Monday, July 7, 2014

The Opuntia cactus

While driving through the Southwest United States, I saw these three Opuntia cactus specimens. 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 want to find a pair of 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 or 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. 

Care Instructions---
  • Direct sun.
  • Water when dry 1" (about 2-3 cm) below the soil surface for plants in a 6" (15 cm) diameter pot.
  • Water when dry about 2"  (5cm) below the soil surface in an  8" (20 cm) diameter pot. 
  •  A moisture meter for indoor plants can be a great way to monitor the moisture level of  the soil. The meters should be easy to find online or at your garden center.
  • Cacti are tolerant of drying out a little more if you should forget.
  • Fertilize occasionally.
  • Handle with care!


To see video clips on plant care from my 90's TV series, click below:

 The Indoor Garden TV Show  


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