Custom Cactus Gardens
Cactus Care Tips
Cactus Flower Gallery
Desert Plants Gallery
Frequently Asked Questions
Schedule your appointment
The following email address is for local clients ONLY
(clients located in the Phoenix Metro area) wanting to schedule consultations and service appointments.
The Cactus Doctor is often out in the field making house calls, taking care of sick cactus, straightening saguaros, performing saguaro surgeries and removing the white sticky stuff (cochineal eradication) on prickly pear cactus that he regrettably is unable to answer your email questions at this time. Please refer to the information located throughout this website for answers to your questions.
Frequently Asked Questions
The Cactus Doctor answers your cactus care questions - everything from how to transplant cactus, what to do with top heavy cactus, how to thin out overgrown cactus plants, what to do with arms of saguaros that have fallen off, what to do about white sticky stuff on prickly pear cactus, saguaros with splits, yellowing spots and/or black goo oozing from the side of a saguaro, vandalized saguaros, indoor cacti care, how to prevent sunburn on cactus, weatherizing cactus, he addresses leaning barrel cactus, withering Christmas cactus pads and more ...
~ Is it safe to plant the agave cactus plants near a west facing white stucco wall? Is that too much sun for them?
Agaves can take intense heat without any problem. Make sure it has already been acclimated to the sun before planting it in the ground.
~ I do not live in Phoenix, Arizona but have several cactus that are in pots. I bring them into my garage for the winter and put them outside in the spring. Now they have brown spots and look sickly are they suffering from a bacterial infection?
Good news! Your cacti are not suffering from any kind of bacterial infection. Many times after various varieties of cacti that have been indoors for a long period of time they will tend to experience discoloration of the skin after suddenly being exposed to sunlight and wind hitting against them.
~ A sizable arm of my healthy prickly pear just collapsed. There is a lot of new growth on the cactus, should I trim it off so that more arms do not collapse?
Your prickly pear is trying to tell you he needs to be pruned. Cut off all the branches that are not growing erect. You need to shape and train it to grow upright so it won't become top heavy and continue to break off.
~ How do I prune prickly pear cactus plants back and keep them under control.
Always cut prickly pear cactus at the joints and never in the middle of a pad. Prune prickly pear cactus back as close to the main trunk as possible. By doing this you are promoting new healthy growth and controlling it's growth pattern. Try to use large handled loppers and a large pruning saw.
~ My saguaro cactus is not showing signs of producing flowers (it did last year). It looks healthy - could there be something wrong with it? What should I do?
Not all saguaros produce flowers every year. They sometimes have a dormant year following several productive years.This is quite natural and nothing to worry about.
~ I have a clump of a succulent called a slipper plants. It sends out long, thin succulent branches (with some minor branching off branches) that flower at the end of the branch in the spring with a bright orange bloom that attracts hummingbirds. My plant probably has about 100 of these long stems. They are now between five and six feet tall, and their weight is causing them to bend to the horizontal. I have tried to tie it up, but there are so many branches that are heavy enough that the tying up has not been particularly successful and it detracts from the beauty of the plant. In the past, I have cut it back a little, but at the cuts it oozes a milky sticky liquid, and the cut scabs over with an ugly though small dead section.
If I have described it well enough for you, can you tell me how to best maintain it from year to year. Should I cut it back to the ground? Some other approach?
The best way to maintain your slipper plant is to cut back each side of the clump all the way to the base of the plant. Leave one third of the plant in the middle untouched. Install a six foot stake directly behind it in the middle and loosely tie it to the stake with green horticulture tape which can be purchase at any Home Depot. You will see by pruning your plant it will grow healthier and form a better shape. The white liquid coming out from the cut stems is latex and should not be rubbed in the eyes because it can cause great pain and temporary blindness.
~ We planted a flower bed near our beautiful saguaro cactus and now it has turned yellow and has gotten thinner and the ribs are now closer together. What should we do?
It sounds like your saguaro may be suffering from vascular damage due to too much standing water. Remove the flower bed - this will remove the extra moisture to the ground.
~ My saguaro cactus was severely vandalized. It was cut in half and stabbed repeatedly all over, then pushed to the ground. The saguaro was about 6 feet tall with no arms, and I believe approximately 30-40 years old. Can this cactus be saved?
Yes, your saguaro can still be saved if the vandalism didn't cause any internal damage. After replanting the saguaro, spray all the open wounds with a one part bleach to 8 parts water solution. Make sure to thoroughly disinfect the top of the saguaro as well. The top will eventually callous over and sprout new limbs. You need to plant it as soon as possible in order to acclimate it to the sun before it begins to stay hot for the summer. If you wait much longer to plant it you will need to cover the entire saguaro with 30% block-out shade cloth.
~ Our saguaro cactus is seeping water out one side and making a slit which is getting larger. Our first thought was it was getting too much water. But we can't figure out how. There are no drippers near it. We shut the water off yesterday on the drippers. We love the saguaro what should we do?
Build a mound at the base of your saguaro so when it rains the water when will run off away from the tap root. The cracks will eventually callous over and not cause any internal damage. Observe your saguaro daily to see if it continues to get more stress cracks.
~ I am going to be transplanting a 3' saguaro and need to no how do I prep the hole that I will plant it in and then what should I do if anything after I replant it. Also how deep do I need to plant it?
Your saguaro should be planted in a hole one to one and a half feet deep. Mix sand or silt in with the top soil you take out of the hole. I also recommend putting a few inches of pea gravel in the bottom of the hole to provide good drainage for the new roots. Tamp the soil in well as you shovel it in the hole all around the saguaro. Make sure to plant it in the same direction it was facing before it was taken out of it's original hole. If you did not mark your saguaro before transplanting you will need to cover it with 30% sun block out shade cloth for the rest of the summer.
~ Our saguaro cactus lost an arm. I've been told you can plant the arm. Is this true? I was also told to let it sit for a while before planting. If true, do you have any tips or suggestions? Should I fertilize or feed the saguaro periodically? If so, how often and what kind of food or fertilizer?
Saguaro arm tips can be rooted out but it will take from eight to sixteen months. First you must allow the saguaro cacti tips to air dry in shade for three to four months before planting. Make sure the bottom of the tips are callous and hard. Dig a hole one foot wide by one foot deep. Plant the tips in a 40% top soil to 60% sand mixture. Plant the tip by covering only two or three inches of the bottom of it with the soil and sand mixture. Add water at initial planting and then not again until it begins to root out.
~ I have a saguaro cactus that is 5feet and 30+ years that spends summer on our patio here in Ohio. It's been flowering for the past 10 years or so. In the summer it gets quite yellow and I'm unsure of what to do for it. I've been told it needs iron but need advice on what will work.
The yellowing of your saguaro cactus could be from sunburn. This happens when it has been in shade for most of the year and you then expose it to direct sunlight without acclimating it first. If the yellowing is not from sun exposure then you will probably need to begin fertilizing it during the summer months. An organic fish fertilizer high in nitrogen usually works best for saguaros.
~ A small 1.5 foot arm fell off my otherwise very healthy saguaro. What should I do to transplant it?
Allow it to air dry in complete shade for ten to fourteen days. Dig a hole one foot deep by one foot wide and fill it with silt (river bottom sand) or a very fine washed sand. Plant the saguaro two to three inches deep. Water when you finish planting it and one time a month thereafter until September. Do not add water to it during the cold months.
~ I just dug up a 3 1/2 foot aloe,when i pulled it up it unfolded like an umbrella. now i have a tall center plant and about 15 separate little plants which i had to cut roots to detach all the way. How do I transplant these?
Aloes are very easy to root out. Plant the pups in a 50% potting soil to 50% perlite mixture and they should root out in a couple of months.
~ I have quite a few aloes. When I snip off a bit for healing use, I leave behind a very sad looking chopped off leaf. Any suggestions?
Whenever you remove a piece from your aloe vera it's best to take the entire leaf from the very bottom of the plant. By doing this your aloe will continue to look natural without a the sad face.
~ I have a cactus that I think has outgrown it's pot. What type of soil do I use and how big should the new pot be? Should I grab it by the bottom or wear heavy gloves or wrap it in newspaper. Help!
You should repot in a container at least two or three times the size of the current one. Use well draining soil with an equal mixture of very fine sand, Supersoil, and perlite or pumice. Add two inches of pea gravel to the bottom of the pot and then mix your soil well before transplanting your cactus into the new container. Add water at the initial planting then do not water again until the soil becomes completely dry. To transplant your cactus it's usually easier to use tongs or a piece of thick carpet.
~ I have an indoor cactus and it has 2 new cactus growing from the middle of the cactus is this normal and am I to leave them there or remove them?
It is natural for cacti to clump out, pup out and to branch out. These are the normal ways most cacti grow. You should leave the cactus to grow as it wishes. If you disturb it by removing parts of it without knowing what you are doing, you could end up destroying it. All you need to do is sit back and enjoy your cactus and let mother nature do the rest.
~ How do I care for a coral cactus?
Plant it in well draining soil with two inches of pea gravel at the bottom of the hole or container. The soil should be a mixture of 50% top soil and 50% perlite or pumice mixed together well. The most important way to keep it healthy and growing is to not over water it. Most people kill their cacti by adding water the same way they would water a flowering perennial. Water your cactus only when the soil has become completely dry and not before.
~ My cholla cactus is dripping black tar (substance) on the ground. What could it be?
Your cholla is suffering from bacterial rot usually due to too much water. Cut off all infected branches at the joints and disinfect the cuts with alcohol or bleach and water.
~ I bought an agave and it was shipped bare root and has about 8 pups on it. The pups (baby agave plants) do not look to have any roots just the mother plant. Can I cut them off at the base and let them dry for a day or so, or just plant them right up.The mother is about 9 inches across and is a gorgeous specimen. I do not want to mess a a great agave like this one. What should I do?
You can safely remove the agave pups from the mother plant. After removing the agave pups, allow them to air dry for a couple of days before replanting them. Make sure to sterilize your cutting tool with alcohol or bleach before performing your cut.
~ My agave plants are getting huge almost four feet tall plus. Can the lower leaves be trimmed off without injuring the plant, if so how and what do I use.
It's important to wear goggles while pruning for it is very easy to get your eye damaged. Take a curved pruning saw and thick leather gloves and begin pruning from the very bottom. Make sure you cut as close to the main trunk as possible. Cut off the pads from top to bottom and not in the middle. After making several cuts, stand back and take a look and you will know where to make your next cut.
~ I have a huge agave plant which hasn't bloomed yet but it is dying. The leaves are turning yellow, then brown. down in the center of the agave you can see yellow leaves. Is there anything to do to save this beautiful agave?
Your agave has probably been attacked by the agave snout weevil. Once the leaves begin turning brown there is not much you can do to save it. I recommend removing the dying agave and then treating the same area with insecticide granules for killing agave snout weevils.
~ We have 2 large night blooming cyrus cactus (over 15 ft) that has been healthy and blooming beautifully. In the last year, one has become yellowish and is not blooming. Some of the arms are dark and we have cut them off. We have used cactus fertilizer as directed and are seeing no improvement. Any other suggestions?
Cut out all the unhealthy spears at the very bottom of the base to promote new healthy growth. Begin feeding your cacti once a month with bone meal and fish fertilizer. The bone meal is high in nitrogen and should help to bring back the dark green color in your cacti. Fertilize your cacti only during warm months.
~ During a recent thunderstorm a potted totem cactus (about 4' tall) blew over and the cactus broke in half. Now I have 2 pieces, the bottom one is about 2 feet tall and is still rooted in the pot. The broken-off top piece is also about 2 feet.. Any hope here? It seems they grow from the tip, so, does the one in the pot have a chance to continue to grow? And, can I plant the broken off piece in another pot, and if so, what's the best way to go about that?
The stub can stay where it is or be repotted in a well draining soil. It will put out new top growth within six months. The top piece that broke off needs to air dry for three two four days before planting it. Totems are very quick to take root, usually within three months.
~ My 6" tall euphoria stenoclada is showing signs of dying in different areas. What should I do?
In the areas where your epuhoria stenoclada appears to be dying, cut back the dying brach at the joint or next to the main trunk. Make sure to sterilize your cutting tool with alcohol or bleach before making any cuts. Feed it fish fertilizer once a month during the warm months and this should help it to recover from added stress.
~ My 3 1/2' barrel is leaning at about a 45 degree angle. What can I do to keep it from falling? The only water it gets is from rain or sprinkler spray. It's not on the sprinkler system.
You do not have a water problem with your barrel cactus. Most cylindrical-columnar barrel cacti naturally lean in the desert. If you want it to grow straight you must deepen the whole that it's in and thoroughly pack the soil all around it. The best way is to leave it alone and let it be free to express it's own unique growth patterns.
~ Our Christmas cactus leaves look withered, is it too dry?
Usually when a cactus or succulent plant's foliage begin to wrinkle it's a sign of it being very thirsty or it has been over watered . The best test to determine the problem is to put your index finger as far into the soil as possible to find out if it is completely dry r not. If it is add water, if not, don't water for a few more days.
~ I have a large brain cacti that has been mostly shaded for 5 years and recently moved it. I'm not sure what is going on but is turning white and really don't want to loose it. Help!
It sounds like it got severely sunburned when you moved it to it's new location. This variety of cactus does not like direct sunlight but does better in total shade or filtered sun. Whenever transplanting any cacti during hot sunny days they need to be covered with 30% sun block-out to prevent them from becoming sunburned. By late summer it should already be acclimated to the sun and will no longer need the shade cloth. You can not leave it exposed to a lot of sun after you remove the cloth.
~ How do you trim yuccas?
You can trim your yucca foliage with a serrated bread knife at the base. To keep the yuccas natural look never cut in the middle of it's elongated leaves.
~ We have an organ pipe cactus with 5 stems. Two of these have grown to at least 20' above our roof line.
Can these be cut back?
Your organ pipe cactus branches can easily be amputated and replanted again if done correctly. Take a pruning saw and sterilize it with alcohol. Then make you cut as far down the brach as possible. Your knife should almost be touching the ground. Take a piece of carpet and wrap it around the organ pipe cactus brach and move it to another location. Before planting the amputated branches you should disinfect the wounds by spraying one part clorox and ten parts water on both wounds. Place the branches in a shady area where they can air dry for at least ten days.
Keeping Your Cactus Alive & Healthy Is Our Passion!