While driving through the Southwest United States, I saw these three specimens of the cactus, Opuntia. In late spring, these "Prickly Pears" bloom with large colorful blossoms. Each plant can produce several flowers and they are always bright and colorful. There are several species available for growing indoors, but handle with care! Most of them are quite prickly and owning a good pair of garden gloves is a must with opuntias. The "Bunny Ears" in the photo in the upper right corner looks almost fuzzy but if you touch it, you will find your finger full of tiny spines. They won't hurt you but you will need a tweezers immediately.
That said, they are very a tolerant plant. A friend once brought me one, as a joke, that looked completely dead. It had been left outside in the cold and I placed it in a sunny window; it completely revived within weeks! In some areas of the world where you might not suspect a cactus could become part of the landscape, they will actually live outdoors quite well. They do appear as though they are dead in the cold of winter. Check with your nursery of garden center on whether or not an opuntia can become part of your outdoor garden.
Indoors or outdoors, they are a handsome and intriguing addition to your home. Different species are native to different areas of the Americas, there's even a native Canadian opuntia. They are all easy to keep and can live with you for many years.
- Direct sun.
- Water when dry 1" (about 2-3 cm) below the soil surface for plants in a 6" (15 cm) diameter pot and 2" below the soil surface (5 cm) in an 8" (20 cm) diameter pot. A moisture meter for indoor plants is probably the best way to monitor when your plant will need water. The meters should be easy to find.
- They are all tolerant of drying out more if you should forget.
- Fertilize occasionally.
- Handle with care!