen from a local Las Vegas grower.
The plant did seem a bit yellow, so I thought it needed some fertilizer and re-potting.
Unfortunately, when I removed it from it’s soggy sand in a plastic pot, I found it had no root system, but in fact was a large cutting that had been plopped in a pot. There was about 1/2 inch deep of slightly mushy and slimy surface across the entire cut with 2 earthworms living in it, like a slightly rotted apple.
I sliced off about another 1/2 inch above the wet part, across the entire cut, and dipped it in rooting hormone and am leaving it to dry and hopefully callous indoors where it is warm and bright. Is this the correct way to deal with this? I really want to save and eventually plant this gorgeous thing. The cutting is about 12″ tall with a couple of branches. Any suggestions?
Thanks so much!!!!! Laurie
Laurie, I am sorry to hear you ended up getting a plant that was not yet fully established, if the rot continues to spread you should consider returning it to the grower, I would be mortified and embarrassed if an un-rooted plant made it on to the sales floor!
You have done the right things so far. You can dip or spray the cut part with regular 3% hydrogen-peroxide, which works as a disinfectant as well as encourages the callus to form faster. Watch the cut area for discoloration and if the rot seems to be coming back you will need to cut higher and start over. After the callus is well formed, which usually takes a couple of weeks (but the peroxide can speed that up) replant in fresh dryish cactus soil and place somewhere warm and bright. Roots should form over the next few months since it is supposedly spring. Do not water for several weeks and then give it a sparing drink. After a month you can give it a real drink and then let it dry out completely before watering again.
Good luck and take care, Hap
[More back and forth about Miracle Grow and such after the break…]
Carol sends in this question, made sad by the forces of evil at PG&E,
I have some burrow tails and some echeveria. Three times I’ve tried to root individual “leaves” that have broken off in mishaps [latest was a romp by a PG&E crew through my garden], but have been a dismal failure.
Would you have any advice for me? I’d appreciate it very much.
Leaf cuttings of sedum and echeveria are usually successful if taken in late spring to early summer, but are trickier in fall and winter without providing bottom heat and supplemental light. We usually stick the leaves in barely moist cactus soil at a 45 degree angle, with the node-tips buried just enough to keep them in place. Then we put them in a cold frame or in the greenhouse in bright but filtered light for about six months. We only start watering when they develop roots. Once there are little plants forming we will give a light fertilizer and some liquid kelp to boost their growth and then move them outside under 30% shade for another couple of months before moving them up to their own pots.
I hope that helps. Good luck and take care,
[Editor’s Note: That sounds complicated, but often people just toss these leaf cuttings into their garden and wait to see what comes up. It doesn’t take a huge success rate for there to be a few new plants from sedums. Peter]
Thank you guys for finding a beautiful Opuntia santa-rita for me in the back on Monday afternoon. I’ve been giving it warm shelter in my car at the moment on the passenger side floor. Between the santa-rita and the violacia, which one has a more purple hue to them when stressed?
They’re very closely related; some consider the O. santa-rita to be a subspecies of O. violacea. And there are a number of different O. violaceas; different subspecies and different population groups. The purple colors vary and the intensity of the color can vary too, but to just get down and answer your question, the O. santa-rita will get more purple color.
Hi guys. I have been really busy this winter, and haven’t been noticing the horror that has reigned down upon my garden.
I notice almost ALL the succulents and even some agaves have these tiny dots on them, Some damage I know is from snails/spit bugs, I dosed the yard with sluggo again recently. Some though is very strange.
But some of the issues are beyond me. Spider mites? Hail damage? I’m at a loss, though will do whatever it takes to fix it. Neem oil? lol I see you say that’s a cure for almost everything I guess I’ll need a few gallons then!
Here’s a picture of the horror…. THX!!! JBOT
It is hail damage, not an infestation. We have had hail several times this winter and it has been large enough and wind driven, so it causes little puncture wounds on the softer cacti and succulents. It should heal up without treatment, but the freckles are permanent to those leaves. We have several crops that were so damaged by hail in December.
Watch for infection around the spots and Neem if needed, but it is mostly just a cosmetic sort of damage.
Do you guys cover up your plants on the shelves outside at night? Some of my plants have been damaged and have started to rot. Especially my Neocardenasia herzogiana and my Coral Aloe. Haven’t been home in three months to see them.
We did have a freeze 2 weeks ago, and covered up some of our Aeoniums and Aloes, and other smaller succulents too. On top of the freeze we had in December, and hail too, there was some damage. For the column cactus the danger is to the growing tips. If you had damage recently they might have started growing again just before the freeze.
A longer answer would include being sure you have them in a fast draining cactus soil which helps them stay stronger through our winter rains and more able to handle sudden freezes. However when you’re gone for 3 months at a time it can be hard to use a frost blanket for a freeze anyway. I wonder if anyone has set up an internet-enabled cam with a frost-blanket-dropping system all run through weather.com.
Dear Sir I hope you don’t mind me emailing you with a question. I moved from England to Portugal in January 2007 and have since become besotted with succulents. In the last two years, I have bought more than 70 but the labelling of plants here is either poor or non-existent. I therefore use sites such as yours to identify which plant it is that I have bought.
I am trying to identify the succulent in my photograph. I bought this as a small plant in May 2009 and the photograph, with my hand to show the current size, was taken a few days ago.
I have seen nothing like this succulent on any of the websites I use and wondered if you knew what it is and how I can propagate it. I have tried with leaf propagation, keeping the leaf without soil or water, but this only results in the leaf drying out and dying.
Thanking you in advance for any help you can give me.
Kind regards Ann
Ann You have a hybrid! An Echeveria subrigida cross. You can propagate from leaf cuttings generally, but these hybrids are tricky. Take a full leaf and let it callous over for a week. Stick the cut end gently into slightly moistened cactus soil, and let sit for about a year. You should then get a new plant starting. A 2nd year and you should have a full size plant ready to transplant. Peter
Carol Bradford of the Syracuse Post-Standard makes a good point. We often get people asking if they’re overwatering or underwatering when succulent leaves fall off, and it can be caused by either! It’s hard to explain that to people, but Carol does a good job.
Dear Carol: I have a large (Aloe vera). How do I keep the ends of the leaves from turning brown and shriveling up? — N.C., Camillus.
A: …When the leaf tips turn brown, either too much water is being lost or not enough water is being pulled up. The tips are affected first because they are the farthest from the roots and are supplied last.
The possible causes are air that is too dry, soil that is too dry or an inadequate root system. The root system may be too small, especially in a container. The roots of succulents normally spread widely. The root system may be damaged by too much water or by too much fertilizer….
Too much water can cause the roots to rot off and then the plant is not getting enough water to the leaf ends, even though you’ve over-watered. Try explaining this to someone without seeing the plant. Now I know how.
On the other hand if they bring the plant in for us to see, usually we can tell the difference, since leaftip damage from underwater will look brown and crispy while from overwater it will look black and rotty.
I feel terribly guilty, my suggestion of repotting may have killed my colleague’s cactus. After seven happy years sitting on the same small pot, the cactus really seemed to like its new bigger house, at least it was growing (mostly on its ‘waist’). However, three weeks after the repotting, you can see it is now ‘deflating’.
There is good drainage and it was not over-watered. Maybe it got less water than usual in the last three weeks. Then, after a particularly cold weekend at the office, the cactus looks as shown in the photo. However, it had experienced colder temperatures last December, when it was left to fend for itself at the office and it snowed in the UK. Today it even looks more deflated than when we took the photo yesterday. Please help!
Many thanks, TH
It’s hard to tell from the photo exactly what’s going on there. It is possible that it is shrinking due to less water and colder temperatures – they do that in the desert when the temps get below freezing. But it is more likely that the plant has rotted out from the inside and is unlikely to survive
Generally you don’t want to repot cactus in winter when they are dormant. What happens is that you damage the roots a bit when repotting and then add a little water and the roots can rot off since the plant is not “awake” enough to repair the damage. A fungus or virus can then take hold.
The best I can offer is that you should let the plant dry out completely at this point and hope for the best. You could also spray the plant with an organic fungicide like Neem Oil just in case, but I don’t see signs of fungus on the outside.
From a couple days ago, here’s more info. It turns out it is a mesemb, and a Delosperma nubigenum to be precise.
Here’s some more pictures of the plant:
I’m San Francisco. Watering it once every 2 weeks with a few tablespoons of water. Haven’t done anything to it recently—it’s been sitting near the window since I bought it.
It’s a very hardy plant that can take a wide range of conditions, but I think in this case it may be not enough water since it’s a small pot. Rather than a little bit of water every 2 weeks, try drenching the soil, and letting the plant drain fully (Never let it sit in water), every 10 days.
You can clean out the dead leaves from the pot, but don’t be too aggresive – leave as much of the plant as you can.
Keep it in as sunny a window as you have and the plant should perk up pretty quickly. If it doesn’t, let me know.