UACES Facebook Cactus
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(November 2011)

QuestionI am hoping you can help identify a plant. It looks like a cactus She doesn’t know what it is called, but it is very hardy, takes very little water and has a large white bloom that appears August of each year (although my plant has never bloomed). If a leaf breaks, it can be inserted in damp soil and it will catch on and grow quickly; new stems/leaves appears to shoot out from an existing leaf? Hope you can help us identify this plant.


AnswerThe plant is called a night blooming cereus. It is a cactus plant and can grow quite large. Once it gets old enough, flower buds are set in July/August time frame and open with gigantic blooms which are quite fragrant. The flowers open after the sun sets and close when the sun rises. I often think it is one of the ugly duckling plants, since it is not the most attractive plant, but when it blooms, it more than makes up for its appearance. It is not winter hardy but does well outside all summer.

(September 2010)

QuestionCan you tell me how to revive a Christmas cactus that has been neglected and shriveled up? I have tried soaking it in water, but nothing seems to help.


AnswerIt may be time to buy a new cactus. Even cactus can get so dry that they can't come back. If it is totally dried up, toss it and buy a new one.

(February 2010)

QuestionI am currently experiencing a problem with some tiny gnats in my home. They appear to be coming from a cactus that lives in a flower pot outdoors during the summer. I bring it inside during the cold winter months. Lately, I've noticed many gnats in my window sills. I seemed to have tracked them to the plant. I changed the potting soil which seemed to have slowed them down. But I'm still seeing them in my window sills. What can I do to make them disappear for good?


AnswerI think you have fungus gnats which are more of a nuisance rather than a detriment to your plants. The small larvae are in the soil and are feeding on the fungi growing in the potting soil, along with some small roots. They are usually more common in soils that are kept too wet and in warm conditions. Fungus gnats are more abundant in old, moist potting soil. As they mature, they turn into small gnats that hang around on the surface of the soil or fly around the plants, especially when the plants are disturbed. Try cutting back on your watering, use yellow sticky traps to trap the adults and prevent them from laying eggs, and if they continue, you can drench the soil with an insecticidal soap or BT product.

(September 2009)

QuestionAfter having a night blooming cereus, Cereus peruvianus for 6 years, it bloomed for the first time about 5 weeks ago with several blooms following. At the moment, I've counted 21 blooms coming. Since it was a cutting from another plant, can you tell me what conditions make this plant bloom? I had absolutely nothing until this year, but it grows profusely. Last year it was re-potted as it had grown quite large. A friend I shared with now has a bloom coming on hers. Does this plant require more room to grow? Is shade or sunshine better? Is dryness or plenty of water better? Would appreciate anything you may tell me about this plant. The picture I took early one morning. By 10:00 the bloom was totally wilted.


AnswerNight blooming cereus is a member of the cactus family. It is truly the ugly duckling of the plant world. Once you have one, it can take over your house each winter with its tenacious gangly vine, but when it is in bloom, it is amazing . Move it outdoors and put it under a shade tree each spring, and by mid July through September you will start to see tiny buds produced along the edge of the leaf. Watch their progress daily and within one week the bud will be ready to open that night. Parties have been planned to mark this event. The flowers begin to open when it is truly dark, and produce a seven inch bloom which is gorgeous and fragrant. Once sunlight hits it, the flower is gone forever—each flower only lasts one day. The plant should produce ample buds to open for several weeks once it starts blooming. It usually takes two to three years to begin producing blooms, but when it does, they are spectacular. It is not winter hardy in Arkansas and needs relatively little care inside other than a sunny window and room to grow. Keep it on the dry side each winter, and move it outdoors under a shade tree in late spring. Fertilize monthly from May through July, but make sure you don’t overwater or it can rot.

(November 2008)

QuestionCan you identify this plant? This is the first bloom I have ever had on it, and I've had the plant probably 15 years. The bloom was beautiful but the smell wasn't pleasant and attracted green flies.


AnswerThe plant is commonly called starfish cactus, starfish flower or carrion flower but it is actually Stapelia sp. a group of succulent plants from Africa. They grow as soft stems that spread without spines or thorns. This genus has large star-shaped flowers that can exceed 8 inches in diameter. All or part of the flowers are hairy, and when the bloom opens it gives off a smell reminiscent of rotting meat. The stapelia flowers usually attract flies as pollinators instead of nectar seeking insects. The color varies from red to brown, often marbled, probably trying to deceive the flies with the look as well as the smell. Usually the odor is only strong enough to notice if you are very close to the flower, but luckily it only lasts for a day or so. The plants will grow in light, semi shade outdoors in the summer and typically bloom in late summer to early fall. Move it indoors for the winter, as they are not winter hardy.


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