Bunny Ears Cactus 101: (How to grow & care for me!)

Featured image for bunny ears cactus care guide. Text on left with a image on the right hand side of a optunia Microdasys in a small green pot

I don’t mind admitting that the Opuntia Microdasys is my personal favorite cactus thanks to its super cute flat pads and fuzzy spines that resemble bunny ears.

The great news is, the bunny ears is a low-maintenance houseplant and a fantastic choice for beginners if you follow some basic care methods which I’ll be sharing with you below;

We’ll also be looking at some of the most common problems to watch out for and how to propagate (grow your own from cuttings) if you’re at that stage.

Lee holding a bunny ears cactus in a small green pot
Photo Credit: Secret Lives of Cacti

Let’s jump in;

How To Care For Me (If you’re in a rush!)

Light: I love to sit in full sun

Soil Type: Gritty, well-draining soil. Excess water will cause my roots to rot.

Outdoor growing zones: 9a to 11b

Frost Hardy?: No, the frost will kill me.

Native to: Mexico

Toxicity: My glochides could cause you skin irritation

Watering: Water me when my soil is completely dry.

Plant growth: Indoors, I’ll grow approx 2ft high x 2ft spread (larger in my natural environment).

Dormancy Period: I need to rest in the winter and be kept cool and dry.

Common names: People refer to me as Bunny ears & Polka dot

Propagation: Take a cutting from me and plant.

Bunny Ears Cactus – Full Care Guide

Here’s my full care guide for your bunny ears cactus. If you still have any questions after reading, don’t hesitate to ask in the comments section at the bottom of the page!

Light & Location

Your Bunny Ears Cactus will require lots of direct sunlight to thrive.

A south-facing window inside your home is ideal, where it’ll receive the most direct sunlight throughout the day.

If like me, you don’t have a suitable south-facing window, an east or west-facing window can also work (mine’s west-facing).

Either way, it’s a good idea to rotate your plant regularly to ensure even growth.

If you have space outside, consider moving it out during the summer months as it’ll benefit from the extra sunlight.

Just be sure to introduce it slowly to avoid sunburn.

Watering

It’s important to allow your soil to dry out in-between waterings as over-watering can lead to root rot if it’s left to sit in excess water.

During the summer months, I completely soak the soil once every 7-14 days depending on how hot it’s been, etc.

For you, it could be as little as 7 days or as much as 3 weeks depending on the location, temperature, type of soil, and pot used.

Testing the soil to be completely dry is the best indicator.

My best tip here is to poke a bamboo stick into the soil and leave it there. Then when it comes to checking, carefully remove the stick and check to see if it’s dry.

I find doing this sparks new growth after each watering which is very exciting.

You’ll want to reduce your watering frequency in autumn and make sure your plant stays dry during its dormancy period in winter.

Pot & Soil

You’ll need well-draining soil to prevent excess moisture from accumulating around the roots.

A potting mix that includes sand, perlite, and peat moss is ideal, mixed with some grit.

I’ve seen the best results using 2 parts 4mm horticultural grit, to 1 part specialist cactus and succulent compost.

Your pot should have at least one drainage hole to allow any excess water to escape.

Read more; The best type of pot for your cactus

When planting, make sure to use gloves to protect your hands from those prickly spines that get absolutely everywhere and yes, I’m speaking from experience!

Temperature & Humidity

This guy loves the warm weather and will do best in temperatures between 70°F (21°C) and 86°F (30) degrees.

On the extreme end of the scale, bunny ears can tolerate up to around 98°F (37°C) provided it has good airflow and a lower temperature of 50°F (10°C) degrees on the colder end.

During the dormancy period in winter months, aim to keep temperatures between 41°F (5°C) and 50°F (10°C) degrees.

For outdoor growers, bunny ears can be grown outdoors year-round in USDA zones 9a to 11b.

Opuntia don’t like frost so it’s important to protect them during the winter months. Be sure to bring it inside if it isn’t already.

They also prefer dry environments. I often see people recommend the 10% to 30% humidity levels.

While I agree that range is ideal, I keep mine in my living room window during the warmer months where the humidity can reach almost double and my baby is thriving!

Fertilizer

Good news, your Bunny Ears Cactus is a low-maintenance plant and regular fertilization isn’t essential.

Having said that, I’ve seen the best results when using a half-strength, diluted specialized cactus fertilizer once every 4 – 6 weeks during the growing season in the summer.

I’ve heard good things about using a good quality tomato feed which I’ll be trialling soon and I’ll be sure to update you here with the results!

Flowering

In ideal conditions when grown outside, your bunny ears will likely produce creamy yellow flowers sometimes followed by red fruits.

This is rare to see when growing indoors where conditions are less than ideal and unfortunately, I’m yet to see mine bloom 🙁

How To Propagate Your Bunny Ears Cactus

Using gloves or tongues, twist or cut off a healthy pad and allow the flesh to callus over for a few days.

Then, plant your pad a third of the way down into fresh potting mix and leave it alone for a few days to a week as we want the pad to start putting down roots before we water.

You’ll know when the roots start to develop as the pad will feel a little sturdier in the soil when you gently rock it from side to side.

Once you’re happy, you can soak the soil for the first time and allow it to completely dry out before the next water and then maintain a schedule as described above.

Learn More: How to propagate cactus pads step-by-step

Common Problems

Here are a few of the most common issues you could run into with your bunny ears;

Flopping/drooping

I found this exact thing recently after returning home from vacation. I’d left my plants in the conservatory when it was extremely hot for a week with hardly any air circulation.

The soil was bone dry and my plant was flopping forward. At first, I thought it was dead.

Not one to give up easily, I took a bamboo stick to prop up the pads and watered it twice that week. I then removed the stick to find it perfectly upright again!

On the opposite end of the scale, flopping or drooping can also be a sign of overwatering and root rot can easily set in.

Long, thin, stretched out pads

If you notice your pads growing long and narrow then this is likely down to Etiolation.

In a nutshell, this simply means the pads are stretching themselves in an attempt to get more sunlight.

You’ll need to move your plant into a sunnier position. Unfortunately, the stretched pads won’t return to their normal shape, but it will help for future growth.

Pests

Most likely, Mealybugs. The bain of every cactus owner’s life at one point or another.

The most effective method I’ve used is to remove the plant from the pot, spray with clean soapy water and rinse off thoroughly. Allow it to completely dry out for a few days.

Inspect your plant and ensure the mealybugs have completely gone before replanting in fresh soil and a new/clean pot.

I’d Love To Hear From You

Do you already have a bunny ears cactus or are you thinking of adding one to your collection?

Let me know along with any questions you may have in the comments section below and I’ll get back to you as soon as I possibly can!

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