Bunny ear cactus (Opuntia microdasys) | Care & info

Opuntia microdasys, also known as the bunny ear cactus or angel’s wings, is a small cousin of the more commonly known prickly pear cactus. Though it isn’t known for its culinary uses, it’s a popular houseplant due to its easy care and cute appearance. The pads of this cactus can resemble bunny ears and the glochids look like fur, hence the common name.

If you just bought your own Opuntia microdasys or are thinking about getting one, keep reading for everything you need to know about this cactus species!

Name(s) (common, scientific) Bunny ear cactus, angel wing cactus, polka dot cactus, Opuntia microdasys
Difficulty level Moderate
Recommended lighting Direct sun/high
Water When fully dry
Soil type Gritty

Opuntia microdasys care

As with most houseplants, the easiest way to figure out what type of care is needed is to look at the natural environment it grows in and imitate this as best as possible.

Opuntia microdasys naturally occurs in dry areas in Mexico with little water or humidity and plenty of sun. Mature plants can form large, dense shrubs.

Opuntia microdasys or bunny ear cactus | Full care guide

Opuntia microdasys location and temperature

Like many cacti, this plant has a preference for high light areas in your home. Direct sunlight is not a problem and actually appreciated. During summer, the normal temperature in your home is likely perfect for your Opuntia microdasys.

During winter, when these plants go into a resting period, you can move them to a slightly cooler spot with a bit less direct sun. If provided with this, your bunny ear cactus may reward you with a few yellow flowers once it matures.

If you’ve got some outdoor space, consider moving your Opuntia microdasys outside during the warmer months. It’ll love being able to benefit from the increased light and grow much more abundantly than it would indoors.

Once wintertime rolls around and things get too chilly for succulents to be outdoors (which is the case in most climates), just move the cactus inside so it can overwinter.

Bunny ears cactus in ceramic planter

Planting Opuntia microdasys

Planting

(Re)planting your bunny ear cactus is similar to planting other cacti. Imitating the natural environment is the easiest way to make sure you’re potting them correctly. The most important thing to keep in mind is drainage: this cactus has evolved to survive in very dry areas and won’t appreciate its roots being wet all the time.

Unglazed clay pots with a drainage hole in the bottom, such as these, are perfect for planting Opuntia microdasys. The porous material helps excess water to evaporate and lessens the chances of root rot.

Note: Be careful when repotting this cactus. It lacks sharp spines but has nasty glochids that easily get stuck in your hands or fingers and can cause massive irritation. Wear gloves when potting this plant. No exceptions or you’ll immediately regret it! The author can attest to this.

Soil

To further enhance drainage, don’t just use a normal potting soil for this cactus (or any succulent for that matter). Use a special cactus soil mix or make your own by mixing one part potting soil with one part perlite or sand.

If you’d like to read more about (re)potting succulents and cacti, have a look at the article on planting succulents indoors.

Opuntia microdasys (bunny ear cactus) in grey pot on light blue background.

Opuntia microdasys propagation

If you already have an Opuntia microdasys cactus and want to propagate it, you can easily do so by carefully breaking off one of the pads. Prepare a pot with a very gritty soil mixture and carefully insert the pad.

It’s important to keep the pad dry until it has established a few roots. Watering too much too early can quickly cause rot. Don’t worry about your cutting drying out: it has plenty of water stored inside to survive for a long time.

If you’re not sure whether your cactus has already rooted, simply give it a little wiggle. If there is any resistance, congrats! You can put your new Opuntia microdasys on a regular watering schedule.

Opuntia microdasys or bunny ear cactus | Full care guide

Watering Opuntia microdasys

Proper watering is a very important aspect of Opuntia microdasys care.

  • Contrary to what many new cactus keepers think, these desert plants do require regular watering, at least during the summer. Just water when the soil has dried out and then allow it to dry out again before giving more water.
  • Although it’s better to under-water than over-water, both are dangerous to the plant so be sure to keep a close eye on it!
  • During the winter period, less water is needed and a little bit once a month should be enough to last it until Spring rolls around.
  • When it’s time to water your Opuntia microdasys, be sure not to give it just a few drops. It needs a good splash so that the soil is thoroughly soaked and water comes out of the drainage holes.
  • Let the water drain until it stops dribbling out of the pot and then leave the cactus until it has had time to fully dry. During summer, you can add some cactus fertilizer once every other watering.

Want to know more about how to water succulents like Opuntia cacti? You can find a full article on succulent watering here.

Buying Opuntia microdasys

You can find Opuntia microdasys at most garden stores that sell cacti. If you’ve got a cactus nursery nearby, be sure to have a look!

If you don’t want to leave your lazy chair, you can also easily order Opuntia microdasys online.

Is the bunny ear cactus toxic to cats and dogs?

Well, it doesn’t really matter. If there’s one plant that definitely should be kept away from cats, dogs, kids and even your own ungloved hands then it’s this one.

Even a single glochid stuck in your tongue can cause terrible irritation (don’t ask me how I know…) so an animal trying to paw at this plant or even take a bite from it can be in serious trouble.


If you still have questions about Opuntia microdasys or want to share your own experiences with this bunny-eared cactus, don’t hesitate to leave a comment below! 🌵


39 thoughts on “Bunny ear cactus (Opuntia microdasys) | Care & info”

  1. How do you get rid of the nasty glochids….had a plant that was not thriving and ended up just throwing it away, but somehow part of it that fell apart got on my couch or pillows and now rubbed off on me and irritating my skin. I wiped down the couch, but it seems they are still there…….. I bathed, but not sure what to do about the couch.

    Reply
    • Oh man, I’m sorry that happened to you! The glochids really are something else. I can’t tell you I have a solution that I know works, but my next steps would be to use a powerful vacuum and if that doesn’t work, I’d apply duct tape to every “infected” surface and then pull it off to try to take the glochids with it. I don’t actually know if that helps, but that’s what I would start with personally. Since you’re not the first person struggling with this, if you do find out a good way to remove them, it’d be great if you could comment again and let us know! Good luck.

      Reply
  2. Hello can you tell me how much sunlight opuntia microdasys needs I have kept it indoors…do I need to take it out everyday for light exposure ?

    Reply
    • Hi! As mentioned in the care guide, most cacti, including this one, need full sun to thrive. You can’t take it out every day, as constant changing of the environment can stress a plant out. Indoors you’ll have to keep it next to a window that provides full sun or a grow light. If that’s not possible, you can consider growing it in a sunny place outdoors during the growing season and indoors during winter if it gets too cold. 🙂

      Reply
  3. Hi, I’ve just noticed that my bunny ears has started growing new pads – in January! Does this mean he is in the growing season and I should start watering again? It’s still pretty cold here! Thank you! 🙂

    Reply
    • Hey! That’s a very good question. If it were me, and the plant was in proper cactus soil plus receiving the required amounts of light, I’d water about every 3-4 weeks. Enough to kind of keep the plant going but not so much that there is a risk of overwatering. And hey, maybe it’s just very healthy and has plenty of water stores that allow it to grow new pads at such an odd time. Enjoy your plant! 🙂

      Reply
  4. I’m fairly certain that the same thing is happening to mine – there are numerous elongated growths on the pads. Admittedly, it is not getting enough sunlight. I just moved it to a different spot where it will hopefully get more sunlight but is there anything else that I need to do? Should i remove the elongated growths?

    Reply
  5. Have just bought an opuntia micra albata and two of the ears have fallen off and another looks likely to fall, there is no sign of rot – can you please tell me what the cause of this could be. It’s in a 2″ pot.

    Reply
    • Oh dear, sorry to hear that! To be honest, it’s going to be really hard to tell you what it could be. You say no signs of rot, so I’m going to assume the ears are not mushy. Do you think maybe it could have been shaken around a lot recently? I’m thinking that could weaken the ears. Other than that I’d look at the roots myself and especially whether they’re compacted, since lack of water could probably also cause them to drop.

      Good luck, sorry I can’t be of more help!

      Reply
  6. Hi! I just got a new cactus and I was wondering if it’s normal that there are some white fuzz balls like balls of glochids that can be taken off of the cactus and be stuck back ( it doesn’t move tho). Should I take them off?
    My sister got scared that it might be some type of insect so I opened one up and it wasn’t an insect.

    Reply
    • Hi! It’s a bit difficult to tell you more abuot this without seeing what you’re referring to. As long as it doesn’t look like mealybugs (you can Google it for pictures) then it sounds like it’s probably a glochid ball that came loose earlier and it now just hanging around on the plant. It happens to mine during transport at least, there’s even glochid balls on all the other plants that were in the same bag, ugh!

      Reply
  7. My son’s prized cactus has dropped all of its ears, one at a time or in small clusters. Such a shame as it was growing new pads. We tried potting up some of the dropped pads but they don’t seem to have rooted- maybe too much water.
    What have we done wrong to cause the pads to drop? There is a white fuzz all over the lower part, not sure what it is.
    It is on a window sill with good light.

    Reply
    • Hello! So sorry to hear that. It’s really hard to tell you much about what’s going on through just a comment as there are many things that can go wrong. Were the fallen pads squishy and/or brownish? Pads falling off does ring a ‘rot’ bell for me. Have you verified that your potting medium and watering frequency are correct and that the pot has a drainage hole?

      Sorry I can’t be of more help, I hope the plant pulls through.

      Reply
  8. If a new pad is growing between two current pads and looks like it may cause issues is it safe to pull these out without damaging the plant? Also mine is growing many pads at the same time, should I remove some anyway?

    Reply
    • Hi,

      There’s no actual to remove any pads, the plant will manage everything just fine. That being said, you can always remove them if you want to. You can use them to start new plants. 🙂

      Reply
  9. hello 🙂 i got my cactus from someone and it was quite big.. The problem is that some parts are falling easily and are hanged. Also some cacti ( the thickest ones ) i vase are brownish in the first half.. When i went to transplant them in bigger vase they cracked a lot.. i left them like this in new vassecause i dont know what to do. they are having new grows right now.. Unfortunately they cant be on direct sunlight in my house, and one part is also outside.. What does this brown color mean, it actually isnt soft.. Should I remove that parts and just transplant them again. thank you ! 🙂

    Reply
    • Are the brown parts hard? It’s actually normal for larger cacti to woodify, especially at the base. Try Googling that to see if your cactus looks similar! If it does then there’s no need at all to remove it. 🙂

      Reply
  10. Hi there, my bunny ears was growing great and then put off no where it started to wrinkle, and the new ears turned brown. Is this from overwatering or too much direct sun?

    Reply
    • Oh dear, sorry to hear it’s not doing well! That sounds more like overwatering than too much sun. Have you had a look at the information on potting, light and watering in this article to see if you’re matching that? Incorrect potting with too little drainage and/or a watering schedule that doesn’t match the amount of light the plant is getting can lead to overwatering.

      If the ears are soft and mushy then you’re dealing with rot, which isn’t always curable. You’ll have to cut off any affected parts and possibly try to propagate what’s left to prevent it from spreading.

      Hope everything will work out with your cactus!

      Reply
    • I know people that live in environments that get lots of rain and keep their succulents outside sometimes plant them (including this species) in pure substrate to avoid any problems with rot. You’d have to water quite frequently, though. I personally do mix in some soil usually. 🙂

      Reply
    • Their flower are yellow and very showy, so that sounds like fakes. Sometimes they’re not glued and you can take them off, in other cases you’ll have to put in a bit more effort if you want them gone.

      Good luck with your new cactus!

      Reply
  11. Hi! My newly bought bunny ear cactus, keeps tilting or “hanging”. It has plenty of sunlight and I haven’t given it much water either. What to do?
    -Marcus

    Reply
    • There are quite a few possible reasons for droopy cacti, it’s usually related to stress. Since your cactus is newly bought there are probably many possible causes of stress. I mean: it could be overwatering, but it could also be underwatering. It might be root-bound but it might also be lacking roots which causes it to topple over.

      I think if you continue to just care for it properly, it should recover just fine from what might have been thrown at it at the nursery/store 🙂

      Reply
  12. Hi! I just bought a “OM” at a nearby Lowe’s and when I was getting ready to plant I noticed that one of the ears was slightly fallen over and then realized that the entire ear was mushy inside, as if they scraped the inside of it, liquified it and then stuffed it back in. Does this mean rot due to overwatering,maybe? What should I do, if salvageable, or not?
    Thanks in advance!

    Reply
    • Oh no! So sorry to hear that. Yes, that definitely sounds like rot. Are there any ears that aren’t affected? Try removing and propagating those (instructions here ASAP before the rot can reach them. The rest is likely too far gone unfortunately. You can try removing all the affected parts, planting the rest of the cactus in a gritty soil mixture and then keeping it very dry, but I can’t guarantee success.

      Reply
    • Mine does that as well! Might be a lack of light – they need as much sunlight as possible. It might also just be that the new “ears” are not fully developed yet. As long as all its needs are being met I wouldn’t worry about it 🙂

      Reply

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