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Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Saturday - April 07, 2012

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Cacti and Succulents
Title: Problems with claret cup cactus in Austin
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I have a claret cup cactus in a terra-cotta pot that bloomed beautifully a few years ago but hasn't since. This year, it set about a dozen buds and looked poised to bloom like crazy, but two weeks later the buds had turned dark, almost black, and started to shrivel up. Is this a disease problem I should be addressing, or just one of those things?

ANSWER:

Echinocereus triglochidiatus (Claret cup) is native to North America and grows in Texas, so we're okay with that. What we are wondering is if it has been in that same pot all these years and is it outside or inside? If you will follow the above plant link, you will learn it has low water use, needs full sun (6 or more hours of sun a day), prefers (but not exclusively) volcanic soils and can grow in clumps as much as 3 to 4 feet across. So, we're thinking if you started with a cute little cactus in a pot and it has lived in that same pot for years, indoors, and been watered with the other indoor plants, it has several strikes against it. Here is an article from Desert USA that can give you more information.

For specifics on what to do, this article  CactiGuide.com Cacti Pests and Diseases is very informative. Our opinion is that it needs to be divided or introduced into a much bigger pot, watered less, fertilized not at all, planted in a cactus or pumice soil. Very likely it is developing a rot condition and may or may not survive.

 

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