En EspaŅol

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.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?


Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

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

Search Smarty Plants
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions
Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.
Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.
rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

Sunday - June 03, 2012

From: Temple, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Diseases and Disorders, Cacti and Succulents
Title: Problems with Strawberry Hedgehog cactus from Temple TX
Answered by: Barbara Medford


I had purchased a Strawberry hedgehog Cactus (echinocereus stramineus) a few years ago from the Wildflower Center's annual plant sale and planted it then. It has now started to brown from bottom to top. How can I stop this and why is this happening? The only reason I can imagine why this has happened is because I recently pruned a plant back that was covering the cactus, but the cactus was normal before I did this. Help Please! Thanks ahead of time!


The very first question we need to ask is, is this plant being grown in a pot outside?  We followed this plant link Echinocereus stramineus (Strawberry hedgehog cactus) to our webpage on this plant and learned that it cannot tolerate temperatures below 50 deg F. Plants in pots are only protected by a thin layer of potting soil and a thinner layer of plastic or terra cotta and are more vulnerable to freeze damage. So, if the pot was exposed to temperatures under 50 deg, especially for several hours, that may explain the browning.

The next thing we would consider is your statement that you pruned back a plant that was covering the cactus. Normally, that would be considered a good thing, because this cactus needs full sun, and may not have been getting it. But maybe the sudden removal of that shade has caused sunscald.

From Cactus Art, here is more information on Echinocereus stramineus (Strawberry hedgehog cactus), including this sentence:

"Rots easily; it is sensitive to overwatering (rot prone) needs a very good drainage to avoid rotting, Keep drier and cool in winter." 

Somehow, since the plant is browning from bottom to top, we suspect that rot may be the answer. When we searched on "treating rot in cactus," we found this site, Cactus Expert 2. At the middle of the page is a discussion of how to identify rot in a cactus and what to do about it. From CactiGuide.com is a website on cacti pests and diseases.

We truly salute your bravery. Hope you have some good heavy leather gloves.


From the Image Gallery

Strawberry hedgehog cactus
Echinocereus stramineus

Strawberry hedgehog cactus
Echinocereus stramineus

Strawberry hedgehog cactus
Echinocereus stramineus

Strawberry hedgehog cactus
Echinocereus stramineus

Strawberry hedgehog cactus
Echinocereus stramineus

Strawberry hedgehog cactus
Echinocereus stramineus

More Diseases and Disorders Questions

Beautyberry Dying Back
August 06, 2015 - I've got an American Beautyberry which I planted in the spring. It's now about 2-3 feet tall and has 3 trunks (or limbs). It's in an area which gets about 5 hours of direct sun per day and I've be...
view the full question and answer

Tan, rough, fan-shaped growth on mountain laurels
July 01, 2014 - A tan rough fan-shaped "something" is growing at the end of the mountain laurel branch where the flowers would be .. what is it and can it harm the plant?
view the full question and answer

Reason for tree canopy dieback from Mahopac NY
May 21, 2012 - Dear Mr. Smarty Plants: Not a questions, just sharing, re person in Texas whose Ash Jupiter appeared to be dying "canopy very thin on top". We moved to Putnam Co. NY in 1970. Our house was shaded by...
view the full question and answer

Diseased cypress trees in Connecticut
June 09, 2009 - Cypress trees in Connecticut browning on interior. Tips of longer limbs completely brown, single limbs dying one at a time, sap oozing out of mainstem underneath dying limb. I do not see any canker...
view the full question and answer

Possible reasons for yellowing leaves in seedlings in Ohio
June 19, 2006 - I have a problem with my seedlings. They start yellowing of one leaf then die. When I remove the leaf another one starts. I have photos. I have two differant seedling plants and they are experiencing...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center