Opuntia is a large genus of 200 species of cacti from the Americas and the West Indies. They are known for their often flat pads studded with spines (some of which are very long and thread-like), their showy flowers that open during daylight, and their round, usually prickly fruit. Grow hardy species in a desert garden or border with good drainage. Tender species can be grown in a cool or temperate greenhouse. Care should be taken when handling plants.
Noteworthy CharacteristicsSpiny pads and round, prickly pear fruit that is sometimes edible. Bristles can cause severe skin irritation.
CareIn the garden, site in fertile, very well-drained, gritty, organically rich soil in full sun. Indoors, grow in full light or bright filtered light. Keep dry from late fall through winter.
PropagationStart pre-soaked seed in spring at 70°F. Or, using folded newspaper for protection, carefully separate and root stem segments.
ProblemsCladode rots, zonate leaf spot, black spot, mealybugs, scale insects, bacterial soft rot, viruses.