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Opuntia speceis
Prickly Pear

Cactus bloomOuch! Be careful.

The prickly pear is one of 200 species of cacti, that sometimes take on the character of an invasive weed, sometimes covering hillsides.

They winter nicely to well below 50 degrees F. and bloom on schedule every spring. This will be followed by a spherical fruit. Smooth white seeds will mature in the pods.

Why cultivate them? The blooms are spectacular and they are carefree plants in the ground or in a container. They will enjoy full sun and require little water.

Surprisingly they are moderate growers and multiply fairly quickly.


Take a piece of the cactus (by section or cut into pieces) and let them 'cure' for a day so the ends have stopped emitting any liquids.

Prickly Pear CactusUsing a cactus soil or potting soil with a sand base poke and place the piece of cactus in the pot. I also suggest a clay pot. Do not water for a few days.

They will soon root.

You may also want to use a root hormone. This prevents diseases and has some hormones in to help root and grow.

Start in good morning sun and acclimate to brighter light, that cacti like.


What's wrong with my cactus?

Prickly Pear

Q: I have a very, very old Easter cactus that I was given last year as I was handling an estate (the executor thought it was in excess of 60 years old, and by the thickness of the base of each stem, I think he may be right!). It was blooming when I got it. Well, this year it had two measly blooms. The leaves are no longer plump and strong, and it seems droopy. I did repot it last spring after it was done blooming into a 12-inch pot as it was quite root bound. It is now in a south-facing window. I use a water meter and only water when it is almost dry. I rarely fertilize it, though did fertilize it when the two buds appeared. Any hints on why my heirloom plant is going down hill?

A: My biggest suggestion is to summer the cactus outdoors for the season if you can. In the shade, with perhaps good morning sun. Make sure it is in a clay pot. Repotting it should of had no affect on its performance. But the stress and strain may take time.

Do not fertilize until the middle of the summer.

Your watering procedures are very good so I would maintain with that program.

Check for insects or disease. In any case, you may just want to wash it thoroughly with a mild solution of soap and water.

If it rains make sure the plant is not setting in water afterwards.

Prickly Pear Cactus

What kind of soil does my cactus need?

Q: I was wondering if you can plant a cactus in soil or does it have to be planted in sand. Please reply as soon as possible because my cactuses are grown out of their pots.

A: Yes. It is very important to have as nearly as possible the correct soil for each individual plant (although many plants do acclimate to something not required by them). What is important is that cactus / cacti must have good drainage and that drainage is created by sand.

Minute pebbles or grains may help if you only have regular potting soil. Most potting soils have a lot of peat or humus in them and often times soil wetting agents that retain moisture. So, be very careful, because this will keep water in and around the roots and this will lead to rotting in a cactus.

Cactus love hot-dry arid conditions and this of course, should be supplied in and around the pot too.

Good luck

Be careful in transplanting. Using rolled up newspaper to hold the cactus while placing the cactus from one pot to the other.