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|
|Recommended lighting||Direct sun/high|
|Water||When fully dry|
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 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.
Planting Opuntia microdasys
(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.
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 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.
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! 🌵