Prickly Pear Cactus

Opuntia spp.
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The pricky bear cactus is named after the large fruits it bears and can grow to enormous sizes. 

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The fruits of the prickly pear can be eaten and are relatively sweet. Large populations of the cacti can be found across South America, specifically the Galápagos islands where giant tortoises (Chelonoidis nigra) eat from them.

How to care for your Opuntia. spp

There are many species of Opuntia but each has similar requirements of care.

 

Temperature:

Ensure your cactus is kept at a temperature between 13-29 degrees. For optimum conditions keep your plant in hotter conditions of at least 18 degrees.

 

Lighting:

This cactus does best in bright direct sunlight and is, therefore, a perfect addition to a south-facing windowsill.

 

Watering: 

Like any cacti, the Opuntia should not be overwatered. Small plants are often happy with just a teaspoon of water every few weeks. However, you should water more frequently during hotter summer months. Signs of overwatering is yellow discoloration and the tissues beginning to become soft to the touch due to over absorption of water. Base your frequency of watering on allowing the soil to dry out before your next watering.

 

Soil Type:

Plant your prickly pear in a well-drained loamy soil that consists of plenty of sand and grit. You can buy a ready-made cacti mix from most garden centers.

 

Propagation:

The Opuntia can be propagated however this should be left until your plant becomes a large specimen in order to avoid damaging your young plant. To do so, a pad should be dissected away with a clean cut. The cut end should then be allowed to dry and form a callus. Expose the cut end to water to encourage root development before potting on in well-draining cacti soil.

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Fortunately for any houseplant owner, the species takes hundreds of years to reach these substantial sizes and therefore means you don’t need to worry about it outgrowing your workspace!