Cactii

Bunny Ear Cactus Guide: How to Grow & Care for “Opuntia Microdasys”

Read our guide to the Bunny Ears Cactus for everything you will ever need to know! Tips for growing & caring for “Opuntia Microdasys”
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These low-maintenance cacti are very popular ornamental houseplants because they have cute pads that are shaped like rabbit ears. They are an excellent choice for growing outdoors in desert gardens, rock gardens, xeriscape gardens, or Mediterranean gardens. Also, many growers prefer to keep their Bunny cacti indoors planted in a lovely container.

Opuntia Microdasys, also known as Bunny Ears cactus, Polka-dot cactus, Angel’s-wings cactus, or Bunny cactus, is a species of flowering cacti in the Cactaceae family. Bunny Ears cacti are native and endemic to regions of northern and central Mexico.

About Bunny Ear Cactus

  • There are several subspecies, varieties, and forms of Opuntia Microdasys cacti, such as Opuntia Microdasys subsp. Rufida, Opuntia Microdasys var. Albispina, Opuntia Microdasys var. Pallida, and Opuntia Microdasys var. Pallida f. Cristata.
  • Bunny Ears cacti have gained the Royal Horticultural Society’s Award of Garden Merit.
  • The “microdasys” specific epithet is the Latin for “small and hairy”.
  • These cacti are desert species that do not need frequent watering. Thanks to their succulent pads, they can tolerate even longer periods of drought than other succulents and cacti.
  • Bunny Ears cacti are light-lovers that enjoy growing in a sunny location. For both indoor and outdoor growing, they need daily exposure under the full sun.
  • They will benefit from regular feeding with a diluted houseplant fertilizer that is low in nitrogen once a month. From late fall to early spring, you should skip the fertilization.
  • Bunny Ears cacti prefer low humidity conditions both indoors and outdoors. They are not suitable for greenhouse or conservatory growing.
  • Their flowers and fruits are non-toxic to humans and pets, but the glochids are slightly irritating to the skin. You should place these cacti in a location where curious cats, dogs, and children cannot touch them.
Bunny Ear Cactus
Bunny Ear Cactus

Bunny Ear Cactus Features: An Overview

  • Bunny Ears plants belong to the Opuntia genus that contains about 150-180 species of flat cacti. The most popular cultivars include O. Leucotricha, O. Aciculata, and O. Compressa.
  • The Opuntia genus is commonly referred to as “Prickly Pear” and is one of the most widespread cacti genus in the United States.
  • They form a dense shrub that can reach between 15.7 and 23.6 inches (40-60 cm) in height, but some specimens occasionally grow taller.
  • Bunny Ears cacti have paired thick, pad-like, and succulent stems that are 2.3 to 5.8 inches (6-15 cm) long and 1.5 to 4.7 inches (4-12 cm) wide.
  • Unlike other species of cacti, Bunny Ears contains numerous whitish-yellow short prickles or hair-like spines named glochids. They are more delicate than the thinnest human hair and grow about 0.07 to 0.11 inches (2-3 mm) long in dense clusters.
  • Bunny Ears cacti are closely related to O. Rufida, a similar-looking cactus that has reddish-brown glochids. Some botanists treat them both as the same species.
  • If you are lucky enough, these cacti will exhibit tiny creamy yellow flowers during the summer from June to July. Their bloomings usually have 2 inches (5 cm) in width.
  • After their blooming period, Bunny Ears cacti will turn their blossoms into globular fruits that can appear in various shades of purple to red.
Opuntia Microdasys
Opuntia Microdasys

Growing Bunny Ears Cactus

When we are long-time experienced cacti growers, we already know what these adorable companions need to grow healthy and happy. However, if you are at the beginning of the road, you should know that many cacti species are neglect-tolerant, making them a great choice for travelers or busy owners.

Bunny Ears cacti love lots of light. Like most cacti, they do well in a bright location where they can receive plenty of full sunlight for most of the year. When growing them indoors, you can place your cactus at a south-facing or west-facing window. If you cannot provide your Bunny Ears cactus with enough natural light, these light-feeders can also grow healthy below a white fluorescent tube for at least 14 hours. Keep in mind that you need to move these cacti to a spot with partial sunlight during the winter.

In their natural habitat, they grow in regions with warm to slightly hot climates. Bunny Ears cacti prefer temperatures between 70 and 100°F (21-37°C), but they need cooler temperatures in the winter months. From late autumn to early spring, provide these cacti with mid-cool temperatures from 50 to 65°F (10-18°C) and keep them away from heat sources. If their temperature requirements are not properly met, your Bunny Ears cacti will die off in the following spring.

A larger example
A larger example

Repotting Bunny Ears Cacti

Bunny Ears cacti will benefit from sandy and well-draining soil. Look for a clay pot that has drainage holes and fill it with cacti and succulent potting soil mix. You can also make your own mix from 40% sand, 40% all-purpose potting soil, and 20% peat moss. If you want to improve drainage for a picky Bunny Ears cactus, it is suggested you mix in a 1:1 ratio of bark or perlite.

These cacti should be repotted once every one or two years, as they develop bigger roots with time. The ideal time for repotting is in the summer when the blooming period has ended. Make sure you transplant your cactus in a container that is 1-2 (2-5 cm) inches larger than the current one. If you plant your Bunny Ears cactus in a pot that is too big for its root system, this may result in waterlogging and root rot. During its first year in the new container, you need to water your cactus regularly to promote healthy root growth.

They are usually bothered by pests like scale insects and mealybugs. Scale insects will show their presence through a brown scab-like effect on the cactus pads, while mealybugs leave white patches on the stem surface. If you notice any sign of infestation, you can treat your Bunny Ears cactus using a cotton cloth soaked in rubbing alcohol.

Watering Bunny Ears Cactus

Like all desert species, Bunny Ears cacti will need some extra care regarding watering until they get used to their new growing environment. Once these cacti develop a healthy root system, they are easy-to-grow plants that can tolerate long periods of drought.

During their first season in a new planting container, Bunny Ears cacti need regular watering to maintain the soil constantly damp. Make sure you always check the soil in-between waterings, as these plants do not appreciate waterlogging or soggy conditions. When the first inch (2.5 cm) of soil is dry to the touch, it is the perfect time to water your cactus.

A collection of opuntia microdasys cactii
A collection of opuntia microdasys cactii

They usually require only occasional watering. Many growers prefer to use a tray under their pot to allow the soil to drain out properly and throw away any excess water. During the autumn and winter, you should water your Bunny Ears cactus only once every three to four weeks. These plants can also do well without watering in winter, but they need immediate watering once the spring shows its warmth.

Over-watering your cactus may result in root rot, especially during the winter. The lack of growth or pad tips shriveling are common indicators of improper watering. It is suggested you reduce or increase the frequency of watering and wait for your cactus to react.

Bunny Ears cacti are used with the dry conditions found in their natural habitat. As a result, they will benefit from a location that is not very humid. When growing these plants indoors, you can use a dehumidifier or simply place them in a room with air vents. In your garden, choose a zone where they can receive ideal humidity levels, such as sunny spots or isolated from other plants.

Opuntia microdasys, from Amazon

Propagating Bunny Ear Cactus

Do you want more of these lovely cacti to show their “ears” in your garden, on your desk? Or maybe you’re thinking that they would make a perfect gift for your best friend. Well, we have some good news! You do not need to rush into buying other specimens, as Bunny Ears cacti are very simple to propagate through their flatty pads.

Keep in mind that it’s best to propagate Bunny Ears (and other species of cacti) in early summer. Any mature Bunny cactus will produce more and more healthy pads that can be easily detached from the mother plant. However, you should be very careful with their glochids, as they are very clingy to your skin. Don’t forget to protect your skin with gardening gloves. If you don’t have any, grab the stems using any impenetrable material you have at hand, such as a newspaper or a piece of cloth.

When propagating these cacti, group the cuttings in three or more pads. Once you have removed the baby stems, plant them in a pot that is filled with fresh cacti and succulent potting soil or with your own homemade mix. The cuttings should be buried an inch (2.5 cm) deep in the soil. Place the container in a bright location and water your baby cactus regularly to promote the development of a healthy root system.

In Conclusion

Like all cacti, Bunny Ears species are an excellent choice for growers. All they need is plenty of full sunlight, a warm and dry environment, occasional watering, and regular fertilizing. These cacti will grow healthy and happy if you repot them regularly. This will encourage them to produce new tiny pads that can be simply used in propagation by any type of gardener.

We are just in love with Bunny Ears cacti! They are as captivating as they look and they make perfect desk companions. So, if you ever come across a Bunny Ears cacti while shopping, don’t think twice, just take it home with you.

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Miruna Secuianu

Miruna is an experienced content writer with a passion for gardening. She is the proud owner of an outdoor rose garden and an indoor collection of tiny succulents. She bought her first succulent 10 years ago - an adorable Echeveria Setosa. Now she owns more than 100 succulents and cacti of different colors, shapes, and sizes. Miruna is a versatile writer and, as you might have guessed, her favorite topic is gardening. Contact miruna@gardenbeast.com

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