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?

Share

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
1 rating

Thursday - August 29, 2013

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Xeriscapes, Drought Tolerant, Cacti and Succulents
Title: Bringing upright a leaning cholla cactus
Answered by: Guy Thompson

QUESTION:

I have a 3 ft. tall Cylindropuntia bigelovii that fell over after recent rains. I righted it and supported it with garden stakes for about a month. I was afraid to pull too hard on the lower part of the trunk, fearing that it would break, so it leans a bit in one direction. I removed all but 1 of the stakes yesterday and it seems stable. Should I be concerned that it will fall over again because of the leaning trunk, or should I just let it do its thing? (I have corrected a problem with water routing so the problem with rainfall should not reoccur.)

ANSWER:

Note from the attached image that cholla do often lean in nature.  However, if  your garden-grown Cylindropuntia bigelovii (Teddybear cholla) grows to its maximum height and absorbs a full complement of water it might be heavy enough to topple over if leaning.  To make the cholla stand upright you can place a stake opposite the leaning side and attach a strap from the stake to the stem.  Then, gradually, over several weeks, tug the plant stem to a more upright stance by tightening the strap a little bit every few days.  This way the cholla will slowly adjust to the stress placed on its stem. 

Another possibility, since cactus root systems spread quite far from the stem laterally but are not deep, would be to push straight down with a spade about 2 feet from the leaning side and gently prize the soil (and the roots) up slightly to lift the whole plant into a more upright position.  This would risk the undesirable exposure of surface roots.  Sprinkling powdered sulfur on any exposed roots would lessen the chance of fungal invasion.

Remember that cacti require very good drainage.  Make certain that future rains do not leave the ground around your cholla water-saturated for more than a short time.

 

From the Image Gallery


Teddybear cholla
Cylindropuntia bigelovii

More Cacti and Succulents Questions

Growing Conditions for Yucca cernua
October 22, 2011 - Nodding Yucca or Yucca cernua: I bought many lovely plants at the Wildflower Center sale on Friday, among them, a Nodding Yucca or Yucca cernua. 24 of the 25 plants I bought are already in the grou...
view the full question and answer

When should cochineal bugs be on prickly pear cactus?
January 05, 2012 - I am a fibers artist that would like to harvest the cochineal bugs from the prickly pear cactus. I would like to know what time of year should I expect to find the cochineal bugs around the Austin ar...
view the full question and answer

Crown rot in Agave americana
June 13, 2007 - My Century Plant's leaves get soft toward the base and eventually fall over and I have to cut them off. What causes this?
view the full question and answer

Reasons to leave a century plant in place in Florida
November 01, 2010 - Can you please list ALL the reasons to leave a century plant (as opposed to cutting it way back or removing it) in the wilds of the sand dunes on the coast of Florida, other than its prominent beauty?
view the full question and answer

Problem garden strip in Austin
May 22, 2014 - Currently I live in the west half of a duplex. There is a small strip of dirt about two feet wide between the wall and the sidewalk in the backyard. It faces west, meaning it only gets sunlight duri...
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants's Facebook profile Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.

Mr. Smarty Plants wants you to be his Facebook friend. Click the Facebook icon to add yourself to Mr. Smarty Plants list of friends.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | SITEMAP | STAFF
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center