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Gardening tips on growing Eve’s needle cacti

Author: Cathy Cromell
Issue: August, 2014, Page 125
Eve’s needle


Q - I transplanted Eve’s needle cacti in early summer, soaking them well, and I continued to apply 32 ounces of water weekly. Rabbits quickly ate the new tip growth, so I caged the plants. The cacti were initially the color of broccoli. Within a month after transplant, their exteriors turned yellow-green and new tip growth is banana yellow. Help!

A - Eve’s needle (Opuntia subulata) can survive rabbits eating the green “needles” at the top of the plant, which, botanically, are leaves. Rabbits eat them to obtain moisture, explains University of Arizona Maricopa County Cooperative Extension (MCCE) Master Gardener Christine Bahto. Keep the plants caged until they outgrow the rabbits, and use the cages to support shade cloth. Most shade cloth filters too much sunlight for cacti, so cover only the southwest portion of the cage. If completely covered, the plants grow long, skinny stems reaching for more light, a process called etiolation. California nurseries grow the majority of Eve’s needle. “Moving from a mild climate to Phoenix, they need pampering their first few years,” advises Bahto. She suggests this schedule until plants have been established for three full seasons: Water every two weeks, from mid-March to mid-October. Water once in November and February, and do not apply any water in December and January. Water should soak 8 to 12 inches deep and spread 1 to 2 feet from the base. Shade your Eve’s needle from intense summer sun from mid-May through mid-October.
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