The Bear paw cactus has unusual fuzzy green, thick, and ovate leaves. These leaves have a velvety outer layer and dark red tooth-like edges that simulate bear paws. This plant has a shrub-like appearance and exceeds around 20 inches in height.
This beauty produces large bell-shaped orange flowers that add a gorgeous contrast and uniqueness to your spaces. Go through this article to learn more about growing this wonderful plant.
- What Is Bear Paw Cactus?
- Bear Paw Cactus Care
What Is Bear Paw Cactus?
The Bear paw cactus is a perennial succulent that belongs to the Cotyledon genus which is part of the Crassulaceae family native to South Africa. It is commonly known as the Bear paw plant, Woolly Cotyledon, Kitten paw plant, and Bear paw succulent.
Bear Paw Cactus Care
The Bear’s paw cactus is mainly grown for its unusual appearance but proper care should be given to this plant to help it grow well. This succulent is slow growing so, you should not expect vigorous development.
– Water Requirements
Just like any other succulent, the Bear paw cactus loves to have its roots soaked but the soil should be allowed to dry out between waterings. You should water this plant deeply during spring and summer, which are the active growing seasons.
This can be best achieved by applying one-quarter cup of water for young plants that have smaller paws and one and a half cups of water to large-pawed ones once a week. You can irrigate the Bear paw cactus more than once a week depending on the rate at which the water is being lost.
Do not water the soil if it is still wet to avoid overwatering problems like leaf discoloration, stunted growth, and rotting. Please note that the roots of your Cotyledon tomentosa bear paw plant should not sit in soggy conditions for long. You can do this by ensuring sufficient drainage facilities are available on both the soil and pot.
The Bear paw cactus plant enters dormancy during winter so be sure to reduce the watering frequency. Also, the Kitten paw cactus does not grow in winter due to lower temperatures so you should cut back on water application to at least once a week.
This succulent originates from a climate where rainfall is rare and it stores water for future use in its leaves. Therefore, the Bear paw cactus can easily acclimate and thrive in low water conditions.
– Light Requirements
The Bear paw plant enjoys bright, indirect sunlight for its upkeep. You should ensure that the Cotyledon tomentosa gets at least six hours of bright light daily. When grown as an indoor plant, you should place this plant close to a south-facing window where it receives a plentiful supply of sunlight.
If you choose to grow this lovely succulent outdoors, you should find a spot that is both bright and shaded so that the sensitive and fragile paws will be protected from too much sunlight.
If you expose the Kitten paw plant to too much sunlight, you risk burning the leaves, a scenario that leads to discoloration. Keep in mind that sunlight is an essential ingredient in the photosynthesis process that makes your plant’s food. It also intensifies the color of the plant as well as the flowers.
During winter, plant development is low due to low temperatures and sunlight. Using grow lights in cold seasons is a good alternative to keep your Bear claw cactus surviving and as it awaits the growing season. When kept in low light conditions for a long time, the plant loses its vibrancy, discolors, and becomes more vulnerable to diseases.
– Soil Requirements
Planting the Bear paw cactus in the right growing medium is very important to its performance. The soil should have efficient water draining properties to avoid a situation where the plant’s roots sit in soggy conditions for extended periods of time.
You should consider using a well-draining and gritty soil mix to mimic the Bear paw’s natural habitat. You can mix amendments like coarse sand, pumice, and pebbles to create a perfect growing medium for your beauty.
A good cactus soil medium also ensures that air circulates around the root system, thereby curbing the manifestation of bacteria and some fungi. Incorporating coarse sand into the growing medium ensures that water is not held within the soil.
We recommend that you regularly loosen the soil of your plant with a clean tool to make sure it does not get compacted. Additionally, good soil works well when used together with a pot that has enough drainage holes.
The bear paw plant grows well in soil with a pH of around six. At each given time, the pot should be one size larger than the root system of your plant.
– Temperature Requirements
The Bear paw succulent plant thrives in climates that are warm, with extremely mild winter seasons. This amazing plant is cold tolerant in 9b to 11b zones. However, if you need to grow it in cooler climates, you should make sure that the plant is moved indoors during winter.
Remember the Bear paw cactus is a succulent plant, so too low temperatures cause the water that is stored in its tissues to freeze, leading to the bursting of the plant’s cells.
We recommend that you keep the temperatures around your plant between 68 to 82 degrees Fahrenheit (20 to 28 degrees Celsius).
Temperatures below 44 degrees Fahrenheit (7 degrees Celsius) are bad for the Cotyledon tomentosa as they cause several problems, including stunted growth, color loss, and even death. Under such circumstances, it is better to grow this succulent plant as a houseplant where room temperatures are warmer and stable. Before deciding to grow this plant indoors, first ensure that there is a plentiful supply of light.
Spring and summer seasons have the best plant growth conditions so you should consider transitioning your cactus outside as the temperature becomes warmer. We advise you to give the plant a few hours of outdoor exposure and move it back indoors for the first few days to acclimatize it to warmer temperatures first before leaving it to grow outside for the rest of the season.
– Humidity Requirements
The Cotyledon tomentosa’s natural habitat is associated with dryness. It does not do well when grown under high humidity conditions. However, if you live in a humid climate, there are measures that you may take to help your plant to thrive.
One such strategy is ensuring that the soil is dry before irrigating it so as to maintain low moisture levels around your plants. High humidity reduces water loss and this may make your plant more susceptible to root and stem rot.
When exercising Bear paw succulent indoor care, avoid growing it in bathrooms or near kitchen sinks because these spaces have high humidity levels.
Also, avoid growing you’re succulent close to humidity-loving plants that maintain or increase high humidity levels around them through evapotranspiration. Evapotranspiration is defined as the process whereby water is lost from plants and surfaces into the atmosphere.
We advise that you move your plants to sunny and dry spots to help them perform better. Please note that constant exposure to high humidity gives way to the manifestation of fungi on plant tissues. Unlike humidity-loving plants, the Bear paw cactus is quite easy to grow as there is no need to mist it or use any means of moisture-increasing gadgets like humidifiers. This also makes the care process less costly.
– Fertilizing Requirements
Fertilizing is a vital care requirement for effective Bear paw flower growth and overall vibrancy of the entire plant. A well-fertilized plant has increased chances of producing large and colorful flowers that give that unique vibe to your spaces.
Feed your Bear paw cactus with light fertilizers twice a month, during the growing season. If you decide to use mineral fertilizers, apply them to the plants only once a month to avoid over-application.
Another effective option that you can consider is using a water-soluble fertilizer with a blend of 24-8-16. You can also add a half teaspoon of the soluble fertilizer to a gallon of water to make perfect succulent feeds.
Please note that you should carefully read the instructions on the package to avoid misusing the fertilizer and exposing your plants to serious damage. During winter, we do not recommend that you apply any fertilizers to your Bear paw cactus as it will be dormant.
Fertilizers cause a mineral build-up in the soil over time. Therefore, you should take advantage of the winter season to resuscitate the growing medium of your succulent.
This can be done by flushing the soil using mineral-free water, ensuring that it runs through the growing medium. This prepares the soil for the oncoming growing season, thereby further curbing chances of over-fertilizing .
The low growth rate of the Cotyledon bear paw makes pruning less necessary. Pruning may become relevant when some parts of the plant are damaged or diseased.
Bear in mind that every bear-toed leaf adds to the beauty of this plant. Simply put, the denser the foliage, the more beautiful the whole plant appears. When the need to cut off parts of the foliage arises, please consider using only sterilized tools to curb the possible transmission of fungi and bacteria that cause plant diseases.
Always be gentle and make neat incisions on the plant to help it to recover quickly. Deep cuts take time to heal, thereby exposing the Bear paw cactus to the risk of contracting infections. The best time to remove unwanted foliage is during the onset of the growing season when the plant has ample time to grow back.
You can propagate your succulents effectively through stem cuttings. Single leaf propagation is also effective, although its success rate is much lower. Propagating Bear paw plants is best done during the growing season when plant development is enhanced by the abundance of light as well as the warmer weather. You can propagate your cuttings in water or soil but, the latter is generally faster and more successful.
– Stem Cutting Propagating in Water
Get a healthy cutting that has at least a few leaves and remove the bottom ones. Leave the cutting in a dry place for about two to three days for it to callous. Then, put the stem cutting in a glass jar containing water that is enough to submerge the bottom of the stem. Place the cutting in the water and make sure the leaves are not in contact with the water.
Place the container on a spot that has bright, indirect light. Be sure to change the water each time it becomes milky or cloudy. Keep doing this until roots appear and when they grow to about one or two inches. You can now repot the cutting to a regular Bear paw growing medium.
Water the soil once and wait until you notice new growth appearing before you irrigate the plant again.
– Stem Cutting Propagating in Soil
You can propagate the bear’s paw succulent by planting it in soil and this is the method that we recommend for you to use. Cut off a stem cutting with a few leaves from a healthy mature plant. Prune the bottom leaves and leave the cutting to dry and callous over a period of two to three days. You can dip the bottom of the stem cutting in rooting hormone to speed up the root formation process.
Now, plant the cutting in well-drained potting soil, covering only the bottom part. Make sure the leaves are well above the surface of the soil. Ensure that the young plant is placed on a spot that has bright, indirect light. and water it lightly.
Wait for the cutting to show new growth before you treat it the same way you do for the mature ones. Try to be gentle to avoid disturbing the tender plant as it develops itself.
– Leaf Propagation
Bear paw succulent propagation through leaves is a quite complex process and its success rate is low. However, if you choose to use this method, take off the leaves from the plant by twisting them gently.
A clean and fully developed leaf has a greater chance of success. After pulling off the leaf, leave it for two to three days for it to callous before planting it in well-draining soil.
Place the pot on a spot that has bright, indirect sunlight exposure. Rooting will take place in a few weeks and, this process can be quickened by dipping the bottom of the leaf in rooting hormone before planting it. When you see new growth appearing, the new plant will have established its roots.
The Woolly cotyledon’s growth may be hindered by several things that may be combated if a regular inspection of the plant is done.
Mealybugs are one of the major problems in Cotyledons tomentosa’s upkeep. They usually occupy the Bear paw’s leaves and stems. Once you notice tiny, cottony, and waxy-coated bugs, you should start applying mealybug wiping procedures quickly. Mealybugs move slowly around your plant, and they are usually clustered together on the veins or spines of the leaves.
Also, look out for root mealybugs that live at the surface of the soil. They gather around the roots of the plant, form a white mass, and may be mistaken for fungal growth. Mealybugs weaken plants by sucking out the juices and their effects are the same as those of bacterial or fungal attacks.
Mealybugs can also hibernate on the undersides of the leaves. You can effectively eliminate them by applying alcohol to the affected plant using a cotton swab. We recommend that you isolate the affected Bear paw cactus plant and treat it in a separate place to avoid infecting the healthy ones.
Scales have a soft and cottony appearance but mature ones have hard protective shells. They attach themselves to the Woolly cotyledon’s stems and feed themselves by sucking out the sap and juices from the plant.
You should scrape off the shells of scales first with a blunt knife or nail before applying any pesticide directly to their bodies. You can also wipe out scales by applying pyrethrin or permethrin-containing insecticides. Applying Neem oil on the infected parts also kills scales without causing any harm to your plant. If left untreated, these insects reproduce and multiply on the plant, ultimately leading to the death of the plant.
– Spider Mites
Spider mites are common houseplant pests and they love warm or dry environments that have low moisture levels. Spider mites feed on the Bear paw cactus’s leaves, causing some chlorotic spots on the leaves. In the early stages, you may notice some webbings on the plant’s foliage. Fortunately, spider mites are very easy to manage.
Houseplants are mostly attacked by the two-spotted spider mite. The adult ones are oval-shaped and mostly have greenish bodies although some may be orange-red or brown.
If you use a magnifying lens to view them, you will notice two dark dots on their bodies. When your plants have been infested by these pests, move them to a cooler room and wash the foliage or spray it using lukewarm water repeatedly to reduce their population.
We also recommend the use of insecticides that contain permethrin or pyrethrin to wipe out spider mites. Using horticultural soaps and oils is also effective. However, in severe infestation cases, you can control spider mites better by discarding the entire plant before they spread to healthy ones.
– Root Rot
Rotting of the roots is a result of excessive soil moisture which is mostly caused by poor drainage. If this problem is not dealt with promptly, the rotting will extend to the stems.
In this case, we advise that you cut off the healthy parts for propagation and discard the remainder. Once you notice the Bear paw cactus wilting despite the soil being wet, inspect the plant’s roots for rotting.
In the early stages, you can trim off the damaged roots and repot the plant into a new potting medium. With proper care, the plant will grow new healthy roots and have greater chances of recovery. We do not recommend reusing once-infected potting soils this may make your plants susceptible to another attack by the fungi that causes root rot.
Although the Bear paw cactus has proved to be a beginner-friendly plant, it has some care needs that enhance its performance.
Let us revisit some of the main aspects that we covered in this Bear paw cactus parenting guide.
- Ensure that the Kitten paw cactus gets at least six hours of bright, indirect sunlight daily.
- Fertilizing is important in Bear paw flower production and the general appearance of the whole plant but, feeding is most welcome during the growing season.
- The best time to propagate Bear paw plants is during spring or early summer to give them enough time to develop before the growing season ends.
- You should regularly inspect the plants for early detection of pests, diseases, and any other problems.
- Early treatment will help the plant recover whereas severe cases result in the loss of the once beautiful Bear paw plants.
Growing the Bear paw succulents together with similar species like the Kalanchoe tomentosa in your places gives you the desert vibe you never had. Get Bear paw cactus from a trusted supplier and enjoy its uniqueness!