The IUCN assigns the bunny cactus the “Least Concern” tag. That means it’s nowhere near getting extinct – the population is huge. I think it’s safe to say, they’re hopping all over the place!
By Royal Horticultural Society’s standards, this plant is recommended for anyone with an interest in gardening. That’s why they’ve given it the Award of Garden Merit to show just how easy it is to care for. Talk about an easy bunny to take care of!
What do the above two facts insinuate?
This particular cactus is a big deal for anyone who considers him/herself a plant lover. Do you?
If yes, there is a likelihood that you’ve come across this plant. And you’re here to find out more about it. Keep reading before it hops away.
Bunny Cactus— Opuntia Microdasys
This darling of a plant belongs to the extensive cactus family of Cactaceae. Within this family, it falls in the genus Opuntia, microdasys species. Thus it has the scientific name Opuntia microdasys, go figure!
As you already may know, bunny cactus is the commonly used name. But it’s not the only known. Other popular names that people use to reference this plant include the following…
- Bunny ears cactus
- Polka-dot cactus
- Angel’s-wings cactus
The species is a close relative of Opuntia rufida and some botanists treat these two as one. See the small differentiating details below!
What does a Bunny Cactus look like?
The cradle of Opuntia microdasys has been found to be Mexico; central and northern parts of it. But thanks to the succulents storming popularity, you can find them in lots of places around the world.
The bunny cactus plant can grow to a height of at most 60 cm and is devoid of a central stem. Instead, it’s made of oval-shaped green pads that emerge in pairs. This gives the bunny ears cactus the appearance of a rabbit’s head hence the name. The pads take on the green color later as they mature but are red when emerging.
Each one of these pad segments is densely covered by glochids instead of the typical spines as in other cacti. The glochids can either be yellow or white in color and are easily detached. This is the minute difference between this species and the rufida species – the color of the glochids. The one on Opuntia rufida are redish-brown. And these little structures aren’t the kind of stuff that should land on your skin. There is some serious itching involved, so beware when handling this plant.
You know the saying, “Handle with caution.”
It bears yellow flowers at the top end of the nearly-round stems. But that is on rare occasions. If you find one or grow one that appears like this, share it in Succulent City Plant Lounge, i’m sure a lot of our exclusive members would love to see this rare sight!
How to Take Care of the Bunny Cactus
Here’s that tired line – the bunny cactus does best in negligence and is well-suited for beginner gardeners. And it’s true. The bunny doesn’t need that much attention in order to hop vibrantly!
But it’s a sure thing that you don’t want to leave your plant to its own devices. Here’s how you can look after it, with little maintenance requirements.
The ideal Environment
The plant has a varied demand as a far as temperatures are concerned. Whatever range is best for one season is fatal for another.
For a larger part, it does best with temperatures of up to 38°C (100°F). But come winter seasons, maintaining this reading will kill the plant. To keep your plant in one piece during this season, maintain lower temperatures (10-18°C or 50-65°F). You may even get rewarded with a bloom if you keep up these readings.
Sunlight Requirements to Make the Bunny Cactus Happy
This species cherishes full light exposure.
Place it on a south or west-facing window for full days during all the seasons excluding winter. In winter, limit the exposure to just a few hours per day.
In case of deficient light in your region, consider putting your plant under a fluorescent light for 16 hours maximum every day. If all else fails we highly recommend using a grow light to keep your cactus happy. This isn’t ideal for this specific plant, but it can help you achieve more light for the darkest of hours to rejuvenate your bunny.
Soil and Fertilizing Must-Haves
Well-draining is the one property you need to look out for when potting this plant, amongst other plants. A lack of it will lead to root- rot, which spells doom for the bunny ears cactus. So a potting mix with a tendency to let away water quickly is a no-brainer.
And there are two options for you here:
- Purchase a commercial cactus and succulent mix like this will do just fine.
- Make your own well-draining mix by mixing potting soil, coarse sand and pumice/perlite.
For the second option, you can test for drainage by wetting the mixture and squeezing it. If it is coarse and crumby, kudos. Proceed with it. If not, add some more coarse sand and pumice/perlite.
Liquid fertilizer should be applied during the growth of the plant, that is in summer, spring and part of fall. 3-4 times should serve the plant just right for optimal growth.
Tip: Stash your fertilizer in winter.
Hydrating your Bunny Cactus
Being a desert grower, this plant is always on standby to grab as much water as possible through its roots.
This means it doesn’t need gallons upon gallons of water just because it’s in a pot. So you don’t need to try and outdo yourself with watering it every day.
The top part of the mix should be dry 2 inches down before watering again. That is during the seasons when the plant is growing.
In winter, when the plant is dormant for a larger part, watering isn’t necessary. But keep the potting mix moisturized nevertheless. For more tips on watering your succulents and cacti, read our article on how often you should water these plants, it’s helped more than 1000 plant lovers!
How to Propagate the Bunny Cactus Easily
You can either use seeds or the individual stem segments.
For seeds, soak them up briefly before sowing. After sowing keep the temperature at 21°C for proper germination. Let the baby bunnies grow to considerable sizes before potting. Seed should be sowed in spring.
For the stem pads, cut off a couple of mature ones from the plant and allow them to callous over one week. For best results, group the segments in threes or more. Burry them an inch into the potting mix and water regularly to promote healthy root development. Cuttings should be made in summer. Remember to mind the glochids.
In both cases, use cactus and succulents potting soil. You can use the soil we mentioned earlier but if you’re into the organic trend, you’re in luck.
Repotting the Bunny Cactus the Bigger it Grows
You’re going to have to repot your plant every one or two years. This way, the plant doesn’t grow too big for the pot and the roots are in an ample position to keep growing. Your bunny cactus should not seem like it’s squished into the pot nor should it look like it has way too much room for it’s own good.
A good sized pot typically allows for a plant to be snug but allow room for growth and movement. See a list of great you can pick out here.
For the love of your skin, don’t touch the plant with bare hands. Use a rolled up piece of cloth or towel during the move. Even simple gardening gloves will do the trick, we just can’t stress enough that your skin should NOT touch this plant. You’ll have very irritated skin if you do.
Summer is the perfect season to repot as your plant will have enough time to recover from the whole process before the cold catches on. Even then, give the plant some time before resuming the fertilizing and watering rhythm. A week without watering is fine at first, while for fertilization, you can wait for as much as a month.
Again, DON’T TOUCH THE PLANT WITH YOUR SKIN.
Pests to Look Out for & Potential Problems
Mealybugs and scale insects love to hang out on the pads. But their fun isn’t particularly a good thing for the plant. They suck sap out of the stems which is detrimental to the plant’s well-being.
To stop them, apply a mixture of rubbing alcohol with water on each of the individual pests using cotton. Grab yourself any kind of 70% rubbing alcohol like this and dilute it further with water. Be sure to use gloves to protect your skin from long sessions of alcohol scrubbing.
Root rot is a common problem due to overwatering. Be sure to follow the watering guidelines above to evade this problem.
Where Can I Buy a Bunny Cactus
In a lot of places!
You can choose to either order online or pick up your bunny from your local garden nursery.
To order online, log on to any of the following and click away to order them bunnies
- Succulent Gardens
- Mountain Crest Gardens
- Leaf and Clay
If you prefer checking out your plant in person before purchasing, have a visit to your local nurseries and see what they got for you. Given the popularity of these bunny cacti plants, you might have luck in finding these in your local nurseries anyways.
Thanks for reading with us and be sure to share your favorite photo above! Maybe even share your thoughts about how cute the bunny cactus is in our exclusive group, Succulent Plant Lounge.
Happy planting! ?