Opuntia Microdasys Info: How To Grow Bunny Ear Cactus

Opuntia microdasys [op-UN-shee-a, my-kro-DAS-is], is a flowering species of the cactus family Cactaceae.

It is also known by the synonyms as:

  • Cactus microdasys
  • Opuntia macrocalyx
  • Opuntia microdasys var. microdasys

The scientific name of the bunny ears cactus comes from the Greek and Latin words. 

The genus name Opuntia is a reference to Opus, an area in Greece where cactus-like plants grew. 

The Latin specific epithet microdasys means small and bushy, hinting at the cacti’s growth patterns.

potted Bunny Ear Cactus - Opuntia Microdasys

This Opuntia cactus species is native and endemic to central Mexico through northern Mexico. 

Common names for the plant include many, most given on the basis of its appearance. 

Most popular names include:

  • Bunny ears cactus
  • Angel’s wings
  • Prickly pear
  • Bunny cactus
  • Polka-dot cactus

Opuntia Microdasys Plant Care

Size & Growth

Opuntia microdasys cacti grow in dense shrubs which can grow up to 15” – 24” inches tall. 

The bunny ears cactus form thick pads with fuzzy, white or yellow glochids instead of long spines. 

What are glochids? Glochids are the barbed bristles found on the areole of some growing cactus.

These pad-like stems are 2” – 6” inches tall and 1” – 3” inches wide.

The prickles are about 2-3 mm long and borne in dense clusters on whitish areoles. 

The barbs (spines) on these succulents are finer than human hair and can detach from the pad at the lightest touch.

These cacti have a slow growth rate and take anywhere from 10 to 20 years to reach ultimate height.

More on Cactus Plant Care

Flowering And The Polka Dot Cactus

The flowering of Opuntia microdasys bunny ears is uncommon as potted plants. 

However, the opuntia blooms abundantly when plants are in the ground. 

The bloom time is in early spring. with the flowers sitting on the outer edges of the pad-like stems.

Opuntia microdasys blooms are bowl-shaped, red-tinged or with pure yellow flowers. 

The flowers are relatively large (around 2” inches wide in diameter). 

They turn into red or purple 2” inch long fruits.

Light & Temperature

These plants are hardy to USDA Hardiness Zones 8-12. In these regions, Opuntia thrives in bright full sun while also being able to tolerate partial shade. 

If your indoor bunny ear cactus doesn’t get enough light, use a cool white fluorescent tube for 14-16 hours a day.

When growing the cactus in a clay pot indoors, it can tolerate temperatures as high as 100° degrees Fahrenheit  (38° C) but without flowering. 

In winter months, temperatures between 45° – 55° degrees Fahrenheit (7° – 13° C) are optimal.

Watering and Feeding

Whether it’s this cactus or another one, watering is one thing you don’t have to worry about too much in the right weather. 

Too much water could cause the death of the plant. 

However, you do need to provide enough to keep it strong in the growing season.

Wait for the soil to dry out before giving enough water to moisten it, allowing the excess water drain out completely. 

When the temperatures dip low in the fall and winter, water sparingly every 3-4 weeks.

Feed the plants with a cactus plant food or low nitrogen liquid fertilizer every other watering during late spring and early summer. 

Make sure to dilute the formula.

Soil & Transplanting Opuntia Microdasys

Loam or sandy soils work best for cacti. 

One crucial element of the soil is the drainage. 

Use a commercial cactus potting mix or make your own with one part potting soil and one part perlite.

Repotting the plant is required infrequently as the plant takes its sweet time to grow and spread. 

Every 1 to 2 years, transplant into a clay pot bigger than the previous one. 

Opuntia microdasys bunny should have a drainage hole along with room to grow. 

Repotting should be done in the summer, post-bloom.

Transplanting in-ground cacti should be done in the same season or when you propagate using cuttings. 

Be very careful as the bristles are sharp and a skin irritant. 

Place the calloused part upright in moist soil. 

If the cutting is too tall to stay upright, lay it flat for a few weeks. 

Plant when new roots emerge.

Grooming and Maintenance

The Mickey Mouse cactus doesn’t really need any maintenance and grooming for cosmetic purposes. 

Remove unwanted paddles to control the size of your cactus. 

Use a sharp sterile knife and gloves to cleanly cut the unwanted pad. 

Keep the site of the cut dry until it callouses.

For a completely different look check out – Opuntia subulata  

Propagation Of Bunny Ear Cactus Succulents

The prickly pear cacti are propagated mainly from cuttings. 

The dark green pads divide naturally. 

Using gloves, twist off a 1” inch or taller pad at its base so no part remains on the mother plant. 

Use a knife to cut off the pad. Allow the cutting to dry and callous for a while before repotting it. 

Refer to the Soil & Transplanting section for further information on planting the bunny ears cactus cutting.

Start cactus from seeds although they are extremely slow to germinate and require specific temperatures (68° – 86° degrees Fahrenheit (20° – 30° C)). 

You start them indoors and then move them outside or to a larger pot when large enough to handle.

Bunny Ear Cactus Plant Pest or Diseases

The plant is generally free of most pest problems. There might be occasional susceptibility to scale insects and succulent mealybugs

Consult your local gardening center for a solution or soak a cotton ball in alcohol to wipe the pads.

As for diseases, the plant is not affected by major problems. 

However, if your cactus is planted in soils with poor drainage or high moisture soils, they can droop.

More on Controlling Bugs on Succulent Plants

Opuntia Microdasys Plant Uses

The appearance of bunny ears cactus has a comical resemblance to a rabbit’s head and is the reason for its popularity. 

Many homeowners experience this easy to grow cactus as a succulent potted indoor houseplant or as a great addition to a succulent rock garden and Mediterranean gardens.

Being desert plants, it grows quite well in xeriscape gardens.