How to Grow And Take Care of Bunny Ears Cactus Plant


Updated: 05 Nov, 2023

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The bunny ear cactus (Opuntia microdasys) is a beloved indoor plant known for its appealing appearance and minimal upkeep requirements. Originally from Mexico, it goes by various common names such as angel’s wings cactus and polka dot cactus, in addition to bunny ear cactus.

Despite its adorable monikers, it’s important not to underestimate this cactus. While it may appear less menacing than other cactus varieties with large, formidable spines, the bunny ear cactus is just as prickly. Each white “dot” on its surface is a glochid, which consists of numerous tiny spines that can easily embed themselves in the skin.

Therefore, exercise caution when handling a bunny ear cactus, and consider using protective gloves if needed. However, before you get your heart set on acquiring one, we regret to inform you that finding an actual plant for sale is nearly impossible.

Read also: Bird of Paradise Plant Care & Growing Guide

Botanical NameOpuntia micro days
Common NameBunny ear cactus, angel’s wings cactus, polka dot cactus
Plant TypeCactus
Mature Size2-3 ft. tall, 4-5 ft. spread
Sun ExposureFull sun
Soil TypeSandy, well-draining
Soil pHAcidic, neutral
Bloom TimeSummer
Flower ColorYellow, white
Hardiness Zones9a, 9b, 10a, 10b, 11a, 11b
Native AreaMexico

What is a Bunny Ears cactus plant?

The Bunny Ears cactus (Opuntia microdasys) is a type of cactus native to Mexico. It is characterized by its distinctive flattened, oval-shaped pads that resemble the ears of a rabbit, which gives it its common name. This cactus is a popular houseplant known for its unique appearance and relatively low maintenance requirements, making it a favorite among plant enthusiasts. Despite its cute appearance, it’s important to handle the Bunny Ears cactus with care, as it has glochids – small, easily dislodged spines – that can embed themselves in the skin.

Bunny Ear Cactus Care

Caring for this cactus is a breeze, as it flourishes with minimal attention. The key to keeping the bunny ear cactus content and flourishing lies in providing ample sunlight and avoiding overwatering.

Light:
The bunny ear cactus thrives in consistent, direct sunlight. When kept indoors, it should be placed in the sunniest spot in your home, ideally receiving six to eight hours of direct sunlight daily. If grown indoors, position it near a south or west-facing window, or use a grow light for supplemental lighting. When cultivated outdoors, ensure it is not planted in a heavily shaded location.

Soil:
Similar to most cacti, the bunny ear cactus prefers dry, well-draining soils with a sandy texture. A standard cactus or succulent potting mix, readily available at nurseries or garden centers, will suffice. Alternatively, you can create your own potting mix by combining equal parts potting soil, coarse sand, and perlite.

Water:
This desert-dwelling plant is drought-tolerant and does not require frequent watering to thrive. It is highly sensitive to overwatering and can develop root rot if exposed to excessive moisture. Allow the soil to thoroughly dry out between waterings, and when in doubt, err on the side of waiting a bit longer before watering again. Keep in mind that in the desert, cacti can endure weeks, and sometimes even months, without water.

Temperature and Humidity:
The bunny ear cactus thrives in warm, arid conditions and is not frost-tolerant or suited for high humidity. Maintain temperatures between 70 to 100 degrees Fahrenheit (21 to 37 degrees Celsius) and ensure the potting mix drains well, with the pot having proper drainage holes to prevent excess moisture. While it can be grown outdoors year-round in USDA zones 9a to 11b, it should be brought indoors during winter to shield it from cold temperatures.

Fertilizer:
This cactus thrives in low-quality soils and does not require regular fertilization. However, an annual application of cactus or succulent fertilizer in early spring can help stimulate growth during its active growing phase.

Propagating the Bunny Ear Cactus

Much like other cacti, propagating the bunny ear cactus is easily done through cuttings. Just detach one of the pads from the cactus and let it sit for 24 hours to allow the base to form a callus. Afterward, plant the pad in a container filled with a well-draining potting mix and position it in a spot that receives a few hours of direct sunlight daily. Hold off on watering the new plant for a few weeks to ensure that roots have started to develop.

Opuntia Cactus Varieties

Tiger Pear ( Opuntia aurantiaca )

The tiger pear doesn’t form dense shrubs; instead, it has a spreading growth pattern. Its branches grow upright, bearing dark green to purple, flat and rounded pads. The flowers can range from yellow to yellow-orange, and the plant produces fleshy red-purple fruit as it matures.

Riverina Pear (Opuntia elata):

This succulent species forms a shrubby growth, featuring glossy green segments with a hint of purple. Its vibrant orange flowers give way to club-shaped, purplish-red fruit.

Wheel Cactus (Opuntia robusta):

This desert-dwelling variety adopts a tree-like structure with numerous branches. Its succulent pads are thick and segmented, sporting a blue-green hue in a circular shape. During its flowering phase, it showcases yellow blossoms and produces fleshy, globular-shaped fruit in a deep red shade.

Potting and Repotting the Bunny Ear Cactus

The bunny ear cactus should undergo repotting every two to three years. For a safe repotting process, make sure to have a sturdy pair of gardening or work gloves on hand to shield yourself from the sharp spines. Alternatively, you can use tongs to handle the cactus, avoiding direct contact.

While wearing gloves or using tongs to secure the cactus, gently loosen the root ball from the old pot and remove as much of the previous soil from around the roots as possible. Then, transfer the cactus into the new pot, adding fresh soil around the roots and firmly patting it into position.

Common Problems of Bunny Ears Cactus

  • Overwatered

When a Bunny Ears cactus is overwatered, it typically shows signs of falling over, severe drooping, shriveling, and may develop brown spots. In severe cases, it can even lead to root rot, potentially fatal if left in soggy conditions for too long. If you suspect overwatering, refrain from watering until the soil has completely dried out.

It’s also crucial to ensure that the soil used for your Bunny Ears allows for proper drainage. Sometimes, soil can become compacted, hindering effective water flow and leading to water retention.

  • Underwatered

Dehydration can also result in a drooping or shriveling Bunny Ear Cactus. Unlike overwatering, underwatering can cause the cactus to dry out and eventually perish. Remember, even though it’s a cactus, it still requires occasional thorough watering, especially when the soil is almost completely dry.

Fortunately, it’s generally easier to revive an underwatered Bunny Ears compared to an overwatered one. Consistent watering should help it regain vitality.

  • Etiolation

Insufficient light exposure can cause a Bunny Ear Cactus to droop, bend, or stretch out, a condition known as etiolation. When a plant doesn’t receive enough daily light, it will stretch toward the nearest light source in an attempt to capture more.

To prevent this, ensure your plant receives at least 6 hours of full to partial sunlight each day by placing it in a suitable location.

  • Frost Damage

Bunny Ear cacti are not frost-tolerant and can sustain damage from exposure to freezing temperatures, leading to drooping or wilting. When the weather turns very cold, or even beforehand, it’s advisable to bring them indoors. Just be sure to provide them with the necessary sunlight and avoid placing them near a frozen window.

Common Pests and Diseases:

  • USpider Mites: These tiny arachnids can infest the bunny ear cactus, causing stippling and discoloration of the leaves. They are often found in dry conditions. Regularly inspect the plant and treat it with insecticidal soap if necessary.
  • Mealybugs: These white, cotton-like insects can cluster on the cactus, feeding on its sap. They can be removed by wiping them off with a cotton swab dipped in rubbing alcohol.
  • Scale Insects: These pests look like small, waxy bumps on the plant. They can be removed manually or treated with insecticidal soap.
  • Aphids: These small insects can cluster on new growth, causing stunted growth and distortion of leaves. They can be treated with insecticidal soap or a strong stream of water.
  • Root Rot: Overwatering or poorly draining soil can lead to root rot. Symptoms include wilting, yellowing, and a mushy texture at the base of the plant. To prevent, ensure the soil dries out between waterings and use well-draining soil.
  • Powdery Mildew: This fungal disease appears as a white, powdery substance on the leaves. It can be treated with a fungicidal spray.
  • Bacterial Soft Rot: This bacterial infection causes the plant to become mushy and discolored. Remove affected areas and ensure proper drainage to prevent further infection.
  • Fungal Diseases: Various fungal diseases can affect the bunny ear cactus, particularly in humid conditions. Ensure good airflow and avoid overhead watering to prevent fungal issues.
  • Sunburn: Too much direct sunlight, especially in hot climates, can lead to sunburn on the cactus. Gradually introduce it to direct sunlight to avoid this issue.

Regularly inspecting your bunny ear cactus for signs of pests or diseases and addressing them promptly will help keep your plant healthy and thriving.

Where is the Bunny Ears cactus native to?

The Bunny Ears cactus is native to Mexico.

What are some common names for the Bunny Ears cactus?

The Bunny Ears cactus is also known by other common names, including Angel’s Wings cactus and Polka Dot cactus.

Is the Bunny Ears cactus low-maintenance?

Yes, the Bunny Ears cactus is considered a low-maintenance plant, making it a suitable choice for beginners and busy plant enthusiasts.

Are Bunny Ears cacti prickly?

Despite its cute appearance, the Bunny Ears cactus is equipped with glochids, which are small spines that can easily dislodge and embed in the skin. So, handling it requires caution.

Do I need to use protective gloves when handling a Bunny Ears cactus?

It is advisable to use protective gloves when handling a Bunny Ears cactus to prevent the glochids from embedding in your skin.

Can I find Bunny Ears cactus plants for purchase easily?

Unfortunately, it’s often challenging to find actual Bunny Ears cactus plants available for purchase.

Are there any special care instructions for Bunny Ears cacti?

Bunny Ears cacti thrive in bright, indirect light and require well-draining soil. They are drought-tolerant, so be cautious not to overwater. Additionally, they prefer warmer temperatures and can benefit from occasional fertilization during the growing season.

Conclusion

The Bunny Ears cactus (Opuntia microdasys) is a charming and popular houseplant known for its distinctive flattened pads resembling rabbit ears. Native to Mexico, it is appreciated for its unique appearance and low maintenance requirements, making it a favored choice among plant enthusiasts.

However, despite its endearing look, it’s important to handle this cactus with caution due to the presence of glochids, small spines that can embed in the skin. Overall, the Bunny Ears cactus is a delightful addition to any indoor plant collection, providing both aesthetic appeal and ease of care.


Mary Lloyster

Mary Lloyster

Mary, the ultimate oracle of indoor gardening! With years of experience and a flourishing indoor expo, Mary has become our go-to expert for all things related to house plants and indoor gardening. Despite her background in Political Science, Mary has discovered a delightful way to blend her full-time job with a touch of relaxation through indoor gardening. Now, she eagerly shares her wisdom and experiences with our readers on a daily basis. If you have any inquiries about house plants, indoor gardening techniques, or caring tips, don't hesitate to leave a comment for Mary in the designated section below!

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