Red Aloe

I really enjoy reading your blog. I hadn’t taken the time to learn more about your business and, by complete coincidence, I actually drove past the other day and had a real “a-ha” moment. (I didn’t realize you were so close-by. I live in Oakland, just near Piedmont Avenue.)

We recently removed a water-hogging, boring lawn from the front of our house using the “Lasagna Method.” It was a huge success. And now that I’ve started planting and working with succulents and cactus I’ve become almost obsessed with finding striking varieties to squeeze in. One thing I’ve seen online a few times is a crimson red aloe (cameronii).

It’s so unique. In fact, I can’t seem to find it anywhere online and am wondering if Cactus Jungle sells it or can provide a suggestion for looking elsewhere.

Mark

Mark,

We do not have Aloe cameronii growing at this time, all our stock froze out in 2006 and I have not been able to source replacements or even had luck getting viable seed. It is on my “Desperately Seeking list” and I am hopeful it will be available one of these days either by seed grown liners or tissue culture starts. However we are growing Aloe dorotheae and it looks very similar. Our current crop should be ready later this fall. I do not have our own photo of Aloe dorotheae yet on our website, so I am including a link for you to see it. Our babies are just starting to “red up…”. There are also some amazing adult plants up at the UC Berkeley Botanical Gardens in the Arid House.

Take care and thank you for your interest,

Hap

Vacation Cactus Suffers

Hello! I have had this cactus for about 7 years and a friend “babysat” it for me for about 1 1/2 years while I was traveling quite a bit. I just got him home and noticed several problem areas. After looking at your blog (which I totally love!) and other websites, I am still not sure if this is a fungus, a scale problem, a dreaded virus, old injuries or nothing to worry about! There are good shots of the problem areas. Thank you so much for taking a look.

Mit
South Carolina

Mit,

It looks like the spots are barked-over, healed infections of some kind. You could spray them with Neem Oil just to be on the safe side, but it does look like the plant has fought off the infection and is doing fine. If more start then the infection is back and you should treat with Neem Oil which is a natural fungicide that usually is effective without being too dangerous to use on a houseplant. I like the Greenlight Organic Neem Oil, which you should be able to find at local nursery or garden center. If it is a virus there is not a lot you can do but seaweed extract seems to help boost plants immunities, so you can give a few douses this fall and then again next spring. But do not fertilize this late in the year, since the plant is about to go dormant for the winter.

Good Luck,

Hap

Identifications

hi cactus expert,

can you tell me if this plant belong to cactus family?
(please see attached image)
and what’s the name of this cute plant?
do you have it?

thanks,
mabel

Mabel,

The plant is a Kalanchoe (or recently reclassified as a Bryophyllum, which is not yet really used by horticulture, just by botanist…). It is one of the “Mother of Thousands” which are usually Kalanchoe (Bryophyllum) diagremontianum or a close relative, the plant in the photo is very green so it may be on of the more tropical clones or hybrids. We do have cute small plants in stock, but they are not as large-leafed as the ones in the photo. Please note a better moniker for these plants is “Mother’s of Millions” and that the leaf margin plantlets can become “weedy” in frost free gardens. But their look and interesting reproduction method makes them a fun plant to have in pot.

Take care,

Hap

Cactus Questions

Hi there….
Can someone tackle a question regarding my cactus?

My cactus collection includes 20-30 large cacti (5 feet and taller)growing in half wine barrels and positioned around my yard in the Los Gatos/Santa Cruz mountains. Average temp through the summer is 5-10 degrees below temps in the valley….hot but not stifling. They get 2/3 sun, 1/3 shade through the day. I water them heavily every 3-4 weeks in the summer, every 2 months in the winter.

This year I am having trouble keeping them green. Healthy color has always been a minor problem, more prevalent in the summer than in the winter. This year is much worse. The tall varieties are all light green, with a couple of them tending to yellow. With every second watering, I use a very diluted measure of Schultz liquid plant food (10-15-10), approximately 3 droppers full (50-60 drops) per 5 gallons of water. Once a year in the fall, I add ½ cup of bone meal to each plant, not yet done this season. Is there something I can safely add to the soil that over time will improve their health and “green them up”, so to speak?

My naturally yellow varieties appear to be doing okay.

Thank you for your time.
Kitty

Kitty,
If you can send us a picture, we can give you more specific info.

In general, yellowing is a sign of stress more common in the winter when they go dormant, not in the summer. If this started happening about a month ago, it could be because of the sudden heat we had back then. A lot of plants in the Bay Area, including cactus, got damaged.

We mix our own slow release nutrients for cactus, which we sell in 1 pint for $4 or 1 gallon for $18, and will ship. We prefer slow release to the liquids.

If your cactus has been in the same soil for many years, there may not be any soil left, and it may be time to repot them all.

Finally, you can try kelp meal to help green them up.
Peter

That's a Lot of Questions!

The three varieties I bought from your store have now been in the ground (Vallejo, zone 9b) since early spring, and some questions have popped up. Would you mind helping me trouble-shoot and plan ahead?

May Planting

The plants I got are 6 Graptoveria ‘Debbie’, 4 Echeveria Imbricata and 4 Echeveria ‘Topsy Turvey’. They’re planted alongside the sidewalk by the street, in a 1′ w x 1.5 d’ trench filled with cactus mix.

Imbricata is doing very well, flourishing even, with lots of little ‘chicks’ clustered under their ‘hen’s wings’ .

However two of the Debbies have some problems with something (powdery mildew?) in the center, leaves falling off, which were attracting ants. I feared they were going to be killed by this, so I sprayed them with neem oil and they seem to be rebounding. But would welcome ideas as to why/how this infestation was encouraged to set in.

Problem Debbie

Topsy Turvy surprised me in that it seemingly can’t handle either strong sun or heat, not sure which — and, as you know it has been an extremely mild spring/summer. Not sure if you can tell from the photos, but the lower leaves turned yellow and some died. I did give them extra water when I thought conditions were again going to cause this situation. However I worry about a normal year. Can they survive? What measures do you think I can take in the future?

September Garden

Then for all of them: What should I look out for over the winter, and how can I best prepare for it? — cold dips [the most extreme we get here hovers just barely above freezing], and significant rain. Should I rig up some sort of a tent of frost cloth to put over them? Any suggestions as to how to fashion it?

Healthy Debbie

Is it possible that Topsy Turvey and Debbie just aren’t suited for the conditions in my garden and will never prosper?

Thanks so very much.

Carol

I’ll take my answer after the break, please… Read More…

Bromeliad Questions

Hi there cactus jungle…..
I have a pot of three bromeliads, that the flowers bloomed and now have dried up.
Otherwise, green plant is healthy and full.
I don’t know what to do next.
I keep adding water.
So need to know…
do I take out the dried flower? when to fertilize? ok to be outside (bayside) during winter or keep indoors?
Any help you can provide I would appreciate it.
Many thanks.
Alma-Lynn Kamps

Alma-Lynn,

If you can send us a photo, we might be able to identify the plants, and then we could give you more info.

In the meantime, cut off the dead bloom stalks. Indoors we water most bromeliads once per week. We recommend fertilizing every month – we sell a bromeliad fertilizer for just such a case.

As for inside or outside, that depends on the species, so I recommend keeping unnamed bromeliads indoor in the winter. Or, on the other hand, you can experiment with them in your garden and see how they do.

Peter

Oakland Succulent

Quick answers to quick questions.

This plant grows in my neighborhood. I have never seen it elsewhere or for sale.

Thanks, Rosa

Rosa,

That is a Dasylirion longissimum, and we do have them in stock in 5ga. and 15ga. pots.

Peter

Recommended Books on Cacti and Succulents

Hello – I have recently discovered your fantastic nursery and have visited several times.  I have always enjoyed my visits and my purchases and intend to visit again.  You and the staff have always been very pleasant, helpful and very knowledgeable.  I have a question…since I am a novice at growing cacti and succulents, I am interested in finding some books that are accurate in their information and have pictures of the plants and their flowers.  Do you recommend a specific book?  Is there a book you find particularly educational?

Thanks for your time…

~Karen

Karen,

For a general guide to cactus and succulents, we recommend:

Designing with Succulents by Debra Lee Baldwin and The Garden Succulents Primer by Gideon Smith and Ben-erik Van Wyk, both of which we carry. If you can find it, The Complete Guide to Growing Cacti and Succulents by Miles Anderson is great, but out of print.

Peter

Sick Plants

Help! We are sick. Please help us to get better.

Thanks, Leigh

Leigh,

For the 2 aeoniums, something is eating them. Possibly slugs, but there appears to be whole bites out of the A. “Sunburst” so it could be mice or deer as well.

Other than that, they have gone dormant for the summer and will perk up as we get into winter and they start growing again.

The bromeliad, on the other hand, looks like heat stress. We’ve had a couple days of sudden heat in the Bay Area recently, including a 35 degree rise in 2 days. We’ve noticed a lot of plants have been affected. Basically, it’s going to need to grow out of it, but you may want to try a little extra water for it, including today which should be pretty warm. Liquid kelp could also help.

Peter

Ripe Fruit

This is the first year we’ve had fruit. How do I tell when it’s ripe?

Thanks for your help!
A Deacon’s Wife

A Deacon’s Wife,

Wow! Nice crop! They should get a bit more red and be soft like a very ripe avocado (not squishy, but with give when you gently squeeze).

Take care,

Hap

Painted Cactus

Sometimes people come up with questions that we can’t answer. Maybe you have an answer for Rich?

Hi. I’ve been exploring your blog and web site. Very informative. I’ve been volunteering at SD’s Balboa Park Desert Garden. As a public park, it gets damaged at times. There are large plants where people have etched their names on the cactus arms. Names appear brown against the cactus’ green. Do you know of a product I could purchase to paint over the names and restore some of the green to the damaged part of the plant?
Thanks, Rich

Rich,
I don’t know of any product that will do what you want. I’ve seen people use a green sharpie, but it usually ends up looking worse. If you invent a product, let us know and we’ll carry it.
Peter

Melocactus Question, No Photos

The photos Matt sent were corrupted (I wonder who did that, and if it hurt?) but the letter is a fine blog item anyway. I’ll let you all know if Matt sends along any photos later.

Hola,

I have a melocactus, my second one actually. The first sadly died early
spring in a weird brown rotting/rust/fungus event after a long winter.
Granted it wasn’t in the most drain worthy pot…but I did take good care of
it and watched it closely. (see striped pot photo). It is deceased now.

Anyway, I read somewhere that transplanting Melocactus is not a good idea
after maturity or something like this??? The striped pot one was
transplanted right away after I got it.
It didn’t fare so well after a year of warm filtered greenhouse light, and
well draining soil.

Anyway, the new one (green plastic pot attached )seems to be wanting a
transplant, although im waiting to do so due to past experience.

Any truth that transplanting a Melocactus is a bad idea or am I just a bad
Melocactus owner?

THANKS
Oh yeh, Matt from PDX

Matt,

I can’t get your photo files to open, they seem to be “corrupted”. Could you please resend?

Melocactus are a bit fussy and easy to lose. I killed them regularly until I saw them growing on the beach-side cliffs of Saint Martin and realized they were tropical cactus and need to be kept warm in winter. Since then I have much better luck, at least if they don’t get forgotten and left outside after summering in the sun…. They turn to mush if too cold, even if kept dry. Since I haven’t seen the photos I can’t tell if you should repot or not, but I have repotted adult Melo’s just fine, by keeping them dry and warm after the root trauma.

Hap

Can You ID?

Dear Cactusblogger,

I live in South America, Surinam and work in a tropcal plants nursery
(family owned). I’ve been making a catalog of our plant for years now
(what can i say, grandpa’s been negligant), as we have well over a
million plants. I’m constanty running into a dilemma about an agave we
have. Whenever i try to categorize it i basically flip out!Is it an
americana, is it not an americana. Some sites say it’s an americana
others say it’s not. So, my thought was, perhaps you could help me. I’m
sending you a picture!Please help!Do you know the real botanical name?

Many thanks in advance,
Ira

Our answer after the break… Read More…

So Many Questions!

Guys,
I’ve just stumbled across your blog, and being a cactus lover immediately spent the day reading it. In order to help you continue the great work, I have two questions for you:

1. What’s the best size pot for my Golden Column cactus? I’ve had it for about 5 years and find it awesome for intimidating neighbors.

2. Could you help me identify this cactus? I’ve had it for a few years and have always found it interesting, but never tried to figure out the name.

Also, if you guys have any advice on sprouting Draco Dracena seeds (or cacti seeds) it would be much appreciated.

Thanks,
Paul

Paul,
Your Cliestocactus looks like it is fine in the pot it is in for another year or two and then you will likely need to repot to something at least two inches in diameter larger.

Cactus #2, Looks like it is a Mammillaria heyderi or one of the many subspecies of M. heyderi, however there are several other Mammillaria species that have a very similar look… like M. mystax. It could also be a hybrid, since there are a lot of them in cultivation. Do you know what color the blooms are?

Dracaena draco seeds have very hard shells, so they will need to be carefully scarified, (chipped, filed or rubbed between course sand paper until there are scratches in the shell) to help to get enough water through the seed casing to cause germination. Do not cover the seed with soil, but you can lightly coat with sand to help keep them moist, they need bright light for most of the day to germinate. We use high-output fluorescent lights on for 18 hours. Keep the soil moist, but not soaking wet, clear germination domes help, but watch for mold and excess algae growth. Keep warm, 75-85 degrees. Germination usually takes about 2 months but it can take longer, so don’t give up.

Cacti seeds have different requirements depending on types and where they grow in the wild. But the general rule is similar to the draco directions for large seed types and with small seed skipping the scarification process and just scattering on the soil surface and then lightly covering with sand or crushed horticultural charcoal. Keep moist, but not wet and under bright light. Some sprout with in a few days and others take months or longer. Plan on leaving the seedlings in the sprouting trays at least a year, since it can take them that long to get “fat english pea or small grape” sized which is when we usually reline them out to grow on.

Good luck,
Hap

Giant Invading Cactus Eats Home

Hi! I have an enormous cactus that is eating my house. I need to remove it but didn’t want to just throw it away, it’s quite impressive but unfortunately it’s ruining the foundation. Do you know anyone that would want this cactus? I attached a picture.

Thank you! Krista

Yowza, that’s a big Cereus!

I don’t know anyone in Southern Cal off hand, but I’ll post it on the blog for you. Also, we find Craigslist works well.

Peter

If anyone is interested, email me and I’ll forward it along to Krista in the 310. Just a warning, though, if you do go to cut it down, make sure you don’t let the giant branches fall on the roof, or yourself either. Just sayin’.

Fungus Problems?

Hello,
We’re the women who were in on Sunday and were arranging, and finally purchasing the manzanitas, sage and the little euphorbia obessa. We could use your help.

While we were there we talked with Keith about what we think is a fungus that killed the tree that used to be in our front yard. The fungus appeared on the stump after we had the tree cut down (it was dead.) We’re concerned about planting the new trees close to this area, that they might also be attacked by this fungus.

Anyway, Keith said that we could send a photo of the fungus and he would try to identify it.

We’re going to have someone install these plants for us and would appreciate your quick reply.

Thanks for your help.
Lynn & Joanne

Lynn,

It looks like your stump is being eaten by a bracket fungi called Trametes versicolor, or “Wild Turkey Tail”. The brackets are the fruiting bodies of the organism that is actually inside the stump eating the cellulose. This species only attacks dead or nearly dead hardwoods so it is unlikely to be what killed the tree, but took advantage of the food source after it was dead.

So we do not believe this fungus would cause any problem planting a new healthy manzanita.

But it is a amazing and beautiful artifact.
Peter

Short Answers to Simple Questions

The shortest email question, evah!

is this san pedro?

Yes!

(This email and photo was sent to us by Hamza. Your answer was provided by Peter.)

Infected!

Hi, I had questions several years ago about my Cereus Monstrose and you helped me then, so I hope you can help me now. My Cereus is quite large, over five feet. It has developed black spots on it which I am afraid are parasites of some kind. The first of these spots occurred last year and someone at the Jungle recommended putting Neem oil on them. This is not working. I cut a black spot out and the area turned black What should I do? I am very attached to this plant and I do not want to lose it. Do you make house calls?

Worried,
Jan

Jan,
It looks like the cactus has an infection, which is causing the rot spots. Probably viral which is difficult to treat. You treat with cleaning out the infected spots and sterilizing with hydrogen peroxide, and feeding the whole plant with kelp and neem.

We do housecalls, and if you would like we can come out and treat the plant for you. Please understand there is no guarantee we can stop the infection.
Peter

We Get Questions

Peter

Here are the three different types of plants my wife and I own. We are tryin to take care of them as besdt as possible, but were not sure exactly what to do. I know that one of them is an alo plant but i dont kno if its dying cause its starting to brown, and the one cactus is a mamillaria type cactus. do you have any tips or helpful instructions on how to take care of them?? we are trying to get help on identifying the flower shaped cactus.

Melanie

Melanie,
First, the pink succulent is an Echeveria “Metallica”. Second, It’s hard to tell from the photo if there is anything wrong with the Aloe.

For general advice, the Mammillaria wants a minimum of 4 hours of direct afternoon sun and should be watered about every 3 weeks – a little more when it is hot in the summer, and less in winter.

The Aloe would like about 2 to 4 hours of morning sun, and the Echeveria wants almost as much sun as the cactus. For the 2 succulents, you should water every 2 weeks, and again a little more when it’s hot in the summer and less in winter.

All 3 plants should be in a fast draining cactus soil, and from the photos it looks like there is too much forest product in your soil, so you may want to repot them into a better draining cactus soil.

When watering go ahead and drench the soil and let it drain away, never letting them sit in water.
Peter

Hap's Definitive Aphid Advice

Hiya guys,
Every bit of advice you’ve given me has been so spot on,
now I’m having a problem that is making me so mad.
APHIDS!
They are farmed by my many many ant colonies in the yard,
and every time any of my succulents produces a flower,
BAM! Black aphids cover it, and I just clip it off,
because it’s so nasty. Even my giant Kniphofia flower stalks are not immune.

What would be a good plan of attack so I can enjoy my succulent flowers
for awhile before the black aphid plague descends down upon them?

Thanks so much.
JBOT
PS. Your advice on Sluggo was great.
I have to reapply often, but the snails got the message.
Stay away from my succulents!

With Aphids on succulents you have a couple of choices:

Hose them off the blooms with a soft spray of water, being soft bodied insects they are easy to dislodge and then you can really blast them when they hit the ground. Think Aphid soup! I usually hold the bloom stalk with one hand and spray with the other. It is sort of messy, but usually works.

Use insecticidal soap, and then after they are dead you still have to wash them off, since they die in place, still piercing the plant with their vampire bites, their zombie bodies are still annoying. But the soap usually leaves eggs unharmed so you may need to retreat before the blooms are done.

Use a more aggressive insecticide like Pyrethrin which will kill them and most of the eggs, but is absorbable by you… so use with care and caution!

Of course as you know they are farmed like dairy cows by the ants, so you also need to work at knocking down the ant population which with the Argentine Ant Super Colony that is eating California will be difficult, try adding some ant treatments around the succulents as well.

Take care,
Hap

Soap Aloe

Hi Peter,
Can you please identify this Aloe for me?

Thank you!
Steve

Steve,
You have what looks to me like Aloe mudenensis. They are growing really nicely there. Sweet!
Peter

Scale Insects

Hello Peter,

I hope you and Hap are both doing well and business good. I need some help with an offspring of our large Opuntia which has a white spoor like growth on it. The plant doesn’t seem to be hurt by it at all, but none the less I wanted to know what it is and what to do about it. Let me know if you have any knowledge or advice. As we need some small items I hope we can get up your way soon.

Take care
Ric

Ric,

The Opuntia has a bad infestation of Scale Insects. They are sort of Limpet-like vampires of the pest world. You should be able to get rid of them, but it will take a bit of work. First, spray the branch down with straight rubbing alcohol (or Vodka) and then loosen them with an old paint brush, the alcohol will dissolve the shellack they coat themselves with when they glue down as adults. After doing what you can with the alcohol and paint brush, rinse with a “stern” jet of water from the hose, this will help blast off more them. Follow up with a good spray of Neem Oil at 1-2% solution, you can get this at any good nursery, as it is used on Roses as a natural insecticide and fungicide. Respray with Neem after a week at least three times to break the life-cycle of any hold outs or eggs that survive. Make sure to spray the Neem in the evening and not during the hot sun, as the oil needs time to disperse as to not cause burning of the plant. You should also fertilize that plant and give it an extra drink to boost it’s natural immunities.

Take care,

Hap

Yellowing Cactus

Hi,
I am a subcriber to your newsletter and was refferred to you by a friend. She told me that if I email you a photo of a plant, that you would be able to identify it. Can you please help me identify this cactus and Please tell me what I need to do to make it green and healthy as it has been showing clorosis (yellowing) for sometime now. I rescued it off the street corner as someone was throwing it away. I have repotted it with cactus soil mix about 4 months ago.

Any info, would be greatly appreciated.

Thank you.
Steve

Steve,
You have a Cereus peruvianus and as you say, it’s clear that you have “rescued” it. We use slow release organic nutrients (we sell our own mix, too), so if you haven’t fertilized yet, now would be a good time. (If you’ve used something stronger, that can possibly be a cause of the yellowing.) When our cactus look yellow after the winter, we also will add Kelp Meal.
Peter

We Get Questions

I have several echeveria and graptoveria which I bought from you and have just finished planting in my new garden. They look so much alike that I’m wondering what is the difference(s) between them, especially differences in what the mature plants will look like. (I was hoping for flat to the ground hen and chicks appearance, but perhaps I won’t be getting that?)

Thank you.
Carol (Vallejo)

Carol,
It depends which species you have, but generally the echeverias are the hen and chick style, stemless and on the ground, while the graptoveria do sometimes get a trailing stem. If you send me photos, I can confirm what your individual species will do.
Peter

Kevin Gets Questions

Hi Kevin,

When you have a chance, can you tell me what these are? I got them from different places.

The first one was given to us, has beautiful bloom;

Second one hitch-hiked with another plant I bought, with a big round root under all that tentacles and had a ring of tiny yellow flowers a while ago;

3rd one I got from Target, reminds me of someone wiith a bad hair day;

4th one spread like waves/snakes.

I cannot find these from any books I have, so thought you might be able to help. Is it OK to trouble you? or is there another source I can ask about plants?

Thanks!

Lillian

Here are the attached photos:

[caption id="attachment_6573" align="alignnone" width="250" caption="149"]149[/caption] [caption id="attachment_6574" align="alignnone" width="250" caption="536"]536[/caption] [caption id="attachment_6575" align="alignnone" width="250" caption="537"]537[/caption] [caption id="attachment_6572" align="alignnone" width="250" caption="538"]538[/caption]

Lillian,
You have:
149. Crassula falcata, also known as the propellor plant.

536. is a crested Euphorbia, possibly Euphorbia flanaganii

537. is definitely Euphorbia flanaganii, also known as Medusa’s Head – would certainly qualify as bad hair…

538. Tephrocactus articulatus v. papyracanthus, or the Paper-Spine Cactus.
Peter

It's an Agave Bloom

HI, I was wondering if you could tell me what kind of plant this is, and if it is unusual for it’s size. It was growing for some time then this tree like appendage came shooting out of it. It is well over the top of our 1 story home. Easily close to 2 stories high. Picture is included. Thanks for your response.

Mike
Vista, CA

Mike,

Your plant is an Agave that it is starting to bloom. It looks like it is an Agave americana or “Century Plant”. The blooms will open soon and look amazing, the stalk will eventually (over the next year or two…) dry out and be a sculptural corpse… Agave bloom stalks were often used as alien trees in old science fiction films. Agaves grow for a long time (but not really for a century) and then bloom and die. However there should be “Pups” or baby plants around the base of the blooming mother plant that will repeat the cycle, as Agave have a habit of cloning themselves before trying to do “sexual reproduction”. If there is another Agave bloom in you area and you have Agave moths, you might even get seed pods. If not the flower stalk will sometimes try another cloning strategy and grow plantlets where the blooms are, that eventually helicopter down and root in where they land.

Take care,

Hap

We Get Questions

Hello,

My son is very worried about his cactus. He has had it for about two years and it started to turn black (please see attached photos) two weeks ago. We live in Wisconsin, and his cactus receives about 8 hours of sunlight a day. Any advice would greatly appreciated.

Thank you,
Tony

Tony,

The cactus is mutant Gymnocalycium that is grafted on top of a Hylocereus stem (the green part). It is a chimera pair so that the bottom graft can feed the top bright-colorful part that lacks chlorophyll since it was likely exposed to gamma radiation to kill the chlorophyll and bring out the wild otherworldly color. The sad reality is the mutated part is generally short-lived because it has compromised immunities and can’t build all the proteins it needs.

The black infection showing in the photos is likely a fungal infection (it could also be a virus). If it is a fungus it may respond to being treated with a fungicide. We use Neem Oil, which is usually effective, while having low (to none) toxicity issues around mammals (us, kids, pets…). Neem Oil is used in toothpaste and cosmetics. You should be able to find a ready-to-use Neem Oil product at your local nursery. Follow the directions and spray it down well. Retreat after a week. Hopefully it will stop the infection, but the top graft will always be scarred. If the infection continues the top graft may fail and turn all black; if it does cut it off and treat the green base with Neem. The Hylocereus base is actually a cool jungle cactus that can be treated more like an orchid and if it starts growing new arms it can eventually bloom and even fruit, which are those cool and tasty looking “Dragon Fruit” you might have seen at the grocery store.

Good luck,
Hap

Umbrella Cactus

You never know what kind of common names you’re going to get from a cactus.

(Here’s) a picture of a cactus I have that blooms once every May.  Four tall white flowers that look like umbrellas. I would like to know what kind of cactus it is. Thanks.

Nancy

Nancy,
That’s an Echinopsis alright, formerly known as a Lobivia. As for the particular species, it’s hard to tell from the photo, but it might be Echinopsis subdenudata from Bolivia.
Peter

We Get Questions About Euphorbias

Hi, we had a cactus planted in our front yard about six months ago. It’s getting browned and hard at the bottom, but not mushy (which I thought would indicate overwatering). The browning is working its way up the plant, but if it IS overwatering, of course I don’t want to continue to contribute to that problem by watering it more thinking it’s too dry.

Any suggestions!? Thanks!

Matt B
San Diego

Matt,
It’s a little hard to tell exactly what I’m looking at there. It’s probably just barking, i.e. the plant is turning into a tree and creating a trunk at the bottom with bark. On the other hand, it could be an infection. The key question is: Is the area soft or firm? Firm is good, soft is rot and that would be bad.

If it is soft, then given the location of the rot, you probably need to cut the plant down and get rid of the root mass. You can then save the branches, let them dry in shade for a week or two, and then plant them in a fast draining cactus soil.

A warning: This is a Euphorbia and it has caustic sap. Wear protective clothing, long gloves and eye protection. Don’t get any of the milky white sap on you.

What rot in a Euphorbia looks like.
Peter

Peter, I really appreciate your response.

It’s hard – very hard – and inching upward even though I’m not watering the plant at all, so it sounds as though it’s barking.

Again – thanks so much!!
Matt B

Edible Fruit

Hiya guys,
I just got back from my tour of the US,
and my buddy gave me some cow’s tongue opuntia when I was passing thru New Mexico.
I was wondering if the fruit is edible and the same as standard prickly pear.
I never see this in the Bay area, is it rare out here?
Thanks!
Jay

Jay,
All opuntia fruit is edible, just some taste better than others, some are less spiny and easier to get at than others, and some are already bottled in fancy sweet vinegars made in Italy.
Peter

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