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Belle's Green House

Prickly pear cactus (Opuntia)

Prickly pear cactus (Opuntia)

Regular price $42.50 USD
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The prickly pear cactus (Opuntia) is among the most widespread cactus genera in the U.S. With over 100 species, this plant is characterized by its spiny, flat, club-shaped pads. Many varieties have large, round spines, while others have tiny, hair-like barbs that detach upon contact. While cacti are generally known as warm-weather desert plants, there are some prickly pear species that are hardy as far north as USDA zone 4. Prickly pear is best planted outside in the spring after the threat of frost has passed. Some prickly pears produce fruits that are prized for their edibility, but the plant's growth rate is fairly slow and it can take three or four years before a new plant starts fruiting.

The different species of prickly pear have slightly different care needs, but in general, ample sun and well-draining soil are key to their growth. Sitting in soil that’s too moist can quickly kill the plant with various forms of rot.

Light: As a desert cactus, prickly pear thrives in full sun. That means at least six hours of direct sunlight per day. Indoors, a west- or south-facing window works best. In very hot climates, some shade during midday can prevent scald.

Watering: Prickly pear likes dry conditions, and very little watering is required to maintain the plant. This is why the cactus is often used in low-water gardens. Limit your watering to every two to three weeks or whenever the soil is completely dry. When watering, simply moisten the soil without soaking it. If you get minimal rainfall, that's often all the plant needs.

When growing prickly pear as a landscape plant in regions that get lots of rainfall, it's critical that the soil be extremely porous and well-draining.

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