How to grow prickly pear cactus

Prickly pears and different Opuntia species are extremely popular desert cacti grown as houseplants. They’re extremely decorative, made up of segmented stems of large, flat, thick pads which are coated in spines.

Some have giant, rounded spines whereas others have tiny, hair-like barbs that detach on contact with the plant, stick within the pores and skin and could be troublesome to take away – so deal with with care.

The edible, lemon-shaped or plum-shaped prickly pear fruit, generally referred to as ‘Indian figs’, of some species of Opuntia is turning into one thing of a delicacy within the UK. They’re additionally very vibrant and decorative. When mature, their outsides turn into brilliant pink and the within flesh turns orange. Some varieties are yellow on the surface when ripe and inexperienced inside. These should not fairly as candy, and are utilized in syrups, preserves and jellies. Nevertheless, you want excellent situations for vegetation to supply good-sized fruit within the UK.

Learn how to develop prickly pear cacti


Indoors prickly pears want a brightly lit place, ideally a south-facing or west-facing facet or grown in a conservatory or heated greenhouse with good, all-round mild. They want 4-6 hours of direct sunshine in summer time.

They don’t seem to be chilly or frost hardy, however could be moved exterior to a heat, sunny patio in summer time. Ensure you convey them again indoors earlier than the climate turns chilly in early autumn.

They want a minimal spring and summer time temperatures of 18°C (65°F), however desire cooler temperatures in autumn and winter of 7-13°C (45-55°F) whereas they’re dormant. Hold them away from direct warmth and radiators in addition to draughts and followers that trigger fluctuating temperatures.

Prickly pear cactus varieties

There are greater than 200 species of Opuntia. They vary in peak from low-growing vegetation, reaching 30cm (1ft) excessive to these than can simply attain 5.4m (18ft).

In all probability one of the best one to develop at house is Opuntia microdasys, which has the widespread identify of bunny ears. This solely grows to 30-45cm (12-18in), has oval pads with tufts of small, golden spines. However don’t be fooled by their dimension, these tiny barbs could be as uncomfortable as a lot bigger spines in the event you get them in your fingers.

Planting prickly pear cacti

Like all different desert cacti, they want a really well-drained compost, so both add further grit to a John Innes Compost or, higher nonetheless, use a compost particularly advisable for cacti and succulents.

Add a topdressing of gravel, pebbles or sharp sand on prime of the compost to supply a pure, completed look and to assist forestall the bottom of the plant sitting in moist compost.

Watch out of the spines when dealing with the vegetation. When potting up or in any other case shifting the vegetation, it pays to put on gloves and to make use of a collar produced from a rolled up newspaper across the stem.

Steered planting places and backyard sorts

Houseplant, indoor plant, summer time patio plant.

Learn how to look after prickly pear cacti

Being desert cacti, many individuals assume you don’t must water them. Whereas they’ll survive lengthy durations of drought by storing water of their stems, they develop – and flower – significantly better if given satisfactory provides of water. Water reasonably when vegetation are in progress (from March/April to September), however extra sparingly when dormant – a couple of times a month could also be adequate in autumn and winter. Permit the compost to dry out barely earlier than watering once more and all the time permit the compost to empty, by no means permitting the pot to sit down in water.

Feed with a balanced liquid feed as soon as a month through the rising season from late spring to late summer time, however don’t feed in autumn and winter.

Prickly pears ought to solely be repotted when completely mandatory – solely once they turn into extraordinarily potbound or have outgrown their present container. Solely repot into the following dimension pot in late spring or early summer time.

Flowering season(s) Summer season
Foliage season(s) Spring, Summer season, Autumn, Winter
Daylight Full solar
Soil sort Loamy
Soil pH Impartial
Soil moisture Effectively-drained
Final peak As much as 5.4m (18ft) relying on species
Final unfold As much as 3m (10ft) relying on species
Time to final peak 10-20 years

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