Hey guys, I’d absolutely love to pick your brain about this monster I’ve created. A couple years back I received a leaf from what I feel is clearly a panda plant, Kalanchoe tomentosa.
It rooted fine, but then what grew out of the leaf was…something strange. It’s just a whole bunch of sad fuzzy leaves on squiggly vine-like stems. The leaves never get very big (the two containers are the same in both pictures), and it just keeps making more and more squiggly growth.
At first I thought maybe it needed more light to reach its panda destiny, so I moved it right under my grow lamp. No change. I got mad, ripped some off, and threw it in a deeper pot thinking maybe the roots wanted more space? Doesn’t seem to matter. Tried rooting from its own leaves again…they root fine, but then just keep turning their noses up at me and doing the same thing.
I’ve racked my brain/the internet looking for examples of panda propagation gone wrong, alternate growth patterns, kalanchoes turning into vines, but I’ve found nothing to help with my mystery. Any ideas you could share with me would be so much appreciated!
Hello, I found your blog online and it had been very helpful to me. I am really grateful that you answer questions from people that are not your customers, as well! I recently got a pot with three small cactuses in it and am having trouble identifying them. I have attached a few photos. For reference, the center cactus is about 2″ tall. What do you think? I am particularly curious about the one on the right as I can’t find anything similar searching online. I would like to know about their care requirements and if they are suitable to continue growing in the same container.
Thank you, Regina
PS – I am aware that the l little red flowers on the center cactus are fake. I’ll remove them eventually…
The left is a Mammillaria and the right is a Euphorbia (probably E. meloformis) while the one in the center, after the paper flowers are removed, is maybe a Myrtillocactus although it can be hard to be sure when they are young.
They can grow together in that container for a couple years and then they will outgrow it and need to be separated. Care depends on where you live, but the 2 cacti need a lot of direct sun – at least half day, while the Euphorbia is less. Not a lot of water, but the watering depends on whether the pot has a hole. Either way, make sure the soil is dry between watering, probably every 2-3 weeks.
HiYa, Greetings from Germany. We are looking for an expert advice and hope you might be able to help. Our Euphorbia has on the bottom of the main stem a blackish discoloration. It is not soft or in anyway different texture from the rest of the cacti 🌵. We just worried it is some kind of rot. Do you know how best to proceed? Leave it for now or cut it and replant?
It looks like the start of rot. The soil looks too rich for the Euphorbia, so it may be taking too long to dry out after watering. You can use a systemic fungicide now and wait to see if it gets worse, or you can take the cuttings now to be sure. I recommend cutting just above the first branch, and taking that branch as a separate cutting. Spray with Hydrogen peroxide to help the ends heal, dust with Sulfur Dust. Wait a week and then plant into new fresh fast draining cactus soil. Be careful with the milky white latex sap as it is caustic and you do not want it near your eyes or lips.
I have had euphoria lacteafor almost 9months. It has glued rocks to support and has no hole in bottom of pot. Should I transplant it to another withhold and if so, how to do it? No change or growth in 9 months.
Thank you for information you can provide!
Norma Pensacola, Florida
If it is a crested lactea then you won’t see much growth anyway – they’re very slow! But yes, please do repot – no drainage and glued rocks can be a disaster for plants – please rescue your plant ASAP!
If you are not sure how to repot it, maybe there is a local nursery you can visit who has cactus soil, and tips for repotting into a larger pot with drainage?
I’m hoping you could give me some advice, I live in the UK and bought an Echinocactus grusonii a few months ago. The guy told me to water once a fortnight and add Baby Bio plant foot or tomato feed in each alternate. The first few times I watered it it was fine but this time I think I’ve killed it. Within a day of feeding the spines have started to die around the base, it’s got dead looking patches and darker green patches that look like water marks. It doesn’t feel squishy but the bottom looks like it’s shrinking in on itself.
Have I broken it? Can it be saved?
Thanks in advance Victoria
It’s hard to tell for sure from the photo, but it is not looking great. I think there may be 2 different pests, but again it’s hard to tell from the photos. The base looks like it has started to rot, in which case it is too late to save it. But if it is firm, maybe I am misreading it. If it is firm, you can try to use a systemic fungicide, and spray the rest with an organic pesticide. Not sure what’s available in the UK, but we use Bonide Infuse and Monterey Take Down Garden Spray.
In general we would suggest watering every 4 weeks (every 2 fortnights?) for the cooler parts of the year, and every 2-3 weeks when it is hot and sunny. Do not fertilize regularly with any tomato fertilizer – it’s too strong for cacti. Use an organic low strength granular all-purpose (like Down to Earth All Purpose) and use it at lower strength than recommended. Use only twice in a year – spring and mid-summer. Let the plant grow slow and it will be healthier.
hey there…. i was wonder if you could help me with my cactus…. we had mealie mites and i used a insecticidal soap. then this started to happened and fast. could it be corking? i don’t think its root rot. i dealt with that before. is there something we can do to save it?
Could we cut the bad out of the cactus and callus it and replant? the tops don’t seam to be infected..
thank you for any help you can provide!!! Gene
It looks to me like you have 2 plants with the same problem. After the infestation, which the soap didn’t fix, the plants would have been susceptible to infection.
I would recommend getting the 3 of them out of that soil, and repotting the 1 healthy one on its own. You can take tip cuttings of the other 2 if you can cut above the infection. When you cut, if the flesh is clean and white then you can let it callous over for a week before planting. Since it’s winter I recommend Sulfur Dust on the cut end to help prevent fungus. If the cut end is not clean then keep cutting upward til you get to clean flesh, or if the infection is all the way through the plant then it is not saveable.
I got this guy from you a couple months ago. I’m worried it has developed a fungus. What do you think those dots are?
That is Scale, a small hard-shelled insect that sucks the juices out of cactus. We recommend spraying with natural pyrethrins. We sell Don’t Bug Me which will kill them on contact. They have a hard outer shell so you can clean them off with a spray of rubbing alcohol which will break down the shell, and then use a soft brush to wipe them off. Be careful not to scrape the cactus.
I bought two plants but am not sure what they are . one look like it was sufering from rot so I removed the bad sections and repotted in new cactus type mix. Wound up with two pots from one because root system was large. Some of the plant is whiteish, Is this sunburn?
The one that is whitish is a Stapelia, the other is a Huernia, both closely related.
The Stapelia has an infestation of Scale, which is an insect that is feeding on your plant. As bad as it looks I would recommend removing all the white stems and taking cuttings from the green stems to replant them, letting the cut ends heal for about a week before planting them in new fresh dry cactus soil. I would spray the green stems you are keeping with a strong insecticide that can handle Scale. We sell a product called Don’t Bug Me. You will need to start over again with new fresh soil. Spray in the evening and out of direct sun to prevent sunburn.
You also might want to spray any plants that are near this one as a preventative measure.
Hello! I purchased a few succulents there about a month ago. They were doing great but when I went to check if they needed watering yesterday (they did) I noticed two had brown edges and the aloe was spotty. I think this just means the two just need more water but can’t remember if the aloe was always spotted. I attached a photo of each. Am I correct?
They’re all outside on our east-facing deck and get full sun until mid-late afternoon. Is that too much? We’re in Oakland so cool evenings and mornings but warm afternoons usually.
The 2 Aeoniums look fine – a little browning on the leaves could be from being moved to your location – i.e. similar to transplant shock, but it looks minimal so nothing to worry about. Also, Aeoniums are winter growers so they will tend to lose leaves throughout the summer until about October anyway, and then the rosettes will start to grow big and full again through our winter rains.
The Aloe looks like it got some sunburn when it got moved. Even though you are very close to us in Oakland sometimes a change in sun/heat/location can cause some stress. That is what the spotting is. It looks like the spots are healed over, so as long as they don’t get worse over time eventually you will see new leaves grow from the center and the old leaves will get replaced – succulents do lose bottom leaves regularly.
You might want to pro-actively spray the Aloe with organic Neem Oil (in the evening out of full sun) just in case there’s any fungal infection from the spotting. You can also bring any of the plants or all of them in to the store and we can take a closer look in person. Let me know if anything changes either way!
I was at Cactus Jungle this morning – here is a picture of my succulent that is unidentified. It has been in the ground three years in full sun has not grown much in that time. Looks like a chrysanthemum.
Thank you Hortensia
That’s a Dudleya. We do have those here at the store, out on the floor, but they do not have as much red on the tips as in the photo. It is a very slow growing succulent that forms only small clumps.
Maryann with the Marin Independent Journal wants to know about all the agaves blooming all at once all over Marin. Interesting!
I read that the American agaves really do die after blooming – but live on through their offspring. Is that so?
Yes, if they’ve had the offspring by then. Also, the giant bloom stalks are filled with hundreds of blooms which can be pollinated and develop seed and spread thousands of seed in every direction.
Do you know how long the current blooms will last?
It can take 4-6 months for the full bloom cycle
Could the large number of blooms be attributed to the heavy rains we witnessed this year?
It can be because they were popular to plant 25-30 years ago, or it can be caused by stress as well, which can be the aftermath of the drought, and even the heavy rains this winter.
If they really make mezcal from the plant, can I do that at home? 😉
It would be difficult, to say the least. Once they’ve bloomed it’s too late, but if you want to make mezcal from an agave you need to cut all those giant spiny leaves off and harvest just the heart of the plant. That’s a lot of work!
I checked your archive and I couldn’t find anything about this, so I thought I’d ask you. Years ago I remember reading that scientists were extremely vexed about the evolutionary appearance of Venus flytraps. The article I read said that the little evil-looking plants simply appeared some time in our planet’s history without any apparent relatives, and the creepiest thing is that their (very small) native area is right in the middle of where a meteor hit the earth years ago. Is this true? It sounds very “Little Shop of Horrors” to me. Additionally, how do the plants “know” when an insect is in their maws? I didn’t think plants had nerves. I patiently await your reply.
SDStaff Doug replies:
There are no scientists puzzled about the Venus flytrap, only “scientists.” The VFT is the only member of its genus, Dionaea, but it has several relatives in the genus Drosera, which also happen to be carnivorous plants, known as “sundews.” Together, these two genera make up the plant family Droseraceae. Sundews occur all over the world, while the VFT is limited to bogs throughout North and South Carolina — and, despite any X-Files episodes to the contrary, neither of the Carolinas used to be a meteor crater….
I have attached a photo and I’m wondering if you can tell me what is happening with this plant.
Is it a lost cause😞? If not, how can I help it?
Thank you Brian
The plant is a Euphorbia, and hopefully it is just the tip that got damaged in the winter. Depending on where you live, they are only semi-hardy here in the Bay Area, so they can take damage to the tip when we get below freezing, or with heavy rains, or especially with both (See: This year.)
You can cut the top part off the plant and it looks like the damage is limited there. Cut at an angle, using a bread knife, and make sure the flesh is clean and white. If there is still some rot there, cut lower. Be careful when cutting a Euphorbia as it has a caustic milky-white sap. Where gloves, long sleeves, and eye-protection. Spray the cut end with Hydrogen Peroxide and put a paper bag over it to keep the sun off it until it is healed. Good Luck!
Hi Peter Would you be able to tell me the name of the succulent in the attached?
And perhaps more importantly, what is happening with the dry, papery bits toward the crown? Can this plant be saved? I am not sure what to do next. It was lovely and plump and then this started happening and I am not sure what I did (or am doing)
Much thanks to you! Ann
The plant is a Haworthia. It looks like it’s growing towards sun, maybe not enough sun where it is? It’s doing well since it can handle lower light levels for a succulent, but the result is the long stems with the dried leaves along it. You can pull them off or leave them in place, doesn’t really matter. But it is time to repot into a fresh fast-draining cactus soil and a larger pot.
I recently purchased a cactus to put on my windowsill to brighten up my room a bit, my problem is that I threw away the container right after I repotted it and now I don’t know what it is exactly. Could you help me?
The pot it’s in in this picture is four inches across and the ends of the spines are a dark red color.
Thank you so much!
Hard to know for sure at that size, but I would guess a Gymnocalycium, although my 2nd guess would be a Ferocactus. If it blooms young, it’s probably a Gymnocalycium. Also, it looks like it could use more sun.
I live in Florida & would like to plant some cacti in my front courtyard.
Do you know some names of cacti that do not grow too big in size for me to plant in that area?
Florida is a big state with many different climate zones. Also, if you are interested in true spiny cactus, most of them are not going to do well in most of Florida due to humidity. However if you are looking for more succulent plants then there are many that can do well – I would ask that you visit your local nursery and they will be best able to get you something that is climate appropriate where you are.
Hi there, I have gotten many plants from you through out the years. One of the plants I have, got damaged. Just noticed it at an angle this AM.
I am hoping you can kindly help me again like in the past. Can I (and how), propagate the fallen portion? It has fresh growth on top, but lower portion looks/feels soft but intact. I’m including some pics if that helps. Any suggestions would be great. Thank you for your time with this.
The branch comes off a Pachypodium saundersi. Generally it won’t root at this time of year, and if you do get it to root it won’t form the fat base like the original plant. It is a branch, so like many plants if they lose a branch usually you can just toss them after making sure the main plant is OK. In this case, the branch looks thin, which may be due to it wanting more direct sun or less water. If you want to try to root it, cut it further up until it is dry and firm and then let it heal for a couple weeks. Use a rooting hormone – we sell “Dip ‘n Grow” – and place in dry cactus soil. Use bottom heat since we’re going into winter – that would be a heating pad, or place on a warm but not hot heater at home.
Hi, I keep this in a sunny window, lately I’ve been seeing this brown shriveling in some sections of the plant. I water weekly with Schultz cactus food in the water. Any suggestions on how to bring back to health? Possibly I’m watering too often? Thanks very much.
You’ve got a couple different problems. One is that you are watering and fertilizing too much, causing the plant to grow too fast, rather than slow and healthy growth. Less water and a lot less fertilizer. Second, you appear to have mealie bugs on the plant. You’ll need to spray with an organic pesticide, like a Neem Oil.
You can prune off the dead branches and leaves and the rest of it should survive fine.
I was wondering if you could help to identify this cactus. I saw it while walking down a street of mid-century homes while visiting Palm Springs. I love its color and form, really got my attention. I live on the east coast and would love to care for a (much) smaller plant of this type indoors, if you happen to know any specifics.
Thanks for your time! Nicole
The cactus is a Myrtillocactus, also known as the Whortleberry Cactus.
Hey there. I recently purchased this barrel cactus from a shop in Denver and then took it with me back to NYC. (As carry-on.) It looks basically healthy except for this discoloration, which seems to come in two parts. At the upper end of the plant there are these lighter (yellowish) spots. With an x-acto knife I can slice them off, tho it’s not the easiest thing in the world to do. Towards the bottom, the discoloration isn’t raised, and it’s pretty thorough at the bottom two inches, creeping up in some places.
Maybe the bottom is natural barking, and the top is related to frost in Denver? In which case, let it be?
Or maybe it’s a scale infestation? In which case, should I take that knife to everything I can?
Spent forever online looking for advice but have gotten nowhere. Any thoughts you have would be so appreciated!
It’s hard to tell from the photo. It’s either some previous damage that has healed over, in which case you don’t need to do anything. Or it’s scale, which is an insect, so please put away the exacto blades. If you think it’s scale then you should spray it with an organic insecticide. You can also dip a soft paintbrush into rubbing alcohol and that will break the shell down so that you can clean them off after they are dead.
I live in kansas city and was gifted this beauty for mothers day.. I want to take the best care possible of this gorgeous cactus! Our home has tons of natural light and we were told by the nursery we purchased it from that the spot we have it in is a good one even though it doesn’t received direct sun. I’m terrified of under/over watering. With a plant this size, how often should I be watering , and when I do, how much should I give? Do I fertilize? It’s about 8 ft tall. Thank you for your expertise.. Love your blog!
That’s quite large! In general I would recommend some direcgt sun, though these Euphorbias can sometimes handle a bright room with no direct light, but it’s tricky.
Basically, with lower light levels you want to water less. A lot less. I would try starting with watering every 2 months – try to soak the soil as much as possible without the plant sitting in water. I would fertilize just a little bit once per year in the spring. You want to slow down its growth so it doesn’t grow more than 2 or 3 inches in a year.
However it would be best if you can move it to where it gets some directct sun and then you can water more often.