Bunny ear cacti are some of the most visually striking succulents around, with their long, floppy appendages that can look like ears, noses, or even bottles. But sometimes things happen that cause unsightly things to happen—like your bunny ear cactus pads hanging down and looking sad.
Fortunately, this can usually be corrected if it is noticed and addressed early enough before this plant is fully stretched to the point of no return.
So if you’ve noticed that your rabbit ear cactus has become loose, here are the most common causes and what you can do to correct it.
The most common problem you will face is a drooping cactus. This is the answer to Opuntia microdasys for any type of stress. So there are several possible causes.
Overwatering or underwatering is the first thing to investigate. Bunny ear cactus may stop making paddles if it is too wet. If the soil is too wet, it will make the plant feel droopy and soft. But if the soil is too dry, it will make the plant feel a little harder and stiffer. You might want to try watering your bunny ear cactus more often or less often.
Dropping can also be a sign that your cactus isn’t getting enough sunlight. Sometimes a cactus will drop some of its pads when it doesn’t get enough sunlight. If your cactus drops some of its pads, you might need to move it closer to the window so it gets more sunlight. Check the amount of sunlight throughout the day and make any necessary changes by moving your cactus closer or further away from the window.
Brown or black spots on your bunny ear cactus may be signs that the temperature is too low. The plant is probably frozen or sunburned and is going to die.
The Lack of Water
Bunny ear cactus’s pads fall off when they don’t get enough water. Cactus petals fall off when they don’t get enough water, and the bunny ear cactus is one kind that loses it’s petals when it doesn’t get enough water. If your bunny ear cactus is drooping, you might want to give it some water.
A good note is that underwater is always better than too much water. If it’s dry, give it some water. The best way to water a cactus is when the soil is dry, but not too dry. It’s like giving somebody a cup of water when they’re thirsty; you don’t want to give them too much, or too little.
Cactuses are nature’s spiny plants that can survive in the harshest conditions. They are most well-known for their ability to grow in extremely dry conditions and withstand high temperatures!
Too Much Water
If you’ve been tasked with keeping an eye on your rabbit ear cactus, listen up. This succulent can be a finicky houseguest and only the most attentive of caretakers will notice when it is under-or over-watered. If you notice that your bunny ear cactus has drooped or the hedge is badly sagging, you may have overwatered this succulent. The brown spots that sometimes appear on its ribs are a sign that the cactus has rotted from too much moisture, which can be difficult to remedy.
“Overwatering can lead to all sorts of problems, worse than just dangling or wilting bunny ears.”
If you feel like you’ve been watering your succulent regularly and it still looks droopy, maybe you need to change something up. It’s pretty common for people to overwater their succulents, so if you’re finding that your plant is looking a little sadder every time you visit it, here are a few signs that could mean you’re doing just that.
If your soil is staying very wet after watering, you’re overwatering! To fix this, take off the top layer of soil and replace it with new soil. This will help the moisture drain more quickly. If the problem persists and the soil isn’t draining fast enough, use a drainage layer like gravel or broken pottery to help it along.
If your pads are curling or wrinkled or soft (or even mushy), it might be a symptom of overwatering, too! To fix this, cut off the affected parts at the base of the pad and put them in a dry place away from sunlight for about two weeks.
Not Enough Light
Rabbit ear cactus is a succulent that has a unique characteristic: the ability to grow, or stretch when lacking in light. This can lead to several issues with these plants if you do not provide them with an appropriate amount of light.
Lack of light causes the rabbit ear cactus to lean, bend, or stretch (a process known as etiolation). The plant will be leaning and growing toward the window because it needs more natural light.
You will need to provide this plant with at least 6 hours daily of full or partial sunlight to provide strong growth and not let it droop or tip over.
Luckily, if you catch this quickly and aren’t overly stretched, you can get your cactus back on track simply by adding more light right away. That way, it can get the strong growth it needs to straighten up those spines and look healthy again. This is an easy fix for most people (though admittedly not for those of us who live in studio apartments with no windows). Keep your eye on it—and be sure to set your daily reminder to add light—and before you know it, your cactus will be back to its original strength.
Rabbit Ear Cactus Pests
There are a few types of pests or insects that can damage your Bunny Ear cactus and cause this plant to droop, wilt, or sink.
Meal bugs and aphids can drain moisture from your cactus, causing this plant to not only droop, wilt or shrivel but can even destroy your cactus if it gets bad enough.
Most of these pests will turn your bunny ear cactus white, so be aware of this as a sign that you really do have pests.
Scale insects are small and hungry for plant juices. There are more than 8,000 species, including the cochineal. Scale insects like to be warm and dry, so they are very fond of cacti. They can wilt, cajole, turn yellow and stop growing. If left unchecked, they can kill your cactus and infest nearby plants.
If you see ants, you probably have a large insect infestation. Ants feed on honeydew produced by scale insects. You will need to remove both pests as the ants will protect the scale bugs.
Scales and ants can be removed or deterred by rinsing the cactus with a mixture of liquid dish soap and water, or insecticidal soap. Leave the solution for a day, out of direct sunlight, before washing it off.
If the plant is not severely infested, you can apply 90% alcohol with a cotton swab to Scale insects individually. Insecticide sprays and neem oil are also effective in eliminating these pests.
Frost damage can happen to anyone, even if your Bunny Ear cactus is happily ensconced in a temperature-controlled environment. The most common signs of frost damage on a cactus are the same as those for other plants: brown or yellow leaves. If you notice this, give the plant some extra warmth and light to see if it can recover. If not, repot it into fresh soil, taking care not to damage roots or stems. Then keep an eye on your Bunny Ear cactus and keep it warm through the winter.
You can also prevent frost damage by paying attention to temperature changes. When temperatures drop suddenly, protect your plants by bringing them indoors or covering them with blankets.
This species is prone to stem and root rot. The main cause of these diseases is excess water in the soil. When the soil stays wet for long periods of time, the risk of bacterial infection increases. Too much moisture in the soil can lead to root rots or even death. It is important to make sure that there is good drainage so excess water does not sit around and promote bacterial growth.
The discoloration and softening of parts on your Opuntia microdasys may be due to rot. If you notice this, cut off any rotten tissue and remove any dead plants from your garden area so they don’t spread disease to other plants. If your plant has root rot, you may notice that the lower portions have started to die back. This can be prevented by allowing excess water to drain away and only watering when necessary.
Prune all root and rotten plant sections with sanitized pruning shears. Keep the cactus dry and off the ground until the sores are calloused. Repot the cactus in new soil and a clean pot, taking good care of the roots. Don’t water it for a week or two.
“If only the paddles are damaged, you can cut the affected areas without repotting.”
Sometimes, unfortunately, the cactus is beyond help. In this case, you can always cut the healthy paddles and propagate them.
Overwatering is a major cause of bunny ear cactus pad problems. If your cactus has lost one or more pads this week, it’s a good idea to check how much water it received. Avoid watering your bunny ear every day and make sure you give the soil proper drainage. A healthy bunny ear should easily recover from dropping one or two of its pads.
The bunny ear cactus needs plenty of light and moderate water. Having the plant in a dark spot will eventually make it drop its pads. Keeping the temperature even throughout the day is also important. Situating a bunny ear cactus in a cool location will lead to dropped pads as well. Since this type of cactus doesn’t like extreme cold or heat, keep them away from drafty windows and forced air fireplaces.