Opuntia microdasys- The Bunny Ear Cactus

Opuntia microdasys , a lookalike of cactus is characterized by its green pads. The cactus is a flowering plant species in the cactus family Cactaceae. It forms a dense shrub of 40–60 cm tall but more composed of pad-like stems 6–15 cm long and 4–12 cm broad.
In place of spines it has number of yellow or white glochids which are 2–3 mm long and dense clusters.

CAUTION: Glochids may cause considerable skin irritation if touched, so they must be handled with caution.

Bunny ear cactus

It is known by the names of angel’s-wings, bunny ear cactus, bunny cactus or polka-dot cactus. This cactus has no central stem or leaves. The oval shaped pads are the main constituent and attracting point of bunny ear cactus.

Why bunny ear?

Because these pad like segments always grow in pairs which result in an appearance similar to rabbit’s ears. These so called new segments appear as red and grow to dark green colour when mature.

The mature pads are highly covered with glochids which are short whitish brown prickles. These come off easily and can be blown away by wind.

Flowering:
The terminal ends of segment pads are meant for the flowers to sprout. Budding starts in late spring and ends in early summer with 2 inch wide blossoms. These are creamy yellow in colour.
This succulent comes with low maintenance and tolerance of harsh environment but it is more of an outdoor plant.

Click on the text below to know about the edible parts of Opuntia microdasys:

Dietary fiber, mineral elements profile and macronutrients composition in different edible parts of Opuntia microdasys

How to care for Bunny Ear Cactus?

1. Soil
A cactus mix will work very well for bunny ear. Avoid excess organic contents in the soil.

2. Light
4-6 hours of indirect sunlight per day is sufficient. Avoid placing it in a dark room.

3. Water
Watering should be done when the top one inch of the soil gets dried. Any excess water should be drained out from the saucer. Watering in winters should be reduced to once in every 3-4 weeks. Water only the soil and not the pads.

4. Fertilizer
Although, its not needed much but it can be applied in summers. A peat-based compost should not be used. Remember, fertilize it in the evening only.

5. Repotting
It should be performed every 1-2 years. Wait for week after repotting and then water the bunny ears cactus.

6. Pest control
Combat the scale insects and mealy bugs with a cotton ball soaked in alcohol.

7. Propagation
Here is a step guide for performing a perfect propagation of bunny ears cactus:

• Pick out a mature pad and separate from the mother plant. It is best to group the cuttings by threes or more for better survival chances.
• Make use of a tweezer to break the pads off or very thick gloves to handle this part.
• Let the pads to callus for a few days before planting.

Optional: Dip the pads in rooting hormone which helps speed up the rooting and propagation process.

• Prepare a potting mix. A cactus mix is the perfect choice for potted a bunny ear.
• Use an unglazed clay pot slightly larger than the pads that are to be repotted. The clay pot lowers the chance of root rot.
• As soon as the cuttings have callused, plant it one inch deep into the soil and place the pot in a good sunlit area.
• Leave it undisturbed for a few days and let the roots develop.
• Ultimately, water it regularly for the first year. This will help the roots develop properly.

So, have you made up your mind to make this lovely bunny ear cactus your’s?

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Every Corner Needs A Plant

Growing Thyme

My last blog discussed about the benefits of thyme. After reading them who would not think of growing it in their own garden and get benefitted from its medicinal properties. Thyme is a marvelous herb with pleasurable, pungent, clover flavor best grown in summers.

The very first thing to contemplate when purchasing Thyme is that there are two main types of it which are normally used: Ornamental and Culinary. The three most common types of culinary thyme are: Caraway, French and Lemon which add wonderful and satisfying taste (enough to excite your taste buds) to your summer soups, grilled meats and vegetables.
Culinary thyme is a hardy perennial that is evergreen. It is drought- tolerant and pollinator- friendly. You can get the best of its flavor in the summers.

Planting

Where: thyme loves to thrive in full sun and heat. If growing it indoors, plant it near a sunny window. For a head start, plant the cuttings of thyme indoor for 6 to 10 weeks as it’s a little hard to grow thyme from seeds because of slow and uneven germination. Make sure your soil is not too rich in organic matter and is slightly sandy.

When: plant the cuttings after the ground temperature reaches 21 degree Celsius. This is usually 2 to 3 weeks before the last spring.

Propagate by cuttings: it is the easiest way to plant your thyme. Clip a 4 inch cutting from the very tip of a stem, apply rooting hormone on the exposed portion of the stem and plant it in sterile sand. Roots will make an appearance within about 6 weeks. Transfer to a small pot and let the root ball formation take place. You can later transfer it to a large pot if needed else, directly to your garden.

Cultivating
Sun: planting should be done in well- drained soil with an optimal pH of 6.0 or 8.0. organic fertilizer can be added in the early spring.
Water: these require less watering but thorough watering only when the soil is dry.
Spacing: the young plants should be placed 12 to 24 inches apart, depending on the variety you are growing. Their maximum height is 6 to 12 inches.
Companion plantingit can be grown near tomatoes, strawberries cabbage. Also, it can be planted near rosemary as it requires similar weather and watering conditions as of Thyme.

Harvesting
In order to leisure its best flavor, harvest thyme just before it flowers as flowers indicate maturity. It tastes great both fresh and dried. Clip a 5 to 6 inches of growth with scissors, leaving the tough, woody parts. Avoid washing clean leaves as it may rip off some of the essential oils. Regular pruning not only encourages more growth, but also promotes a more rounded shape.

Trouble shooting thyme
Pests: Spiders, aphids, mealy bugs may attack thyme. You can easily knock them out with a strong stream of water or by spraying insecticides.

Diseases: thyme is vulnerable to root rot and fungal diseases. Steer clear of root rot by keeping plants out of wet areas and planting them too close to each other. Botrytis root can be treated with a fungicide.

Preserving and storing thyme
• Refrigeration: cover the fresh thyme in a damp paper towel over wrapped in plastic and refrigerate. Keep it for 1 or 2 weeks in the vegetable crisper.

• Drying: leaves can be dried by clipping the stems and hanging them upside down in a warm, airy place for 3 to 6 days.

• Freezing: put the clippings in sealable plastic bag.

• Storing: dried leaves can be easily stored in an airtight container.

Care:
Water deeply only when the soil is completely dry.
Pruning is necessary as it helps in continuous and healthy growth of the plant. It should be done back in the spring and summer. The more you trim, the more it grows attaining a good shape.
The best flavor you get is from the young plants, so divide the 3 to 4 year old plants.
Protect the plant from freezes with a mulch of chopped leaves, straws or evergreen branches.

Check back on next Thursday to find out its best ways of usage.

By:
Arshdeep Kaur Longia

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