Commonly known as Prickly Pear Cactus - not hard to see why!
It is a large group of Cacti with many different types that are
suitable as houseplants. Prickly Pears are generally easy to keep. We
list some of the things that you will need to do to care for your
Opuntia - Prickly Pear Cactus!
The plants: A favourite with collectors, this group of over 200 cacti ranges in size from small, ground-covering plants to tree-sized cacti.
Opuntia cylindrical: A cactus with a spined cylindrical stem. Older plants do form branches, and, if allowed to grow unchecked, may produce pinky-red dish-shaped flowers in late spring. Flowering does not usually occur before the Opuntia has reached 2m in height!
Opuntia microdasys: This cactus has large, flat, pale green
pads covered with glochids – sporadic tufts of little hooked barbs. In
Opuntia microdasys albinospina these glochids are white. The pads may
grow up to 30cm across when grown as a houseplant. Occasionally small
yellow flowers are produced, but this is unusual a houseplant setting.
Opuntia phaecantha: A smaller cactus than above, the O. phaecantha has more elliptical-shaped pads up to 15 cm across. The glochids are yellow-brown, and small yellow flowers may be produced. This Opuntia is fairly tolerant of cool conditions.
Opuntia vestita: A smaller cactus with jointed cylindrical stems which are easily broken off in sections. A woolly cactus with occasional red flowers.
The Opuntia spp. Enjoy a well-lit position including direct sun, low
humidity and a winter minimum above 7C
Care: Water sparingly through spring and summer, using a little specialised cactus feriliser during the summer months. Reduce watering to a minimum over winter. Most cacti are potted in a cactus compost mix, but those with flat pads seem to thrive in regular loam-based potting mix. Re-pot in spring only if necessary. Break off pads or sections to propagate.
Good for: These tend to be a collector’s favourite. The Opuntia spp. Look good grown in a collection usually in terracotta pots with sand or gravel around the plants. Minimalist, a challenge to bring into flower. Some people love them others do not.
All Cacti - that I amj aware of - can suffer from mealybugs - often getting in between the spines. Use an insecticide with a small brush to get at them!