I bought this cactus from you a few years ago. It doesnt seem to be doing very well….
What can I do to help it!
It looks like it has caught an infection. It could be fungal or viral… it is hard to tell from the photos. The best treatment I can suggest is Neem Oil, which is a natural fungicide that you can spray on as well as douse the soil with. Spray the entire plant until coated and then retreat in a week to ten days. If two treatments stop the spread it is fungal, if not it is likely a virus and there are not any treatments that are “over the counter” for use. The option then is to feed the plant with Kelp and a low strength fertilizer to boost the plant’s defenses and then keep it warm and dry for the winter and hope it can fight it off.
If you want to bring it by the nursery we would be happy to look it over and see if we can give better advice in person. If you are not close to Berkeley Neem Oil should be available at any good nursery, we prefer the 100% or organic versions since some of the products marketed for use on roses have a solvent added that is rough on cacti and succulents when applied in full sun.
I have a 16″ saguaro, about 20 years old (germinated from seed by a friend of mine). Last summer, it was accidentally knocked over causing a split about halfway up, one that looks to be about halfway through the cactus. Today, the saguaro is doing well, continues to grow, but I worry about the split. Is there some substance (silicon?) I can inject into it that will not harm the plant while filling in the cut and stabilizing the cactus? Thanks!
Unfortunately trying to repair plant injuries usually just leads to rot and hidden infection. Since plants don’t really have the same type of active cell replacement and immune systems that animals do, they deal with trauma and injuries in a different way. The best that they can do is seal off the injury and sort of build up a layer of bark or scar-tissue to keep out infections and pests, they don’t seem to be able to replace damaged tissue with living, growing cells like we do. Being people with nurturing attitudes, we want to fix them and add band-aids like “prune-seal” or in your case silicone, but all that does is create a warm safe spot for fungi to grow where we can’t see it or treat it. It is best to just clean injuries when they happen and let the plant seal it off. Over time layers of dead cells will build up a woody-corky layer that will hopefully be strong enough to support the new growth above.I would just leave the split as it is, just make sure to keep water out of it and watch for any signs of infection.
Attached are photos of five cereus plants in our garden, all of which did great in the ground for five months but are now showing signs of distress.
Crested cereus — The first two shots are of the same plant, which has some black spots on top and the trunk has cracked open. This plant is located nowhere near the others.
Night-blooming cereus — We have two, located next to one another. The affliction is showing itself as dark sunken spots on the new growth. In some places these have become holes, all the way through the “fin” of the plant.
Lophocereus — Again, we have two of these, located next to each other but nowhere near the other cereus plants. Similar story — the new growth on top has lots of black spots, some of which are now sunken inward.
These plants are all on mounds, with good soil and drainage. The soil is still moist from recent rains, but not a lot. I’m really concerned that as we head into winter, we may need to strip away the pebble coverage and try to aerate the roots somehow.
The garden has about 30 or 40 plants and all the others look fine at this point. We only live a few blocks from your store — maybe we could pay you to take a look at the situation one morning. Many thanks,
The crested top view looks like it was bruised and is now scaring up from getting whacked or bumped hard. The trunk view looks like beetle or rodent/bird damage, look in the holes and make sure there is not a grub eating the plant from the inside. They can really make a mess inside the trunk, pull them out with tweezers if that is what is going on and squish them. Clean and disinfect the cavity with Hydrogen-Peroxide if it looks “juicy”. Once it has dried out and looks scabbed you can treat with Neem Oil as well. If it looks like it will collect water you will need to make an additional cut in the tissue to create a drain channel. Pooled water will cause major rot issues.
The Lophocereus and Cereus are showing signs of slug and snail damage, which is leading to secondary infections. I recommend that you treat all the damaged areas with Neem Oil and scatter Sluggo through out the garden. Retreat with Neem after a week. If the infections persist there are more aggressive treatment options, but of course they are more toxic and take special handling.
We do make housecalls if you want to schedule one to confirm what I see in the photos.
I don’t think we’ve ever gotten this question before on the blog. Lucky for you someone finally asked it. Thanks, Lauren!
Hello Cactus Jungle,
In the next month or so I am considering trying to grow some pincushion cactuses from seeds. Do you have any suggestions on the the type of soil or how I should set up the initial planting tray?
Several months ago I impulsively started growing some cactus seeds from a variety mixture (so I have no idea what they are officially). How many years does it take for more common cactus varieties to mature and how long should I wait before attempting to repot cactus seedlings?
Thank you for your time and I look forward to hearing from you.
We germinate cacti seed in our standard cactus and succulent soil. If it is rare or expensive seed we will sterilize the soil first by steaming it – moistening and putting in a microwave safe dish and heating until it hits 160 degrees. About six to seven minutes on high for a gallon of soil. We then let it cool with a tight cover on and then use it in our seedling trays.
We will scatter the seed on the surface and lightly mist. Then we top dress with a single layer of crushed horticultural charcoal, that we either smash with a hammer or run through a little electric chopper (Cuisinart) until it is like course sand. We mist that as well. Then we dome the seed tray and put under florescent lights that run 16 hours a day.
Most pincushion type cacti will germinate in just a week or two, other types can take months. Of course after germination is complete and they start getting some growth we ventilate the dome and lower the humidity, but they do need it fairly humid during germination and that first push of young growth. We usually leave the seedling in the germination tray until they are the size of large peas or small grapes. With some species that is 6 months; others it is a year or two.
The big trick on transplanting is to handle them very gently so they do not bruise and make them prone to infection. It helps to keep them dry for a week after transplant so any damage heals under dry condition.
I purchased these succulents from your garden about a month ago. They were planted directly into the soil 3 days from purchase and given a little water. Since then it’s rained a few times and I never saw any puddling. Others rooted very well, when lightly tugged on they didn’t bend or shift. A couple of days ago I noticed some of the other succulents weren’t doing so great. Attached are the ones that didn’t do so well.
– Photo (forgot the name): It seems the stem had rotted and fell limp. Is the soil not draining properly?
– Sedum hispanicum: Not sure if there’s anything wrong with them but they seemed a bit soft and not as hardy as the day I purchased them.
– Sempervivum: As you can see from the picture the succulent is just black! From the second picture the succulent is slightly elevated from the soil level just like the others.
The first one I think is an Echeveria that is turning into a single bloom stalk. The roots have definitely rotted because of the moisture. I recommend cutting the roots off the stem, bringing it inside and letting the cut portion heal for a week. Then you can replant it into dry cactus soil in a pot. If you’d like, you can bring it in to the store and we can take care of it for you.
The one Sempervivum that turned black has died, and should be removed. The Sedum looks OK, but it’s hard to tell from the photo for sure.
So the basic problem here is too much moisture around the roots. You have a wood-based black mulch on top and that is holding in the water, not letting the soil dry out. This is a good thing for perennials and annuals, but for succulents the soil needs to be able to dry out, so I recommend removing the mulch you have and using a rock mulch, like lava or drain rock.
I can’t tell what the soil is, but if it’s a clay soil it also needs to be amended for faster drainage.
Let me know if you need any more help with these.
would it be ok if i sent you a photo of something about which i have a question? i have a euphorbia with multi branches and within the past week little yellowish dots have appeared where one might expect spikes to be. hard to describe, thusly if i could send you the picture it might be more helpful.
vero beach florida
And here’s the picture:
And the good news is…
It looks like Euphorbia trigona and the dots are unopened blooms!
Sometimes we can identify Aeoniums, other times we prefer to just make up names. What do you think?
It was really nice meeting you this week. You have a fantastic place and some really fine specimans of cactus, especially Aeoniums. The pictures attached may be Aeoniums but I have not been able to identify them. Can you tell me if they are Aeoniums? If not, any ideas? By the way, within this planter are two different types of the same plant. The really purple ones, and the less purple with more green.
I really appreciate it. I have one other species of Aeonium I’m going to send pictures of. I cannot identify it either.
Have a great weekend. I’m sure we’ll see you again.
The unknown one will have to remain unknown for now. I’ll blog it to see if anyone else can come up with a cultivar name. Otherwise, I recommend Aeonium “Wizard”.
The other lower ones, green with pink edging, are Aeonium subplanum.
I’ve got some Christmas Cacti I would like to start getting prepared for blooming. I was reading through the latest posts and saw that link for this very thing. The instructions prompted a question that I feel you guys may be able to answer quicker than I can find it myself online.
That question being- When they mention feeding it bloom food- is their an organic, chemical free option for this type of product. I guess my refined question would be what is bloom food and is their an organic chemical free option for this?
Thanks for your time and assistance.
That’s a pretty fair question.Fortunately there’s a pretty simple answer.
We use organic Fish Bone Meal for blooms. We do sell it in large boxes and small packets as well.
What’s nice about this is that fish bone meal works for all types of flowers. (And yes, I mean that generally, not specifically every type of flower.)
I just spoke with someone about my very unhappy cheiridopsis plant, and she gave great suggestions for getting rid of these mites that are crawling all over it, but suggested sending pictures so you could see if something else needs to be done.
I love this plant so much that I brought it with me to New York when I moved out here, and it seemed to be adapting at least as well as its keeper to the new neighborhood until about a week ago, when I replanted it in a bigger pot. The mite problem had already started, but I didn’t realize it at the time (thought a spider had made a web there). I just used regular potting soil, which is darker and moister than the local Berkeley soil that I used last time I repotted, and also made the mistake of watering it the next day (it was looking unhappy, and since it has been unusually hot here, I thought that was the problem). All of the rotted branches you see in the picture are recent, as in the last few days, so I am really worried that the plant is dying quickly. I will see if I can get some neem oil here, per your suggestion. Should I also repot in cactus soil? Should I cut off the rotted roots? Any other suggestions are appreciated!
I’m sorry to have to be the one to tell you but I don’t think your plant survived the transition. You can try repotting into a faster draining cactus soil and spraying for the spider mites, but it looks to me like it’s probably too late.
Here is a photo of my succulent. It is falling over! As you can see, I tried to tie it to a stake, which worked for a while, but now it’s tipping over again…
Also, the leaves at the bottom are one by one shriveling and falling off… but the top seems healthy and keeps growing!
What can I do?
Thanks so much,
Your Graptopetalum is fine. In fact, it’s great! It’s growing nicely and has outgrown it’s pot. In the ground these will form a trailing stem along the surface and root where they touch and form new rosettes along the way. So in a pot it will want to hang down and swoop up. The only problem with that is the stem might break, which isn’t really a problem since the top cutting will then root easily enough and the bottom part will form new rosettes. In fact, you can choose to take the cutting yourself now rather than repotting into a bigger pot and letting it hang down and swoop up.
As for the bottom leaves – all succulents lose bottom leaves, so there’s nothing wrong here. In fact, you can pull off all the leaves along the trailing stem right up to the rosette if you want and plant them and within a year or two you’ll have a lot of baby plants.
Hi. My wife and I have freed up an unused 30’ x 13’ strip of ground between the side of our house and the street. (We live on a corner.) We’d like to plant cactus and xeriscape this area as we aren’t very good about watering and maintenance.
Could you suggest a book or online resource for us to get some basic understanding of what would be involved? Our immediate problem is to acquire about five cubic yards of fill to bring up an unwanted low patch. A local company can provide us with topsoil having a pH of 7.3 for fill, but I wouldn’t want to start off with an overly basic soil if most cacti won’t like it.
– Eric, Sunnyvale
We mix a fast draining cactus soil (which we do sell in bulk). Cactus and succulents in the Bay Area need the extra drainage to be able to handle our winter rains. Standard soils will stay too wet through the winter and the plants will rot. It is possible to start with the fill and amend it by adding in 50% lava, and depending on the quality of the soil that might work. In general, the soil should be neutral to slightly acidic, so the pH is a bit high.
I got a “Euphorbia lactea” (not sure if it is correct) few months ago, but it took me long time to understand how I should take care of it, and now it is in trouble.
I have attached few pictures and I suspect it may have a stem rot fungus and some sunburn scars?
Yes, I know I really did not do a good job… it is my first experience with outdoor plants and I may have forgotten that I now live in Abu Dhabi and the weather here is really hot, until last month the average was around 42 degrees Celsius, reaching 48 during the day, this month it started to get better and rarely goes above 42.
Anyways, I used to overhead watering to clean the branches from the sand storm, common in this region, twice a week, or whenever the soil seemed very dry. It looked fine for a while, but as you said chicken comes home to roost. Two weeks ago one stem started to look bleached on the top and slowly it started to shrink and the discoloration moved downwards. I got worried and started to search the information on the web, now paying more attention to it I noticed that the same maybe happening on other stems.
What should I do?
Meantime, I moved the pot to an area where it does not get the full sun during the all day, stop watering like a crazy and put my Adenium away to avoid any contamination.
Thank you so much.
I’m not really sure how to advise you on taking care of the Euphorbia in a climate where the cooler month is 42 degrees C (108F). We would water rarely, but you will have to water more regularly – only just letting the soil dry out between waterings. I would take it out of the sun completely, and only let it get indirect light, possibly indoor.
Overall the plant is looking OK, with just some of the branches having been damaged. It does look like they burned in the sun and heat.
I recommend removing the damaged branches. Since this is a Euphorbia, with poisonous milky white sap, wear protective clothing, gloves and eye protection, and wash thoroughly if you get any on you. Since the branches are not very big around, you can cut them with a pruner, or slice through them with a serrated bread knife. Make sure you cut below the damaged parts. Keep the exposed ends out of the sun until after they’ve healed over.
To my double surprise in the past two days I found a hand me down cactus in bloom and then found the blog entry from September 9th to help me identify it. I would like to include a picture of the gigantic flower bud that has developed on the Stapelia plant. I have been able to start a few propagated pieces that also have tiny blooms starting! I’ve never had a cactus bloom so this is quite the accomplishment for me. And i feel like if I wasn’t reading your blog I wouldn’t have been able to propagate the new pieces as well as i have.
I am have been a blog subscriber of yours for a year or so and it has been a joy learning about cacti, succulents and the like from your blog alone.
Please let me know if this is truly a Stapelia. Just like to know what i’m working with.
Thanks for your time.
Glad we’ve been able to be of help! Your succulent is indeed a Stapelia, and that is a giant flower about to open. Very exciting! Send photos to share on the blog when it’s open.
We have a large – 4-5 ft. – Euphorbia growing in a pot in our living room. Have had it about two years with no problems. Recently I noticed one of its arms is getting a black die-back at the very top. The die-back is dry to the touch and the plant flesh is slightly soft but dry. A few photos are attached. Any thoughts on what this might be and cures for it?
Possibly, I’m not watering enough. I give it about a gallon of water every 3 months or so. It gets about 5 hours of direct sunlight in Half Moon Bay
I welcome your advice and thanks!
It appears to be just one tip, the other branches look fine in the photo. I don’t know what has caused this particular problem. You might want to think if there’s anything different about that one branch – is it the only one getting direct sun? No sun? Is it touching a surface?
It’s possible it has caught an infection, but if the rot has stopped at just the tip it might be just cosmetic damage at this point. You can cut the branch off below the rot, at a slight angle away from the light source, making sure there is no evidence of rot in the branch below the cut. Whenever cutting Euphorbias wear protective clothing – long sleeves, gloves, eye protection – since the milky white sap is caustic. Spray with Hydrogen Peroxide to help the cut heal faster.
In general I would recommend watering every 3-4 weeks. These Euphorbias can handle being WAY underwatered, but only for so long before they start to show damage. Two years isn’t that long yet, but I would water more often. If you haven’t repotted it in 2 years you might also want to try that, into fast-draining cactus soil.
Both front porch and back porch potted succulents are getting vandalized and/or eaten by local animals. The uprooted plant in the wooden planter box is in front.
I think it might have been caused by a deer rooting around? The other succulent is in the back yard and appears to have been munched by an animal.
Raccoon? Squirrel? The critters also like to dig around in the dirt, especially in freshly potted plants. Any advice?
It looks like squirrel damage… try sprinkling with cayenne pepper and then pick up a bottle of animal repellant when you get a chance. We use and sell Deer Off which works on the stupid sky rodents as well! The cayenne works (until it gets wet) on mammals fairly well but not birds, but make sure to wear a mask when sprinkling it on a breazy day, it hurts if you breath it in or get in your eyes!
Thanks! Coincidentally, a couple of days later, I actually saw a squirrel eating one of the fat succulent leaves. He had taken up to the garage roof and just sat there furiously munching it as I glared at him. Arg!
I’ll try the pepper and animal repellant. Will check out the Deer Off next time I come by. Last night a deer ate every last yellow bloom off my potted coreopsis. Will keep those in the back yard from here on out…
i purchased a succulent arrangment in the summer from you for my mother and we have both subsequently become OBSESSED with them, i now have a huge garden of whatever succulents i could find, we have several redwood trees around us, and wondering since so much of the leaves are falling right now, will the excess acid from it harm the succulents? also if im planting the succulents in the ground, aside from the potting soil and lava rock we added what is the benefit from adding mulch/or rock? and is there a certain type of mulch to use?
we cant wait to come back and visit you now that we are so excited about succulents, thanks so much.
Oh ya and all the sudden there are some little white specks on the schawrkopf in the arrangment and a small amount of cottony white material on the leaves…is this mites? are there specific solutions or natural remedies for treating succulents for this?
thanks for any help you can give
I little bit of leaf drop from the redwoods isn’t a problem, but a good healthy coating would be a problem. Not only will it reduce the sun get through to the plant, but when wet it can cause rot problems. It also can make the plant more prone to pests, which it sounds like you already have. Without seeing the plants I can’t be sure, but it sounds like you have aphids or mites (the little white specks) and mealy bugs (the cottony white material).
We recommend using 100% Neem oil on the succulents to kill the pests, while still safe for the plants (if sprayed when not in full sun).
As for a mulch, in general the succulents really don’t need any mulch. We use a lava rock mulch mostly for decorative purposes. Bark mulch will hold in too much moisture which can cause rot problems, especially in winter.
I was thinking that today I would blog about the relationship between chemical fertilizers with a focus on potassiums, mycchorizal fungi and flatworms. But then this email came in with such pretty pictures from Kew Gardens that I decided not to delve into the soil, metaphorically speaking, today. Ah well, the opportunity is lost for good now.
Anyway, enjoy the view from Kew.
I took this pic at Kew Gardens in the Mediterranean section. Any idea which type of begonia (if it is really a begonia) this is? It’s stunning, and I think the fuchsioides comes somewhat close to this one.
Thanks for any help with this.
It looks like it is either one of the new ‘Dragon Wing’ or ‘Phoenix’ Begonias that have been introduced over the last couple of years. I am not which clone it is, but it is a very nice one!
Mark writes in with a quick photoshop of his front yard wanting a plant for a hole in front of his window.
Hello Folks at Cactus Jungle.
I recently pulled a huge bush/tree thing I hated out of my front yard and have been in search of a good replacement. (I’m actually in a hurry to find something new because it left my entire living room exposed to the street traffic — poor planning, I know.) One plant I was considering for a replacement is an acacia, specifically an acacia baileyana ‘purpurea’ and was wondering if you had any thoughts. If you had positive feedback on that choice, is there any possibility you have them in stock? (I realize it’s not a succulent…)
The reason I pulled what was there before (an Angel’s Trumpet), was because it was really messy — dropping leaves all over my cactus and succulents below. And I wanted something more colorful that would also complement the colors of the house. (Below is an embarrassingly unprofessional Photoshop’d exploration of what it might look like.) But I am certainly open to other suggestions, if you had any.
Pluses would be drought tolerance, not too many dropped leaves or berries, grows quickly but not too large (I do plan to prune though), enough foliage to create a visual barrier, but still let some light into the front of my house. Sculptural is always nice too. Originally I was jones-ing for a beautiful, giant euphorbia. But I know it would cost a bazillion dollars and might not serve as a good screen from the traffic.
As I’m writing this I worry it might be sound like I’m asking for free design advice. But I trust you’d say so if it felt that way to you.
Thanks for any input.
P.S. Speaking of huge euphorbia (I saw your recent blog entry about it), I have to remember to send you photos of ones I saw in Southern Africa recently. Enormous giants! (Wait, that’s redundant, isn’t it.) Massive. And all over the place. And in bloom.
Now we do have the Purple Acacia in stock, so maybe he’ll get that and all will be good, but if you have any other suggestions for Mark, let us know right away!
Dear Cactus Blog,
This is one of our large Euphorbias although 3 of them are showing similar damage. My thought was that this might be rodent or other animal damage, but I’m not sure. I have spent some time observing both day and night and haven’t seen evidence of anything attacking. Do you have any suggestions?
Thank You Very Much for your help,
It sure looks like something is chewing on your Euphorbia, however since they are nasty and poisonous, god only knows what. I suppose deer or rats if they were really really hungry. We sell a product called Deer Off, but then we also recommend Euphorbias as deer-resistent.
I want to begin with thanking you for a very funny and informative blog. I live in Iceland and bought these two plants about a week ago. I started with repotting them in the same pot (which was dark blue) and sat on the windowsill in a west window which gets a lot of sun. I had two other succulents in the pot previously and they loved it. There are no good plant stores in Iceland and the plants were labeled as succulent mix and crassulata mix (and I don´t remember which was which). When I went to water them the smaller dark green plant with the cup in the leaves had two rotting leaves and just generally looked very unhappy. I have now repotted them again in seperate pots and was thinking of putting the little dark green plant in more shade. I have not seen cactussoil for sale in any of the few plant stores we have in Iceland so I have them soil mixed quite heavily with perlite which seems to work very well for all my other plants. Could you give me any advice on the care of these two plants and possibly what family or species they are?
Thank you for your help,
The small green plant is Crassula ovata “Gollum”. The larger plant is Crassula falcata. Both of them can handle lots of sun, so that’s probably not a problem. It looks like “Gollum” may be getting too much water. They want a fast draining soil, so having added perlite is a good idea, although we prefer pumice. You want to make sure they’re not sitting in water, so having one pot inside the other, make sure there’s no water sitting at the bottom after watering.
I purchase this plant from you about 6 weeks ago. Soon after planting it started to not look well… The bottom leaves almost immediately started to yellow/brown and shrivel up. Now the tips of almost all the leaves are turning black. Is it too much water? It is in full sun almost all day and I have been watering every week or two.
Your Graptopetalum has sun burn. We had it here out in full sun, but there have been foggy mornings so it may be that you just have a lot more sun where you are than us. However the good news is that there are new leaves growing out of the center of the plant that are nice and clean and used to the amount of sun you have, so the plant will be fine. You can remove the old leaves if you like, or leave them in place until they start to shrivel off.
David called the store to ask us what was happening to his succulent. I asked him to send us a photo and here it is.
This is the plant. The normal form is in the foreground.
The plant is Graptopetalum paraguayense, and the “deformed” part is what we call “Crested”. It is a genetic mutation, usually caused by a virus, and it makes the growing tip of the plant grow out linearly rather than the normal branching and rosette. There’s nothing to worry about – crested plants are often prized and collected.
I desperately need help with my Euphorbia Flanaganii Cristata! I got this plant bare root a few weeks ago, and potted it in a gritty mix like I did with my other succulents. But this one has gotten worse since. The yellow is spreading and the base looks brown (see attached picture)! What can I do to save it?
Thank you for your help.
It looks like your plant has either caught a fugal or viral infection and if it has continued to spread it may just be too infected to save. However if there are still green, uninfected looking parts of the plant you can try cutting them off, dipping the cut area in hydrogen peroxide to disinfect and help seal the wound. Please not that all Euphorbia have nasty milky sap and you do not want to get it in your eyes or on your lips, wear gloves and eye protection when cutting and handling! Let air dry and after a week or so of drying and healing, repot the cuts in fresh soil and a clean pot. You can use rooting hormones if you have it or liquid kelp to help speed up the rooting process or just let it root on its own, though it may take more time. Keep warm and the soil on the dry side the first month.
By the way, here’s a picture of a healthier one growing in Iowa. You have to scroll down for the photos.
Karen asked a question about her crested euphorbia, and Hap started a long answer at the same time I had sent off a much shorter answer. Check out the differences between my answer and Hap’s.
Hello Peter – Once again I come to you for expert advice! My mother bought me a crested Euphorbia that has been grafted onto something. I think it looks too tall and am thinking about cutting it shorter…what do you think? The main stem is about 6 inches tall and I think it looks goofy and top heavy. If I were to cut it down, I would leave about 2-3 inches of stem and let it sit for 4-5 days before settling it down into your cactus soil. Yes? No!
Thanks for your time!! ~Karen
First up is my answer, the one that got sent to Karen.
I would leave the Euphorbia alone. The crest will eventually catch up to the size of the stock, and it will grow faster if you don’t cut it
Could it have been any shorter?
And Hap’s answer that didn’t get sent?…. Read More…