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7.10.07

Fake Flowers On Cacti

Fake Flowers On Cacti Cacti Flowers Indoor GardenIt's a weekend like any other and like many people across the country I'm walking into the greenhouse of the local Home Depot. I'm there to see if any new cacti and succulents plants have arrived. I'm hoping to reach them before they are either over or under watered to death by the staff. To get good plants at most of these big box garden centers you have to get there the moment they are unpacked. Before I walk into the greenhouse I can see an unusual number of people crowding around the shelfs.



As I approach the crowd I can see that people are indeed crowding around a newly arrived shipment of cacti and succulents. The group is composed mainly of women who aren't above elbowing each other as they reach for a plant. For a second I wonder if this is what it would look like if Madonna and Angelina Jolie were to arrive at the same orphanage on the same day.

The spoils of the scuffle are presented to significant others, kids, parents and friends. One woman asks, what I assume to be, her husband if he thinks the pink flowering cacti would be to "girlie" for their bathroom. He frowns and sighs the sigh of a husband who'd rather be in the tool department than in the "girlie" greenhouse. Another woman presents a small child with a green and yellow flowering cacti and the girl points at the one with the green flower.

I lean over and tell her that the flowers are fake and she responds in Japanese. I don't speak or understand Japanese and she doesn't seem to speak English. So I repeat myself and when that doesn't seem to work I resort to hand gestures, when the hand gestures don't convey that she's holding a horticultural Frankenstein, I speak louder. Everyone knows that when someone doesn't speak the same language as you just speak slower and louder and they magically understand. It seems to work because she puts the plant down, smiles and walks away.

Altman Plants and Sorensen Greenhouses are the two suppliers whose names come up regularly on cacti message boards when the practice of gluing fake flowers on perfectly fine cacti comes up. I've had a couple of people contact me through this blog asking me about cacti care and when I ask what kind they have the response is usually "the kind with the pink flower." I'm not sure how long the practice has been around but it will probably never go away as long as these plants keep selling. Sometimes you may luck out and come across one where the hot glue didn't adhere properly and you can just pull off the fake flower. Most of the time you'll have to pluck off the flower as best you can with your fingers until you get to the clump of glue and pick at it slowly and gently. I've read cacti growers recommend trying to remove the glue on very hot days when it has softened and I've read of one grower who heats it with a blow drier until it softens and comes off easily.

Occasionally the glue won't come off without tearing off a few spines or even a chunk of the plant along with the glue. In those cases it may be better to just leave clump of glue and hope that it falls off naturally or live with the slight deformation that will result. Ultimately the best way of dealing with these flowers is to just not buy these plants to begin with and hope that the wholesalers end the practice. But even the most serious cacti grower sometimes will slum it and buy one of these Frankensteins because the plant underneath and the real flowers that will emerge one day are just that irresistible.

51 comments:

  1. Oh I'm glad to read this post. I have never understood this bizarre practice ... I usually see these at Wal-Mart in hideous bright turquoise, mauve, pink, yellow and neon green. I once received one as a present and cut off the flower. The cactus survived and evntually formed a callous.

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  2. I, too, am appalled at this practise. If people like phony flowers, they should stick to plastic cacti with their fake blooms. There are always a few of those to choose from in the Big Box stores. From the looks of the ones I've seen, hot glue is the substance used to attach the flowers. It usually leaves a blister on the cactus skin when it comes off, or as you say, it takes a chunk out of the cactus. The cactus is usually not affected, other than cosmetically.
    Aiyana

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  3. It seems cruel too put a fake thing on a perfectly good cactus. I wonder how many people do not know it, and them freak out when it drops off and the glue is there.

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  4. Add me to the list of people who is vastly annoyed by the gluing of fake flowers to perfectly fine cacti. I don't buy them and I try to let people know that the flowers aren't the natural flowers of the species in question, but I've long wondered what the point is of doing this. Thanks for posting on this annoying topic. (Dare i hope you'll join me in a rant on blue poinsettias when the time comes?)

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  5. MBT - add me to the list of people who never even realized those were fake! i guess i never pay that much attention to cacti. very interesting, though

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  6. What a stupid practice to glue flowers on a plant! Shame on those nurseries. Too bad most folks wouldn't know they're fake.

    Thanks for outing such a horrible practice.

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  7. I didn't know those were fake! I guess because they really don't interest me, I've never stopped to inspect one. And why don't they interest me? I always thought they looked fake! Trust your instincts, I guess. Interesting post, Mr. Brown Thumb.

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  8. I've never bought 1 of the monstrosities, but, b4 we were dating, my husband gave me a dish of 3 cacti, 1 of which had a fake flower on it. I must have been too rough when I yanked the hideous thing off because that plant died. The other 2 are over 12 years old now & in separate pots. (I can't believe they're still alive.) I wish I had had the info about using a hairdrier to get the glue to come off. Good post.

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  9. Does anyone remember when they used to sell the blue, pink and yellow chicks at Easter time. I guess we are suckers for pastel colors.

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  10. I... am speechless. I didn't even know such shenanigans happened. Wow.

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  11. wtf, this is hilarious. i wonder who thought to do this first. a plastic fake flower on top of a cactus! with a drop of glue!?

    do you remember those "air ferns" that they sold for a while? they were glued to the bottoms of little pots. if you touched them, your fingers would turn green from the dye.

    i wonder what they'll think of next.

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  12. Hey everyone!

    Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

    Chatoyancy,

    I know exactly what you're talking about. I remember those from when I was a kid.

    funtime,

    I saw one of those recently at Walmart and almost picked one up. I'd never seen one of those before. LOL.

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  13. I think it's great you did a post about this, I have always wondered why they do this, well I guess I know why, sales, maybe I'm really wondering why someone would buy them, I have seen some really strange color's of fake flowers glued to the cactus! Why mess up a perfectly good cactus, with fake flowers,~ if someone wants fake flowers,fine, but why add fake flowers to a live plant..?!
    Great post Mr. Brown Thumb!
    Cat

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  14. I once bought one, mostly because it was a "fairy castle" (cereus tetragonus) cactus that looked great other than the flower, I was able to wiggle that ugly thing off at the store.

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  15. Hi Catherine,

    I don't understand why they do it either but the manufacturers must make good money so they continue to do it.

    Nobody,

    You got off lucky and you're right sometimes they do a poor job of gluing them and you can easily remove the flower.

    Thanks for stopping by.

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  16. John M8:51 PM

    It always depresses me to see this barbaric and tacky practice. I have at times seen some cacti so treated blooming their own beautiful natural flowers, making the dyed glued cornflowers all the more offensive. And it is amazing how indiscriminately they are pasted on. Some really lovely, even rare, plants are maltreated in this fashion. I always try and rescue the more unusual ones... if the glue has not seeped down to the epidermis of the cactus it can be softened and pulled off... or cut off. If the spines are damaged somewhat that won't hurt the plant; but rather than wound the body of the plant, cut away as much of the offending fake flower and glue as you can with cuticle scissors.

    I have a lovely Mammillaria schumannii which lost the spines at the crown on removing the cornflower. It has since grown twice as tall and the few spineless tubercles are hard now to notice. I think the plant was grateful *smile*

    Oh, and the cactus gardens are often the most ill-conceived imaginable, with fast and slow growing plants, desert and prairie and even jungle plants, plants with totally different growing needs and growth patterns, all promiscuosly thrown together, often with some little fake geegaw added. Another atrocious practice. I have seen some really rare plants doomed by being planted in this way. You would think that professional growers would have the good sense to combine only plants that have similar light, watering, soil and temperature needs... but the few I have seen with plants that were all compatible probably were sheerest dumb luck, not by design.

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  17. Anonymous4:01 AM

    Want to know something strange?...My husband bought one and I looked closely and saw the glue...I said oh the flowers are fake! But,,,strange but true...if you get water on them they will close right before your very eyes then re open later...like they are alive...what is up with that???odd!! At least mine does that...Has anyone else had this happen to theirs?

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  18. Thanks for the info.

    I was duped by these fake flowers when I went to Home Depot looking for something for some office plants. I noticed the glue later but as the last anonymous poster pointed out, they open and close when you put water on them. It was only after someone else noticed the hot glue that I decided to investigate and found this blog post. Luckily the flowers on mine came off quite easily.

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  19. John M,

    Great comment. I agree about the cacti dish gardens.

    Anonymous, I've noticed that those corn flowers will do that when they get wet and "close" when they dehydrate.

    Sat, Sorry you got duped but at least your glue came off without it damaging the plant.

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  20. Anonymous1:56 PM

    my mother in law gave me a cactus she insisted was mine and was dead... it wasn't mine, and it wasn't dead, it had grown quite a bit since last i saw it, all around the little glued on dried flower. not sure what kind it is. i've cut off the "flower" and the plant is healing nicely. Now prickly pear flowers, those are beautiful real cactus flowers...

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  21. Anonymous9:51 PM

    What is the name of this cactus? I bought one and it just said "house cactus" on the lable.

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  22. Anonymous11:47 AM

    Hello, I just bought my little sister a little cactus from Home Depot. I actually had no idea that this fake flower thing existed.. Anyway, its a tall green cactus with a bright orange/pink ball flower on it.. She's very excited about it and thinks it's the coolest thing ever.. So I'm a little afraid of upsetting her when I tell her its fake.. I read in other comments that a real flower will bloom "someday".. Any idea how long that would take?

    And I know this will make me seem absolutely awful, but what would be the harm in leaving it on and not telling her? I know it's probably not good for the plant, but if the real flower will take a while to bloom..

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  23. Anonymous, I believe it is Cereus tetragonus aka "Fairy Castle cactus"

    Anonymous, It is really neat that you bought your sister a cactus. Getting one to bloom depends on a few variables, water, light, fertilizer and general health of the plant. That being said I can't really give you a time frame because it will vary depending on all those things I mentioned above. I don't see any harm in not telling her it is fake.

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  24. Anonymous9:41 AM

    i found something weird. one of the fake flowers fell off by itself and i dropped it in the cactus, so i left it there for overnight because it was late. but when i got it out it had radically changed colors from a dark(almost black)purple to a neon green! probably not important but i thought it was weird...

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  25. Anonymous9:45 AM

    oh and i forgot to mention that it also closed up by the time i had pulled it off

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  26. hunting10:58 AM

    i think its is a fairy castle(at least it looks a LOT like one
    also the last two comments were mine...sorry its so broken up

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  27. Hi hunting,

    Thanks for posting your story. Never heard anything like it before.

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  28. Anonymous10:49 AM

    I just bought 2 of these cactus this week, one was hot pink and one was neon green. Once I got home and sat them on the counter I noticed the hot glue seeping out from under one of the flowers. I was so shocked and upset that they would glue these onto the beautiful cactus. I immediatly took a pair of scissors and pulled on it and they came right off. The one with the pink flower has light a red dye on a small portion of the cactus but there is no damage on them. I hope that they will be allright. They had like a foil wrapping around the pot and when I took it off the one cactus was so root bound it was horrible looking. I replanted them and I hope it will live. I hope they stop this practice, and alot of people I guess don't know about it like I didn't until now. Thank you for your postings everyone. I just had to research this.

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  29. Hi Anonymous,

    Glad you figured it out and that you were able to take the fake flowers off your cactus with little effort.

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  30. Anonymous5:19 PM

    Wow I never would have thought that.... It happened to me... it fell off and the glue was there... that is ridiculous... I am a let down customer that bought a cactis with fake yellow flowers!

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  31. Anonymous,

    Sorry you got taken by the fake colorful flowers on your cacti, but you'll be able to appreciate the real ones even more when they bloom.

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  32. Anonymous3:32 AM

    I bought a Cereus tetragonus from Home Depot with fake pink flowers glued on. I kind of had a sneaking suspicion they were fake from the start (too perfect looking). But I for one don't think the practice is as monstrous as everyone is making it out to be. This is my first cactus plant (I am an orchid grower), and the fake flowers just about fell off in my hand immediately when I got it home. If it wasn't for that bright color, I don't know if I would have noticed the plant at all. I love it flowers or not, and disliked the tackiness, but sometimes those fake flowers can bring someone new to the fold--like me--who may otherwise have stayed away. I re-potted mine as soon as I could (the pot was so tiny so I did this as per some advice) and I already have plans that, should I be successful with my fairy castle cactus, which type I'd like to get next.

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  33. Hi Anonymous,

    Good point. If they fake flowers get people to buy them and interested in growing them maybe that's not such a bag thing. Enjoy your plant.

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  34. I had no idea. It almost seems cruel to me. :-/

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  35. has anyone tried to return one of these fakes?

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  36. @Lui5,

    LOL, right?

    @Cvoogt,
    I haven't but now you got me wanting to try to return one to see if they'll let me. Is a fake flower a good enough reason to return a plant? I guess we'll find out!

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  37. CowgirlX4:38 PM

    So I managed to melt the glue off and get that horrible straw flower off. I have a: Blue Candle Pilosocereus Azureus, and the glue was all stuck in between the spikes. I finally got like 98.9 percent of the glue out with a knive and a hairdryer...but...now the spikes on the top are brown, yes, BURNT! Will this go away over time? Grow out? Or will she shock from the heat kill the Cactus?

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  38. CowgirlX, The spines may stay permanently that color but as the plant gets taller and bigger it won't be as noticeable. I don't know how hot your hairdryer was but it shouldn't have been so hot that it would kill the cactus.

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  39. Anonymous11:02 AM

    Actually the flowers are not fake. They are a straw flower that is glued on the cactus. They are usually a species of Helichrysum.

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  40. Yeah I bought a Fairy Castle cactus at Walmart and it took me a month to realize it was fake. I had noticed the "liquid" (glue) seeping from the flowers right after I bought it but I didn't think much of it. I just want to safely remove the flowers off my poor cactus... I can't believe they would do that to sell it! Without flowers it is very pretty by itself....

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  41. @Anonymous, Good point. They aren't fake as in silk flowers but they are fake in that they're not growing on this actual plant.

    @Cim, Sorry you got tricked buy the flowers, but I hope you enjoy your plant just the same.

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  42. Anonymous9:17 AM

    OMG ive bought a cactus a while back and it had one of those hiddiouse fake things on it! wen i tried to pull it of it fell apart and only half came off.eventualy i was left with this big mess on the top of my perfectly fine cactus and then it went black were the flower was,the plant went hollow and died! now i have one with artificial flowers that are stabbed into the cactus really need them out as the plant is growing very fast and the flowers are moving closer into the cactus! help!!! any ideas of removal without damaging the plant(if possible) ?!?!?!

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  43. @Anonymous, You can try warming the glue that attaches the fake flowers onto the spines of the cactus to remove it. If they're just on the spines I suppose you could cut off the spines.

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  44. Anonymous1:14 AM

    I removed the straw flower cutting the glue very carefully, bit by bit, with a cuticle nippers. There is no scarring or mark on the cactus top although there seem to be no spines on the top. Now my little cactus can continue to grow without that silly flower.

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  45. Anonymous11:30 AM

    I'm glad you wrote about this disgusting practice! Lowe's has some good deals on the more unusual succulents, but I won't buy their cacti anymore because they've started using the fake (probably Chinese) flowers. Gross. Hope they don't do it to the aloinopsis, pleiospilos and lithops!! That would make me mad....
    -Marla

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    Replies
    1. Anonymous12:13 AM

      Why does it have to be "probably Chinese". The flowers are usually real flowers (just not real in terms of actually growing from the cacti) that are glued or pinned on, as another anonymous stated that it is probably Helichrysum.

      Delete
  46. Anonymous9:25 AM

    My 4 year old wanted to buy a flower for me and her big siblings convinced her to get a cactus. She picked one that had "pretty pink flowers" on top. Then today it bloomed with an absolutely gorgeous white flower. I know nothing about flowers, so I googled b/c it seemed so unusual for two such different flowers to grow on one plant. I had no idea the "pretty pink flowers" were fakes. :-/ My 4 year old is so disappointed. Once the white flower dies we will use a hair dryer to get the fake pink ones off, I just don't want to risk hurting the real flower, especially since it seems that it will only bloom one flower once a year.

    It is such a shame. But we did have a good discussion with my big kids about marketing.

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  47. Anonymous12:01 PM

    My boyfriend bought me a small cactus from home depot and I pulled off the fake flower. But to my surprise, my cactus is about to bloom about 6 different yellow flowers! I'm so excited! However I have no clue what species my cactus is, as Home Depot labeled it at a Tanzanian Zipper Plant which it is NOT.

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  48. Anonymous7:02 AM

    I to have bought cactus with fake flowers glued on them. So many people think they are real...Cactus in time have some of the most beautiful flowers. I wish these companies would stop this degrading practice..Cactus don't need fake cramp to sell..their diverse shapes and textures and natural beauty stands alone. The idea of this marketing technique is undermining to the consumer..

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  49. Anonymous10:55 AM

    I hate this practice too, the poor plants. To remove the flower easily, I hold the cactus sideways and rinse the top part of the cactus under water in the sink for a few minutes. I let it sit about five minutes, then remove the fake flower very carefully. The water seems to loosen the glue, and I haven't had any damaged cactus doing this.

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  50. Anonymous12:20 AM

    I bought 2 cacti and didn't realize that the flowers were fake! It wasn't until I was trying to figure out what the 2 species of cacti they were (to know if each cactus had specific needs) that I found they were fake! I also noticed the glue that was put on top after the purchase.

    The only good thing that came out of it was that the flowers got me interested in cacti and led to my first purchase.

    But a few questions.
    Other than being tacky, does the fake flowers actually harm the plant? and what is the best way to identify a cactus?
    They are both pretty small but one of them is flat and has little bulbs protruding from the top. The other one is more fuzzy and the spines seem to grow in a straight, vertical line.

    ReplyDelete

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