The Bunny Ear Cactus (Opuntia microdasys) is native to central and northern Mexico. It is also known as the Bunny Ear Cactus, Polka Dot Cactus, and the Angel’s Wings Cactus. This cactus generally grows in clumps of oval pads that can get 2-6 inches tall.
The stems resemble flattened pads that are green to light green in color. They are dotted with small, prickly needle-like areoles that are predominantly white but sometimes brown or yellow. These are called “glochids”; spine-like protrusions may look harmless but cause severe skin irritation if handled without gloves. The plant looks quite comical when fully grown, with pads growing in pairs that resemble bunny ears. So it’s no surprise it’s one of the most popular cacti for home and office décor.
- Opuntia microdasys Main Characteristics
- Bunny Ear Cactus Care
- Cultivars of Opuntia microdasys
- Propagating Bunny Ear Cactus
- Potting and Repotting Bunny Ear Cactus
- Common Pests
- Common Problems
- All About the Bunny Ear Cactus (Video)
Opuntia microdasys Main Characteristics
|Common Name||Bunny Ear Cactus, Polka Dot Cactus, Angel’s Wings Cactus|
|Botanical Name||Opuntia microdasys|
|Native Range||Central and northern Mexico|
|USDA Hardiness Zones||9 to 12|
|Mature Size||Height: 2-3 feet; Spread: 4-6 feet|
|Propagation methods||by seeds, by stem segments|
Bunny Ear Cactus Care
The Bunny Ear Cactus requires very little care, making it an excellent option for beginners. Although this cactus can be considered low maintenance, there are still some things to consider when handling this plant. Here are a few tips.
Light and Location
They need plenty of sunlight to grow well. Somewhere between 6 to 8 hours of direct sunlight every day is the sweet spot in the summer. In the winter months, it likes partial shade conditions. So move it to a slightly shadier place once September rolls around.
Bunny Ear Cactus should be watered only when the soil is completely dry, and even then, only give it the bare minimum. It is essential to avoid over-watering, as this can kill the cactus. In watering regular intervals, stick to a time frame of about every two weeks. When in doubt, err on the side of less water. In winter, the plant goes dormant and needs even less water, so decrease the frequency accordingly.
The Bunny Ear Cactus grows best in the summertime when it gets hot and dry outside, much like other types of desert vegetation. Temperatures ranging from 70-100°F (21-37°C) are optimal in summer. In winter, cooler temperatures around 65 degrees Fahrenheit are appreciated.
Like most cacti, Bunny Ear Cactus likes warm, dry conditions, and you want to avoid excess humidity. If you live somewhere dry, Great! If not, here’s how you go about caring for your cactus. First, make sure that the pot you are using has drainage holes in the bottom so that the water can escape. Second, you can water your plant less frequently or use a potting mix that drains well. Lastly, if you’re still having problems, try placing your plant in a location where it will get more air circulation. More airflow means less moisture.
Fertilizing the Bunny Ear Cactus is unnecessary but can be done if desired. You can apply a weak liquid fertilizer every month during the growing season (March to September). However, be sure to avoid over-fertilizing, as this can damage or kill the cactus.
Cultivars of Opuntia microdasys
Albata and Albispina are the most famous cultivars of Opuntia microdasys. But Pallida, Malena, La Vila, Undulata, and Rufida are also widely cultivated.
Propagating Bunny Ear Cactus
The propagation of Opuntia microdasys is usually done via cuttings. When cutting, use a sharp tool to cut a pad from the mother plant. Make sure to take one of the larger-sized pads so that the cutting has more room for the roots to grow. Wait a full day before proceeding; the weeping cut needs to heal.
The best time to propagate is in late spring or early summer, when the new growth is actively growing. First, plant the cuttings in moist soil and keep them in a warm place until they start to grow new roots. The cutting doesn’t need water to grow roots, so hold off on watering until you’re sure it’s established. Once they have rooted, you can move them to their final location.
Although you can propagate using seeds, cuttings are easier to handle, mature faster, and have a higher chance of success.
Potting and Repotting Bunny Ear Cactus
When potting the Bunny Ear Cactus, use a well-draining soil mix that is slightly sandy. You can either buy a cactus potting mix from the store or make your own mix by combining one part potting soil, one part sand, and one part perlite. The Bunny Ear Cactus does not like to be over-watered, so make sure that whatever soiling medium you choose is fast-draining. Drill holes in the sides to help with drainage.
Repotting is usually needed every two years when the roots start becoming congested. To repot the Bunny Ear Cactus, you will need a pot at least 2 inches larger in diameter than the current pot. Make sure that the pot has drainage holes before planting. Gently tease out the cactus from the original pot (Remember to use gloves!). Clean the soil off the roots, then plant them in the fresh pot. Tamp down until it’s firmly in place.
Although Opuntia microdasys is non-toxic in the strictest sense of the word, that does not mean it is completely safe to be around. The glochids (the white polka dots) can cause skin irritation if touched. Pet owners need to be cautious.
Mealybugs and scale insects are the most common pests of Opuntia microdasys. These pests can cause severe damage to the cactus if left unchecked. But if sprayed with a standard insecticide or rubbing alcohol, they’re pretty easy to get rid of.
If the pads have turned mushy and soft, it’s a sign of root rot—the most likely cause of this overwatering. The mushy part of the plant is nine times out of ten, beyond saving. The best course of action is to protect the rest of the plant.
If the pads look sickly and crinkled, it’s a result of underwatering. Contrary to popular belief, it can happen to cacti as well. Water the plant every day for the next few days in small doses. But don’t let the compost remain wet; you don’t want to overcorrect and end up with a bigger problem than the one you started with.
All About the Bunny Ear Cactus (Video)
How to propagate Bunny Ears cactus?
The easiest way to propagate Bunny Ear cactus is by cuttings. First, cut a section of the pad along the width and wait a day or two for it to dry over. Next, dip the cut end in rooting hormone (available at most garden stores), then place the cutting in the potting mix. Keep the potting mix moist until the cutting roots.
How much water to give Bunny Ears cactus?
Bunny Ear Cactus needs little water but don’t forgo watering entirely. Instead, water the cactus only when the soil is completely dry. Use fast-draining soil, which contains a lot of sand and gravel for maximum drainage.
How to care for Bunny Ears cactus?
Opuntia microdasys is a succulent cactus often grown indoors as a potted plant. It prefers light, sandy soil with very little water and even less humidity. Full sun and occasionally bright, indirect light are the way to go. This cactus’s ideal indoor temperature range is between 70 and 100 degrees Fahrenheit.