Also known as the angel’s wings, the bunny ear cactus can make an adorable addition to your houseplant collection or outdoor garden due to its cute pads that resemble a rabbit’s ears. It is the ideal cactus for those who are new to gardening because it is really easy to care for and grow.
Knowing that your cactus is so neglect-tolerant, it may be a little too easy to assume that nothing could go wrong with it. The truth, however, is that just like other plants, the bunny ear cactus also need a bit of love and attention.
One obvious sign that your cactus is not feeling well is when it starts to droop or fall over. When this happens, it is extremely important to act immediately to save your plant from further damage – or even death.
Common reasons your bunny ear cactus is falling over
If you suddenly notice that your bunny ear cactus is falling over, do not fret. Succulents are generally quite easy to revive, as soon as you are able to take the right steps to correct the problem. Some of the common reasons for cacti to droop or fall over are listed below:
Lack of sunlight
The bunny ear cactus is a desert plant and thrives in warm weather and bright sunshine. So, if you find yourself with a droopy cactus on your hands, consider a lack of sunlight as one of the possible culprits.
Do you keep your succulent indoors? If it is in a shady area with limited access to sunlight, you may notice it slowly stretching forward over time, as if trying to reach the nearest light source. This condition is known as etiolation. If not corrected, the stretched-out shape can become permanent, and eventually the cactus also will go limp.
Thankfully, you can have your bunny ear cactus back to normal if you take action right away. Simply transfer the plant to an area where it can get at least six hours of full or partial sunlight every day. If you notice one cactus leaning more than the others, move it closer to a window or open area to make sure its entire body can receive sufficient light.
The bunny ear cactus does not need a lot of water, but you still need to water it from time to time, especially when the soil becomes completely dry.
Underwatering your bunny ear cactus can weaken its stem and cause it to droop or fall over. It may also go dormant and turn a purplish color. When neglected for an extended period of time, it will start to shrivel and eventually die.
Also remember that you should periodically water your cactus during the winter months too – despite it being a drought-tolerant succulent. If you do not water it all winter, the lack of water can damage the roots and suddenly watering it during the growing season might cause shock.
Thus, even during the cold seasons, never stop watering the plant completely. You can gradually reduce the watering and check how your cactus responds to the change. Also make sure that the plant is placed in a cool, dry place.
Overwatering can be more dangerous than underwatering since the damage it causes is mostly irreversible.
Just like all succulents, the bunny ear cactus prefers to grow in fast-draining soil. When the soil becomes too wet or soggy due to overwatering, the plant’s roots can start to rot. If this continues unchecked, the plant may become soft, mushy, and lighter in color. You may also notice some brown spots appearing as a result of too much watering.
To prevent a wilted and toppling bunny ear cactus, make sure that you water just enough to hydrate the plant. You can feel the soil with your fingers to check whether it has completely dried out before watering it again. If monitoring the soil is a hassle for you, you can also purchase a moisture meter to help you water your plant at the right time.
Succulents are not accustomed to extremely cold climates, so if your bunny ear cactus is exposed to freezing temperatures for longer than a couple of hours, it may start to wilt. If neglected for a couple of days or weeks, the frost damage can also cause black spots to appear.
The good news is that your bunny ear cactus can easily recover from frost damage if it was only exposed for a few hours. Still, it is better to avoid the damage altogether, so as winter approaches, bring your plant indoors where the temperature is more constant. Also, make sure not to place it near a frozen window.
Even during winter, your plant still needs sufficient sunlight to stay healthy. If this is not possible, you can purchase an indoor grow light that mimics natural sunlight.
Sudden change in temperature
Another possible reason your bunny ear cactus may fall over is due to a significant jump or drop in temperature. If the plant has been dormant over the cold season, you may need to gradually introduce it to the outdoors when winter is over. Moreover, if your indoor temperature is a little high, the cactus may think it is summer and start searching for light. This may cause it to etiolate, or stretch out, and thus fall over.
In addition, watering your plant with cold water is not a good idea, as this can cause problems such as root rot. Use lukewarm water to keep your cactus in top shape.
Pests such as mealybugs and aphids can significantly weaken your bunny ear cactus, and if not addressed in time, the plant may start to lean or fall over as it loses turgidity. One obvious sign that the plant is suffering from a pest infestation is when it starts turning white. Isolate the infected cactus right away to prevent the pests from spreading to your other plants.
Rubbing alcohol and neem oil are the best cures for pest infestations in succulents. SImply grab a q-tip dipped in alcohol to remove the bugs. Follow it up with a spray of neem oil for the most effective result.
Incorrect container size
In general, succulents like the bunny ear cactus do not like to be potted in large containers. Ideally, you should choose a container with just a little bit of extra space around the roots for them to grow into – one or two inches at most.
The most obvious reason you may need to transfer your cactus to a larger pot is when you start seeing its roots sticking out of the container. This means it has outgrown the container and is rootbound. Repotting can be done every two or three years, depending on how fast your cactus has grown.
Using tap water to hydrate the plant could be another reason to repot your cactus. Tap water contains a lot of minerals that may accumulate in the soil over time and eventually cause root damage. However, avoid repotting your cactus while it is flowering.
How to fix a droopy bunny ear cactus
Overwatering is the most common culprit if your bunny ear cactus is falling over or drooping. The first thing you should do in this case is transferred it to a dry container with good drainage. While it is unpotted, also check whether the roots are rotting. If they look mushy, trim off the damaged parts before repotting the plant in its new container.
Another tip to revive your cactus is to ensure that it gets enough sunlight. As mentioned above, succulents love warm temperatures as they are native to desert regions.
If your bunny ear cactus has already started leaning or falling over, you can correct it with the use of sticks. Carefully insert the sticks into the pot to straighten the plant, making sure not to insert them deep enough to damage the roots. The sticks should serve as a firm support while your plant is recovering. Leave them there for a couple of weeks until your cactus is back to normal.
Wrapping it up
Growing a bunny ear cactus is relatively easy, even for novice gardeners. However, some problems may still arise while caring for your plant, despite it being highly adaptable and low-maintenance. When these issues are addressed right away, you can easily return your cactus to full health and enjoy it as a decorative plant, both indoors or out.
Image: istockphoto.com / Farknot_Architect