Bunny Ear Cactus Best Care Tips for Beginner’s

A healthy potted Bunny-ear
Potted Bunny Ear Cactus (Source: Pixels)

Bunny Ear cactus is perfect for a novice gardener because of its low maintenance requirement.

In addition, it has an admirable fuzzy and rabbit’s ear-like appearance.

Being a cacti lover, I love bunny ear cactus the most because of its softer appearance with short bristles.

This cactus is a perfect addition to any indoor shelf or outdoor garden.

Generally, Bunny Ear Cactus prefers a desert-like arid climate with a temperature around 70-100°F and at least 6 hours of full direct sunlight. Moreover, a well-aerated potting mix with light watering and occasional fertilization is best to keep it healthy.

Bunny-Ear-Cactus-Care
Bunny Ear Cactus Care (Source: Unsplash)

It loves open land and can easily invade if the environmental conditions are in its favor.

However, growing it on a pot gives a beautiful view with its aesthetic appearance.

Some basic gardening tips are all you will need to grow an adorable bunny’s ear on your own.

This article has every bit of information in detail that you may need to grow a healthy bunny ear on your own.

Overview of Bunny Ear Cactus

Bunny ear cactus is commonly called golden bristle cactus, polka dot cactus, or angel’s wing.

Golden bristle cactus is easily identifiable with its segmented pads, which are in pairs and resemble rabbit’s ears.

These cactus don’t have real spines, but the pads are covered with bristly hairs called glochids.

The general overview of the bunny ear cactus is summarized below.

Scientific NameOpuntia microdasys
FamilyCactaceae
OriginMexico
USDAHardiness Zones 9-12
NatureSucculent
LifecyclePerennial
Growing seasonSpring and summer
FloweringSpring
EdibilityEdible fruits

Bunny Ear Cactus Best Care Tips for Beginners

Bunny Ear cactus is an easy to take care plant. It can be a perfect option for anyone to satisfy their green thumb.

Plants of the Cactaceae family belong to the arid and semi-arid climatic conditions.

The basic thing to do while growing a cactus is to make the environment and soil like the desert.

Here is a table with requirements to take care of Bunny ear cactus:

Bunny Ear Cactus CareIdeal conditions
WateringOnce in a or two weeks in summer
Cease watering in winter
Temperature70-100°F (21-37°C) - Summer
50-65°F (10-18°C) -Winter
Humidity40-50% Relative Humidity
Light and Location14 hours of full bright sunlight.
South or West facing window is best for location.
Soil Well draining with Coarse Sand and Pumice.
Use cactus soil mix.
FertilizerSlow release fertilizers Only during Spring and Summer season.
Growth Habit40-60 cm tall with no Central stem.
Pads are 6–15cm long, 4–12cm wide.
Erect growth habit
BloomYellow
3–5 cm in diameter
Bloom in spring season
Potting and RepottingShallow Ceramic or Plastic pots with 1-3 drainage holes.
Repot when the pot is full or roots come out from drainage holes.
PestMealy bugs and Scale insects
DiseaseStem and Root Rot
PropagationStem cutting or Seeds
PruningCut the diseased part as soon as seen.
To keep the plant in desired size.
ToxicityNot Toxic
Edible

1. Adequate Sunlight and Proper Location

Being a cactus, bunny ear loves full and bright sunlight. Therefore, it is best to keep it in the spot that receives full Sun throughout the day.

Generally, Bunny Ear Cactus requires 14 hours of full sunlight to thrive.

If you live in apartments in cities, it may not be possible to find a spot receiving Sun throughout the day in your home.

In such a case, try to provide your polka dot cactus with at least 6 hours of full sunlight and bright indirect light at other times of the day.

Cactus placed in abundant indirect light at the window.
Cactus placed in abundant indirect light at the window (Source: Pixabay)

Problems Due to Lack of Sunlight

  • Pale or unhealthy-looking appearance.
  • Browning or rotting symptoms in stem and roots.
  • Stunted growth or unusually long growth of pads toward the light source.

Tips to Provide Adequate Light and Location

  • Place your cacti in a South or West-facing window to provide enough sunlight throughout the day.
  • Avoid placing your cacti in high humid rooms like the kitchen or bathroom.
  • Place your cactus 6 to 12 inches below cool white Fluorescent lights (grow lights) for 14 to 16 hours to compensate for the plant’s light requirements.
  • In winter, the bunny ear doesn’t need full direct sunlight as in summer; hence can be placed in a spot receiving bright indirect light.
  • If your plant shows problematic symptoms, place it in full direct sunlight for some days till it revives.
Grow Light for Cactus
Grow Light for Cactus (Source: Amazon)

2. Watering Requirement

Being a cactus species and succulent body type, Bunny Ear cactus can survive in less water and store water on its stem.

Therefore, only some sprinkles of water can be enough for your plant to quench its thirst.

You can water your cacti once every two weeks during the summer, while ceasing watering during the winter is best for their health.

Besides, make sure to wait until the soil is completely dried before watering again.

Make sure not to overwater your cacti. Dry soil gives cacti the desert-like soil conditions that suit best for it.

Problems Due to Improper Watering

  • Even though the bunny ear can survive without water for a long time, it becomes pale and brown when it cannot bear the neglect.
  • Lack of growth and shriveling of pad tips are the common symptoms of low water conditions.
  • The cactus may become dry or callused when the lack of water condition is prolonged.
  • Root rot is the biggest suffering your cacti may go through in case of overwatering.
  • When it gets overwatered, Bunny Ear starts to get shrivel, drop downwards, and start to fall over.
  • Brown spots are commonly seen in an overwatered cactus.
Wrinkled Cactus
Wrinkled Cactus (Source: Unsplash)

Tips to Provide Adequate Watering

  • Water your bunny ear once in two weeks, ideally. However, you can water it ahead if the soil is completely dry.
  • Before watering them, wait until the top 1 inch (2.5 cm) feels dry.
  • Use unglazed terracotta pots with drainage holes. These pots drain out the excess water and help evaporate water, keeping the soil dry.
  • Always use a well-draining potting mix so that the soil doesn’t hold much water.
  • Avoid placing your cacti in high humid rooms like the kitchen or bathroom, as it is easy to overwater your plant in higher humid conditions.

3. High Temperature

The Bunny ear cactus loves warm temperature, and the ideal temperature is 70-100°F (21-37°C) for the summer and 50-65°F (10-18°C) for the winter season.

Even though it tolerates a lesser temperature during winter, low temperature during the summer season can be a deal-breaker.

Moreover, the bunny ear is intolerant to frost. Hence, it is necessary to maintain the temperature range to keep the cacti happy.

Problems Due to Improper Temperature

  • A combination of high temperature more than 38°C and full exposure to Sun can cause sunburn in cactus, damaging the spines, stem, and root system.
  • Extreme cold or freezing temperatures may cause the cactus tissues to soften. The tissue initially turns white, which later will turn black and decay.
  • Failure to maintain the temperature may ultimately cause the death of the plant.

Tips to Maintain Ideal Temperature

  • Air conditioners and heaters can be used to provide the ideal temperature conditions.
  • However, don’t place the pot near them to prevent damage from the constant hot breeze.
  • Don’t forget to bring the outdoor placed Cacti indoors during the very cold seasons.
  • Keep your cacti away from single pan windows during the winter season.
  • You can use frost cloths and burlap material to cover your plant during the winter season.

4. Low Humidity

Cactus like dry air, just like in the desert. Therefore, very high humidity is not tolerated and may cause the rotting of stems and roots.

The adequate relative humidity for bunny ear cactus is 40- 50%.

Most easily seen signs of high humidity are green or black stem molds and stem rots.

Cactus-stem-rot
Cactus Stem Rot (Source: Pixabay)

Tips to Maintaining Ideal Humidity

  • Don’t place your bunny ear cactus in the kitchen or bathroom, where the humidity is naturally high.
  • You can use a dehumidifier to sustain the ideal condition.
  • A hygrometer can check the humidity of different locations before deciding a place for your plant.
  • Misting your cacti occasionally is advisable but don’t overdo it.

Interested in adopting Pincushion Cactus!! Here you go 14 Tips for Pincushion Cactus Care

5. Proper Soil Mix

The desert has highly aerated and draining soil which is ideal for the growth of cacti.

The cactus most loved the desert-like sandy soil as it provides perfect soil conditions for its growth.

Hence, try to use a potting mix with the following features to make it suitable for your bunny ear cactus:

Soil PropertiesImportance
Well AeratedFor undisturbed growth of roots.
Constitute Organic matterSlow releasing feed for cacti.
Well DrainingTo prevent water logging condition which can be detrimental to the cacti.
pH5-7

You can easily buy soil mix ideally made for cacti and succulents from nurseries to ensure proper growth.

Some recommendations of potting mix for the Bunny ear cactus, which you can easily find on Amazon, are:

Moreover, you can also make your ideal potting mix at home by using the following ingredients:

  • Three parts regular garden soil
  • Two parts perlite, gravel, grit, or crushed granite
  • Three parts sand

OR by mixing equal parts of peat and perlite.

Hoffman Organic Cactus and Succulent Soil
Hoffman Organic Cactus and Succulent Soil (Source: Amazon)

Problems Due to Improper Soil Mix

  • Inadequate drainage is a result and can cause root rot.
  • Lack of aeration causes difficulty in the growth of roots.
  • Poor root development.
  • Using untreated or old soil mix while repotting may cause pest and disease problems.

Tips for the Best Soil Mix

  • Make sure that your cactus soil mix has a combination of 20% clay, 40% silt, and 40% sand which is best for cactus.
  • 40 – 50% organic matter and 50 – 60% inorganic matter are the desired mix for cactus to balance nutrients and good drainage.
  • You can add perlite or sand if you think your potting mix is not easily draining.

6. Proper Fertilization

Bunny ear cactus doesn’t need to be fed to survive.

However, if you want it to bloom and fruit, you may want to feed your cacti occasionally during the spring and summer seasons.

Add some slow-release fertilizer or compost during repotting to fulfill the feed requirement of the cacti.

Note: Overfertilizing your cacti is more detrimental than under fertilizing as it makes the cacti more vulnerable to disease and pests.

Some best fertilizers for feeding Bunny Ear cactus are:

FertilizerFeature
Miracle-Gro Succulent Plant Food1. Feed ratio : 0.5-1-1
2. As it has low N-P-K ratio, it has lower burning effect on the leaves even if it is spilled.
Succulent Fertilizer1. Liquid Fertilizer.
2. It can be easily diluted by adding water to use in low concentration.
Miracle-Gro Indoor Plant Food Spikes1. Slow- release fertilizer.
2. You can simply push the spikes inside soil and they release nutrients slowly.
Succulents & Cactus Plant Food1. Slow release fertilizer and granular in formulation.
2. Release fertilizer every time you water your plant.

Tips to Fertilize Bunny Ear Cactus Properly

  • Fertilize your bunny ear cacti every two weeks during the blooming and growing period, i.e., spring and summer and during the first year of plantation.
  • While applying fertilizer in a pot with the standing plant, add fertilizer, water it thoroughly, and dry the soil completely. This helps in the proper absorption of feed by the plant.
  • Avoid fertilizing dormant Cacti during the winter.
  • If you want cacti to bloom faster, use NPK fertilizer with a ratio of 5-10-10.

7. Growth Habits

Bunny Ear cactus is a slow grower and has an erect growth habit.

It is a shrub that grows up to 40-60 cm tall and has shallow roots.

It doesn’t have a central stem, and the stem grows like pads 6–15cm long and 4–12cm wide.

Moreover, the pads always grow in pairs giving rabbits’ ear-like appearance.

Further, the pads are oblong to circular and bright green when young, which becomes pale green later.

Besides, the polka dot cactus don’t have spines. Instead, the pads have small bumps on the surface called areoles with numerous white or yellow glochids (hair-like prickles) in dense clusters.

Tips for Vigorous Growth of Bunny Ear Cactus

  • Properly maintain the watering and lighting conditions.
  • Keep an eagle’s eye on the disease signs and trim the diseased parts as soon as you notice them.
  • Repotting at least once in two years is best for cactus growth.
  • Generally, cactus wants to live alone and unbothered so neglecting them sometimes is also a way to keep it happy.

8. Flowering Habits

Bunny Ear Cactus blooms after it is fully matured, only in ideal environmental conditions outdoors.

It rarely blooms indoors only if all the requirements are fulfilled well.

Therefore, it needs a year-round of ideal conditions to bloom in spring.

The flower of Bunny ear cactus is yellow with 3–5 cm in diameter.

It usually has a solitary flower on the top section of the pads on both the margins and the faces.

Beautiful Yellow Bloom of Bunny Ear Cactus.
Bunny Ear Cactus Bloom (Source: Pixabay)

Edible fruits follow the flower blooms of the spring season.

Fruits of bunny ear cactus are fleshy, spherical, and 3cm in diameter.

Moreover, it is red to purple and covered in areoles and bristles.

9. Common Pests in Bunny Ear Cactus

Bunny Ear cactus is generally pest-free, but sometimes they are bothered by common pests such as mealybugs and scales.

scale-insect-on-cactus
Scale insect on cactus.(Source: Wikipedia Commons)

Plants are generally bothered by insects when weak due to lack of optimum care or excess watering and feeding.

Name of PestSymptoms
Mealy BugsFallen needles.
White patches on plant body.
Scale insectPlant covered with Clusters of flat, circular, gray bumps.
Yellow or brown spots on cactus body.

Solutions

  • Pick and remove the insects if they are small in number.
  • You can also use rubbing alcohol in a 1:1 ratio with water to wipe off the pests from the stem.
  • Spray neem oil when the infestation is high.
  • Use yellow sticky traps to capture the flying insects.
  • If other methods fail to reduce pest numbers, you can use chemical insecticides like imidacloprid or acetate.
Neem Oil for Pests Control
Neem Oil for Pests Control (Source: Amazon)

Preventive Measures

  • You should check and quarantine the plant before bringing a new plant to your collection.
  • Always use clean and pest-free potting mix and propagation materials.
  • You may also remove the mealybugs with a strong water spray, but don’t forget to cover the soil before spraying to prevent overwatering.

10. Common Fungal and Bacterial Diseases

The disease that most commonly affects the Bunny Ear cactus is root and stem rot.

The rot is caused due to fungus or bacteria because of overwatering or high humidity.

Anthracnose is a common fungal disease caused by Colletotrichum spp.

The plant becomes brown with black spots around the base, and roots are brown or black with a mushy appearance.

Moreover, the bacterial rot in the cactus is caused by Erwinia amylovora.

The most common symptom of bacterial rot is the black or brown colored sap that oozes out from the diseased part.

Solutions

  • Stop watering the plant and place the pot in sunlight to dry out the water.
  • Remove the cacti from the pot and cut off all the affected parts with a scissor.
  • Then place it for 3-5 days exposing the roots to air. After that, you can again plant it with a fresh potting mix.
  • In extreme root rot, it is not possible to revive the cacti. So, take a cutting of unaffected stem and plant it on new pot, discarding old cactus.
  • Apply copper fungicide, Benomyl, or other fungicides for chemical treatment.

Preventive Measures

  • You should maintain proper drainage and do not overwater the plant.
  • Do not place the plant in naturally humid conditions like the kitchen or bathroom.
  • Add a layer of small pumice stones to the bottom of the container to prevent the drainage hole from being clogged with soil.
  • Keep some space between the pots to allow airflow.
  • Treat the soil before replacing the plant if the plant gets infected.

11. Propagation Methods

Propagating Bunny Ear cactus with its stem or pads is the most used and easy propagation method.

The pads of the bunny ear can produce roots within 3-4 weeks if provided a favorable environment.

The best time to propagate Bunny Ear is summer, as the cacti will get enough time to develop a root system before it goes dormant in winter.

propagation-cactus-plant
Propagation of Bunny Ear cactus from pads (Source: Pixahive)

Step by Step Guide to Propagate Bunny Ear Cactus

  1. Select some pads from the old plant that are matured and dark green for propagation.
  2. With a sharp knife, make a straight, clean cut from the pad’s base. Slice off a big portion of the head if it’s a columnar cactus.
  3. For rotten bases, use the same method: slice off the healthy portion to keep and discard the rest.
  4. Cut off 3-4 matured pads from the cactus. Use thick gloves to prevent pricking by glochids.
  5. Then keep the pads exposing them to air to form callus on the wound for 24 hours.
  6. Now plant the pad on a new pot with fresh well-draining potting mix. And place it on a location that receives at least 3-4 hours of direct sunlight.
  7. Water the plant regularly to help your cacti develop a strong rooting system in the first year of planting.

Besides cutting, Bunny ear cactus can also be propagated with seeds.

However, seeds are very rarely found as it is known to produce seeds only in Australian deserts.

Also read about Step by Step guidelines to Propagate Orchid Cactus

12. Potting and Repotting

The best pots for planting Bunny Ear cactus are Ceramic terracotta and glazed ceramic pots with 1-3 drainage holes.

These pots help keep the excess moisture away with the help of drainage holes and evaporation.

Moreover, you can also use plastic and cemented pots, but glass and metal pots are not advisable for growing cacti.

The glass pots don’t have drainage holes, so they cannot provide the required draining facilities. And, the metal pots are highly affected by temperature fluctuation.

Correct size, material, and drainage holes are important to look after while selecting a container for Bunny Ear cactus.

Ceramic Terracotta Pots for Ming Thing Cactus
Ceramic Terracotta Pots for Cactus (Source: Amazon)

Problems Due to Improper Pot

  • Lack of drainage holes traps water in the pot causing root rot.
  • Large-sized pots hold more water than required by the cactus causing fungal infection of the root.
  • Small-sized pots become root-bound very fast, depriving cacti’s proper growth and needs frequent repotting.

Tips for Selecting Proper Pots

  • There should be a 14-inch gap between the cactus’ main body and the pot’s rim for the optimally sized pot.
  • Select a pot about 10% wider than the cactus’ width. For instance, for a plant’s width of 3 inches, choose a 3.5 inches wide container.
  • As cactus have shallow roots, select a shallow pot, as the water gets deep in deep pots which plants cannot use.
  • Also, deep pots hold more water than required causing humid conditions.

Repotting of Bunny Ear cactus

Repotting of Bunny Ear cactus should be done when the plant shows the root-bound symptom, i.e., roots come out from the drainage holes. It can be done every one or two years.

Repot you Bunny Ear Cactus in the early summer months after the bloom has finished.

Steps for Repotting a Bunny Ear Cactus

  1.  At first, select a pot slightly larger than the older one, i.e., an inch or two higher in diameter.
  2.  Now, place a layer of porous material like a coffee filter to cover the drainage hole and prevent soil leakage while filling.
  3.  Then, fill the pot with some fresh potting mix.
  4.  Now, use a gardening tool or a blunt knife to loosen up the soil and remove the cacti carefully from the old pot.
  5.  Untangle the tangled roots and cut off excess roots or root balls.
  6.  Now, plant the cacti in a new container.
  7. At last, water your plant and place it in a place with bright sunlight.
Repotting Bunny Ear Cactus
Repotting Bunny Ear Cactus (Source: Unsplash)

13. Pruning a Bunny Ear Cactus

Generally, cacti are not pruned; however, it removes the diseased parts affected by rotting.

In addition, the rotting symptoms once seen on the roots or stem should be cut off to prevent its spreading further.

Besides, pruning is also done to keep the cacti in the desired shape and size.

Tips to Prune a Bunny Ear Cactus

  • Always use thick gloves to protect your hand from prickling and disinfected tools while pruning your cacti.
  • Keep an eagles’ eye on the rotting symptoms and prune the diseased part as soon as you notice it.
  • You may prune the root balls and very long roots while repotting the cactus.

14. Bunny Ear Cactus’s Toxicity

Bunny Ear cacti are not toxic to humans and animals. Rather, the pads and fruits are considered edible.

You can eat the pads and fruits raw or cooked; however, remove the spines and glochids before eating them. They have a mucilaginous texture when eaten.

The spines can be problematic as they can be easily detached and fly with the air.

It is advisable to remove the glochids with tweezers when placed indoors as the spines can irritate the eyes.

Edible Bunny Ear Cactus Served as Food
Edible Bunny Ear Cactus Served as Food (Source: Pexels)

Additional Tips to Keep Bunny Ear Cactus Problem-Free

Bunny Ear cactus are very hardy and satisfied with little attention, making them very easy plants to take care of.

It is better to keep them alone to make them happy as new gardeners may be reluctant to care more than necessary and cause problems.

Some tips for Bunny Ear cactus care to keep them problem-free are:

  • Don’t overwater and over-fertilize Bunny Ear as it causes more health problems by making them weak.
  • Don’t keep the cacti in water for long. Instead, remove Remove the water from the drip tray regularly.
  • Don’t let the temperature dip below 50 degrees Fahrenheit to keep your cactus healthy.
  •  Keeping your cacti in the abundant Sun is the solution for most problems. So, make sure your plant gets enough sunlight throughout the day.
A healthy potted Bunny-ear
Potted Bunny Ear Cactus (Source: Pixels)

FAQs About Bunny Ear Cactus

1. Why is my Bunny Ear Cactus Leaning?

Leaning Bunny Ear cactus is mainly caused due to two reasons: due to lack of water or lack of enough sunlight.

You can check why your Bunny Ear is leaning by rotating the pot.

If it were leaning towards the Sun due to the lack of sunlight, it would lean back in the opposite direction to find the Sun.

If this doesn’t work, then lack of watering may be the reason.

Therefore, rinse your cactus thoroughly till the water drips from the drainage holes and let it stay in the Sun.

2. Why is my Bunny Ear Cactus Turning White?

White patches on the skin of your Bunny Ear are caused due to the infestation of mealy bugs.

Mealybugs attack the Bunny Ear sucking its sap and causing white patches.

You can wipe off the mealybugs using rubbing alcohol in a cotton ball.

3. Why is my Bunny Ear Cactus Falling Apart?

The major reason for the Bunny Ears cactus to fall apart is the mealybug infestation.

Besides, it may also be caused due to the lack of water, sunlight, or burn.

Also watch,

Conclusion

Bunny ear cactus can be a cute addition to your cactus collection.

Their polka dot pads give a vibrant view to your indoor.

Moreover, hardy and low maintenance can be the best option for the city apartments where plant lovers may have a very busy schedule.

Read more on Why is my Cactus Shriveling Up and Wrinkling?

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