Bunny Ear Cactus Growing Long and Skinny? What to Do

Bunny ear cacti are known for their distinctive, round pads that resemble rabbit ears. When grown properly, these plants are beautifully plump and full.

Bunny ear cactus growing long and skinny is majorly a problem of lighting. If the cactus is not getting enough sunlight, it may stretch and become thin as it tries to reach the source of light.

Naturally, green plants rely on light for photosynthesis – the process through which plants make their own food (carbohydrates) from light, oxygen, and water. When plants don’t receive enough light, they become leggy as they appear to be growing toward the source of light.

This phototrophic behavior in plants was discovered by Charles Darwin and detailed in his book “The Power of Movement in Plants.”

Plants that don’t receive enough sunlight may also turn pale green to yellow or white due to insufficient production of Chlorophyll – the green pigmentation in plants that help in trapping light. If sugars are also not produced, the plant will stop growing and eventually wilt and die.

Bunny ear cactus long and skinny

What to do

When a cactus is leaning on one side or growing long and skinny, simply check into its lighting conditions. The first step is to relocate the plant to a brighter sunny location. It may not be practical for the etiolated cactus pads to become plump again. Simply cut them off using a sterilized knife and let the plant grow new buds.

Bunny ear cacti are generally sun-loving plants. If growing them indoors, it would be suitable to place them in brightly lit locations such as south- or southwest-facing windows. However, plants exposed to too much light may get scorched. Cactus sunburn is difficult to treat but in time the plants may heal naturally.

Artificial lighting can be added to make up for the inadequate natural sunlight. Grow lights should be selected wisely and positioned at a correct distance, otherwise, they may equally harm the plant. Fluorescent bulbs and LEDs would be great artificial lights for the bunny ear cactus.

Fixing etiolated bunny ear cactus – Succulents for Beginners

Bunny ear cactus care

Similar to most succulents, you can start new bunny ear cactus from stem cuttings. It is as simple as propagating prickly pear cactus. You simply obtain a healthy cutting and let the cut end callous. Then plant the cutting in a potting mix for cactus, mist it, and place it in a place with bring indirect sunlight.

You should keep monitoring the project and mist the plant when the soil feels dry. It may take several weeks for the cactus to root and form new growth.

However, you may as well buy ready seedlings from a nearby nursery or gardening center. But be sure to acclimatize the plants before introducing them to full sun. The Pennsylvania State University explains how hardening transplants work.

Start by placing the cactus in a shady location and gradually move it to a sunnier spot over the course of a few weeks to prevent sunburn. Be sure to keep rotating the plant every few days so that all sides can have even sunlight. You may also reduce the amount of water plants receive, but do not allow them to wilt.

Other important care requirements for bunny ear cactus include the following:


Bunny ear cacti generally need less water when in full sun. Water deeply about once a week, or when the soil has completely dried out. You may need to water more frequently during hot, dry periods. Cacti need less water during winter, cut back on watering and let the plant go into dormancy.

When watering, avoid water getting on the pads as it can encourage fungal growth. Most important, don’t overwater to prevent root rot. You should make sure the pot has functional drainage holes at the bottom to allow excess water to escape.


Fertilize the cactus during the growing season with a balanced, water-soluble fertilizer specifically formulated for cacti and succulents. Avoid using high-nitrogen fertilizers as it can also cause the cactus to grow long and thin. Cactus don’t require fertilizer during winter when in a dormant state.

Control pests

The bunny ear cactus is generally resistant to most pests, but it can still be susceptible to a few bugs like mealybugs, scale insects, and spider mites. It is important to inspect the plant regularly for any signs of pests including stunted growth, yellowing, wilting or white spots on cactus pads.

Few visible pests on a cactus can be removed manually by hand or by gently wiping them off with a cotton swab dipped in alcohol. You may also use insecticidal soap or agricultural oil like neem for pests hidden in hard-to-reach areas. Be sure to apply as directed on the product label.


Your bunny ear cactus is likely to outgrow its pot and use up all the important nutrients in the soil. It is important to repot the plant in fresh soil every one to two years. Be sure to use a pot that is slightly bigger than the current one. Unglazed clay pots are generally the best to use.

Final Thought

The bunny ear cactus is a popular houseplant with low maintenance requirements. The polka dots cactus is valued for its unique appearance and it’s commonly grown indoors for ornamental purposes. However, poor growing conditions such as inadequate light may make the cactus grow long and thin.

Be sure to provide sufficient light, proper watering, fertilizer and repot as needed. Regular inspection of the plant is important for disease and pest management.


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