Prickly pear vegetation (Opuntia spp.) are a big genus of cacti native to the Americas. They’re each edible and decorative vegetation of historic significance in southwestern United States and Mexico. One even seems on the flag of Mexico as a part of the nation’s creation story.
Prickly pear vegetation are fashionable for his or her distinctive pads and colourful fruit, each of that are extremely nutritious. These vegetation are hardy and straightforward to develop, which make them a well-liked alternative for gardeners. Nevertheless, when rising prickly pear, it is very important know that it is a prolific plant that may unfold and develop right into a dense colony beneath the best situations.
Opuntia is a big plant genus with many species. Their particular progress wants and geographies fluctuate, however all are inclined to favor full solar and well-draining soil. Prickly pear vegetation are an excellent addition of visible curiosity and taste to many gardens.
Fast Care Information
|Widespread Identify(s)||Prickly pear, jointed cactus, Indian fig, barbary fig, jap prickly pear, bunny ears cactus, nopal, tuna fruit, tiger pear|
|Scientific Identify||Opuntia spp.|
|Days to Harvest||Relying on the species, it could take a number of years of progress to have the ability to harvest the cactus fruit.|
|Water||Water each 10-14 days and test to ensure the soil is totally dry earlier than water.|
|Soil||Nicely-draining gravelly to sandy soil|
|Fertilizer||Sometimes no fertilizer is required for outside vegetation. Indoor vegetation might profit from a balanced fertilizer. Use excessive nitrogen fertilizer to advertise pad progress for harvest. Use a low-nitrogen fertilizer to advertise fruiting and flowering.|
|Pests||Cochineal scale, cactus longhorn beetle, cactus moths, cactus bugs|
|Illnesses||Phyllosticta pad spot, Opuntia Sammon’s virus|
All About Prickly Pear Vegetation
Prickly pears are a part of the genus Opuntia and subgenus Platyopuntia, or “flat-Opuntia”, due to their distinctive fleshy pads that stack on high of one another. As they develop, new pads develop on high of earlier ones. These pads are coated in spines and are sometimes inexperienced to blue in colour.
One selection, the O. santa rita, is putting due to its vivid violet colour. Attributable to their form, prickly pear vegetation are also referred to as paddle cactus and jointed cactus. Prickly pear cactus are identified for his or her showy pink, orange, crimson, or yellow flowers which might bloom beneath the best situations in spring or summer time.
The flowers end in edible, pear-shaped fruits that are referred to as cactus pear or tuna fruit. These fruits may tackle many various colours comparable to inexperienced, yellow, crimson, or purple. The looks of flowers, fruits, spines, and pads are all depending on environmental situations.
Prickly pear vegetation are effectively tailored to arid climates which implies that they’ve wide-spreading and fibrous roots to maximise their floor space to seize restricted moisture. Additionally they have the potential of fixing carbon dioxide at night time and shutting their stomata in the course of the day to help with water retention.
They mostly unfold vegetatively when pads break off and root, however may also unfold over giant distances within the droppings of animals who eat the fruits. New vegetation can develop year-round and require minimal care as soon as established.
Sure species of Opuntia are native to the American southwest whereas others originate from Mexico and the West Indies. Prickly pear will also be present in different areas of the world comparable to across the Mediterranean basin, Africa, and Australia. Of the practically sixty totally different species of Opuntia, one species, O. aurantiaca, is federally categorised as a noxious weed.
Prickly pear pads and fruits are each thought of superfoods for his or her excessive dietary worth however must be ready with care. Whereas some prickly pear vegetation have giant spines, others have hair-like barbed bristles that may irritate the pores and skin. The pads or nopales might be sliced and pickled, juiced, or cooked and utilized in salads. The fruits might be eaten uncooked or used to make jams, jellies, candies, wines, and syrups.
There are various further makes use of for prickly pear vegetation together with as livestock feed and even pure dye. The juice of mature fruits has been traditionally used to dye wool or cloth as a result of power of the colour and likewise antifungal and antibacterial properties.
Prickly Pear Varieties
Prickly pears are half of a giant genus of Opuntia vegetation with many sorts and practically 60 species. Listed below are a couple of frequent varieties:
Opuntia ficus indica, generally referred to as Indian fig or barbary fig, is a species native to Mexico and Central America. It’s extensively cultivated all over the world as a domesticated crop for its candy edible fruits. A typical specimen has a blue-green coloration, thick and flat pads, and orange or yellow flowers. It grows effectively in poor soil situations and beneath excessive temperatures.
Opuntia humifusa is a sprawling species native to the jap United States and Canada and is often referred to as the jap prickly pear cactus. It has clusters of small, spherical pads and showy pink or yellow flowers. As a result of this species can tolerate chilly temperatures, it is among the solely prickly pear vegetation that may be discovered all through the jap U.S. and at the same time as far north as Ontario.
Native People not solely ate the pads and the fruit for meals but additionally used them for medicinal profit. This species tends to shrivel and dry up within the winter however will regain its blue-green colour beginning in early spring to early summer time.
Opuntia microdasys is also referred to as angel’s wings, bunny ears, or polka-dotted cactus for his or her clusters of sharp yellow glochids. It’s native to northern Mexico and southwestern U.S. This species just isn’t frost tolerant in contrast with the jap prickly pear and can must be introduced indoors throughout chilly spills. It is usually generally grown as a houseplant.
Different well-known kinds of prickly pear vegetation embody beavertail cactus (Opuntia basilaris), violet prickly pear (Opuntia santa-rita), pancake prickly pear (Opuntia chlorotica), large prickly pear (Opuntia streptacantha), Texas prickly pear (Opuntia engelmannii), and coastal prickly pear (Opuntia littoralis).
In perennial cool seasons, prickly pear cacti can develop as much as 12 toes tall and 4 toes huge. Broad and waxy ones can have pads that develop as much as 6 inches lengthy and might attain 20 toes tall.
Planting Prickly Pear Cactus
Prickly pear cactus is a simple visible curiosity so as to add to your backyard or dwelling. They are often planted at any time of 12 months, however the very best time to develop them is in the course of the hotter months of the 12 months when the soil is heat and there’s full solar.
As with many succulents, planting depth is vital to forestall rotting. Younger prickly pear pads ought to be capable to stand upright and at a depth of round ½ to ¾ inches beneath the soil floor at its deepest.
Prickly pear cactus desire well-draining soil and full daylight. They’re extraordinarily drought tolerant and might develop in quite a lot of soils, however they do greatest in sandy or rocky soil. They are often planted within the floor or in containers, so long as the container has ample drainage.
Prickly pears, like many succulents, might be simply rooted and propagated. Whereas it’s potential to begin them from seed, the germination charges are low and it takes a very long time for the plant to develop.
Prickly Pear Plant Care
Prickly pear cactus is comparatively low upkeep and might thrive with the right combination of daylight, water, and vitamins. Correct care and fertilization can encourage fruit manufacturing. One of the vital frequent errors in relation to caring for prickly pear vegetation is making an attempt to offer it an excessive amount of love by overwatering.
Solar and Temperature
Prickly pear cactus thrives beneath full solar situations. It’s greatest to develop them in an space that receives ample and direct daylight per day. Whereas most Opuntia cactus usually are not tolerant of chilly climate, there are particular species that may be hardy all the way down to zone 3b and thrive within the cooler climates of Canada.
Water and Humidity
As desert dwellers, these cacti are extremely tailored to outlive in arid situations and dry climate. Water your vegetation each 10-14 days or each time the soil is totally dry at a depth of 2-3 inches beneath the floor. Don’t water if this area has any wetness. Chances are you’ll want to scale back irrigation within the winter months with shorter sunlight hours and fewer evaporation.
When the nighttime temperatures drop beneath 60° F, cease watering altogether. These vegetation are sometimes really helpful to drought-conscious gardeners as a water-efficient decorative. Use normal watering greatest practices, and hold irrigation near the bottom of the plant as an alternative of overhead.
Prickly pear cactus thrives in well-draining soil and might even tolerate poor soil situations. When you’re rising these vegetation as a houseplant, choose a cactus potting combine to make sure that the soil is appropriate. Prickly pear vegetation wouldn’t have particular pH necessities and might develop in poor soil high quality.
Fertilizing Prickly Pear Cactus
Most growers don’t use further fertilizer for prickly pear, as water is crucial issue that impacts the well being and progress of the plant. Nevertheless, in case you plan to have giant harvests of pads, you need to use a extra nitrogen-based fertilizer.
To advertise extra showy flowers and ample fruits, use a fertilizer that doesn’t have nitrogen or one with a 0-10-0 NPK. Observe the producer’s instructions on the label and apply as soon as a month year-round. Indoor cacti may also profit from occasional fertilization with a balanced (10-10-10) fertilizer for the reason that vitamins in pots are inclined to get depleted sooner.
Pruning Prickly Pear Cactus
Pruning prickly pear cactus just isn’t usually required until the aim is to manage the enlargement of the plant, take cuttings or take away a broken or diseased part. There are a number of pathogens that may have an effect on prickly pears.
The removing of those illness sections will assist handle the unfold of the illness, notably if the pathogen spreads by sporulation. Pads on the decrease a part of the plant are essentially the most weak to illness as a result of comparatively greater humidity close to these areas.
Prickly Pear Cactus Propagation
Prickly pear cactus might be propagated utilizing quite a lot of strategies, together with cuttings, seeds, and grafting.
The most typical and efficient technique of propagation is to take pad cuttings, much like how prickly pear spreads within the wild. Use rubbing alcohol to sanitize instruments earlier than beginning. Snip a wholesome pad off of a mature plant and wait a couple of days for the wound to dry. Place the cut-side down right into a pot with soil and water effectively. The chopping will root inside a weeks days. Ultimately, new pads will bud from the margins of the chopping.
One other technique is to plant seeds though the germination fee might be low. Take a ripe fruit and wash away any fruit pulp surrounding the seed. Use a pointy device or sandpaper to scarify the robust outer seed coat after which soak the seeds for a number of days earlier than planting. Make sure that the seeds are buried very shallowly to encourage germination.
We at Epic Gardening have a put up that particulars each taking cuttings and rising from seed for prickly pear cactus propagation.
The third and extra commercially used technique of propagation is grafting. This method is often used to provide a extra fascinating progress behavior, flowers, or improve the plant’s survivability by grafting it onto hardier root inventory. This technique could be very time intensive and never sometimes utilized by the house gardener.
Harvesting and Storing Prickly Pear Cactus
Prickly pear cacti might be harvested for his or her fleshy pads or for fruits. Make sure that to deal with each with care as to not injure your self within the course of. Don’t wash the pads or fruits till after the spines and glochids have been eliminated. Even spineless varieties can nonetheless trigger irritation from their tiny glochids.
Prickly pear fruits should be harvested when ripe as a result of they won’t proceed to ripen as soon as picked. In North America, their season sometimes begins in August and ends in September. As soon as the fruit has been harvested, it may be saved within the fridge for a number of days or processed and frozen for long-term storage.
Among the best methods of harvesting is to make use of tongs along with carrying gloves. Gently squeeze them to check for ripeness. The fruits are able to be picked when the tongs go away behind a slight indentation. The scale and colour might not all the time be the very best indication of ripeness since that is determined by the range.
Use the tongs to rigorously twist the fruit till it separates from the pad. As a result of the glochids on the fruits might be very sharp and tiny, they might trigger irritation if not eliminated. Use the tongs to carry the fruit in place whereas utilizing a protracted lighter to burn the surface of the fruit.
These glochids simply burn off and might make processing simpler. You can even char off the surface utilizing tongs and the flames of a fuel range. Run the charred fruit beneath water and use a vegetable brush to take away the pores and skin.
Use tongs and put on thick gloves when harvesting prickly pear pads. Bend the pad away from the supporting pad beneath. Make a clear minimize on the joint utilizing sanitized instruments comparable to a pointy knife. It’s higher to reap the pads within the morning as a result of the acid content material in them varies all through the day.
Harvest youthful pads somewhat than giant pads for a extra tender texture. Use a knife to rigorously minimize away the spines or needle beds and peel the pad to entry the flesh. Nopal cactus is an ingredient out there in grocery shops. Sometimes, industrial growers develop spineless nopales varieties for culinary use.
Prickly pear fruits might be saved for a number of days within the fridge earlier than use. Complete fruits will also be saved within the freezer as one of many steps to juicing. Prickly pear juice might be saved for as much as one 12 months within the freezer. Juices will also be made into jelly, candies, jams, syrups, and even alcoholic drinks to increase the shelf life.
When you’re not utilizing the fruits for juice, peel them, take away the seeds, and slice them into bite-sized chunks. Place the items in a single layer on a tray till frozen. They’ll then be transferred into freezer baggage and saved for a number of months.
Prickly pear pads can’t be saved for long-term within the fridge resulting from their excessive water content material and tendency to show slimy. Whereas they are often frozen or strain canned like inexperienced beans, these processes will change the feel of the flesh to be mushier. Prickly pear cactus might be preserved as a pickle or dehydrated utilizing the oven or a dehydrator to 175° F levels over a number of hours to help with long-term storage.
Prickly pear is often a simple plant to take care of, however there may be some frequent points related to rising situations, pests, and ailments. It’s vital to look at the plant and slim down the potential causes to seek out the best options.
The most typical rising issues can happen resulting from overwatering. Root rot is a matter that may happen when the soil is just too moist for too lengthy. It is very important let the soil dry fully between watering and to not bury cuttings too deeply to forestall this challenge. Having sufficient draining can also be vital for wholesome progress. Poorly draining soil will even improve the probabilities of root rot.
Underwatering may also happen, particularly with houseplants. The pads will wilt, yellow, and brown, and finally die if not water for a protracted time period.
Varied climate situations may also trigger some progress points. Sunscald is feasible even for desert vegetation in the event that they had been initially grown in greenhouses and nurseries. Sunburn on cactus manifests in giant tan patches that may finally scar.
In case you are buying cacti from a greenhouse and plan to make use of them within the panorama, it’s best to slowly transfer the plant exterior for a couple of hours a day to assist them acclimate to a unique atmosphere and full solar. Transplanting in late winter may also assist to forestall sunburn for the reason that photo voltaic rays are much less intense.
Frost and freeze can injury species that aren’t cold-tolerant. Choose the best species in your native situations and canopy your vegetation with a floating row cowl or cotton sheet in case of an unseasonable chilly spell. In case your vegetation are potted in containers, they are often moved indoors till the climate improves.
Hail may also trigger some injury to prickly pear vegetation and might be mitigated utilizing these identical strategies.
With its sharp spines and aggravating barbs, the prickly pear cactus has a pure protection system towards many animals and customary pests. Nevertheless, there are a number of bugs that aren’t postpone by their formidable look.
Cochineal scale (Dactylopius coccus) is a mealybug-like scale insect that secretes a white, waxy outer coating; it seems like tufts of cotton on the stems and pads of the plant. To confirm this insect, crush the insect and search for deep crimson physique fluids. Crushed scale was used historically as cochineal dye. The scales might be washed away by a robust stream of water or an utility of insecticidal cleaning soap.
Cactus longhorn beetle (Moneilema gigas) is one other frequent pest that assaults a number of sorts of cacti together with these within the Opuntia genus. Grownup beetles vary from 1-1 ¼ inches in size and are shiny and black in look. They have a tendency to feed alongside the margins of the pads and their larvae may tunnel by the stems and roots which can trigger the plant to die.
The beetles are lively in early mornings and evenings and are simple to identify to choose off. Hand-picking this pest normally may help to get the difficulty beneath management. Very spiny varieties are sometimes not affected resulting from their pure defenses.
Throughout lengthy intervals of drought, small mammals may nibble on the cacti to entry water. These vegetation can get well from a couple of bites and no further controls are wanted.
A number of bugs have additionally been used as a organic management to manage the unfold of invasive cacti. The cactus moth (Cactoblastis cactorum) was efficiently used towards invasive cacti in Australia and was launched from South America. The larvae of this moth burrows into the pads and consumes the flesh from the within.
The invasion additionally makes the vegetation extra weak to secondary fungal and bacterial infections. This insect just isn’t present in North America. Different species of bugs have been used within the U.S. which incorporates the North American cactus moth (Melitara dentata), the blue cactus borer (Olycella subumbrella), and the cactus bug (Chelinidea vittiger).
Prickly pears are hardy and resilient vegetation that aren’t vulnerable to many ailments. There are solely two to concentrate on.
Phyllosticta pad spot is brought on by a fungal pathogen. The fungus will produce small, black reproductive buildings that end in black lesions on Opuntia species. Spores unfold shortly by rain or wind and might trigger heavy infections after moist intervals. One of the simplest ways to fight this illness is to maintain the pads dry and to take away any pads with seen lesions. In case of a extreme an infection, the complete plant must be eliminated.
Just like the Phyllosticta pad spot, one other illness, Sammons’ virus, additionally doesn’t have management strategies moreover removing of the contaminated components or the entire plant. This virus is carefully associated to the Tobacco Mosaic Virus and is categorized as a Tobamovirus. Like TMV, this virus leads to yellow rings on the tip of the pads. The infections don’t appear to trigger noticeable injury to plant well being.
Steadily Requested Questions
Q: The place does prickly pear develop greatest?
A: Develop prickly pear vegetation in sunny areas with gravelly to sandy soil. Usually, vegetation within the wild might be discovered on the rocky facet of south-facing slopes and hills. They’re effectively fitted to arid to semi-arid landscapes.
Q: How briskly does prickly pear develop?
A: Underneath the best situations, prickly pears can shortly colonize an space by vegetative propagation and type a dense colony. This poses some concern for wildlife and the grazing high quality of land. Throughout drought years, they will sometimes outperform different native vegetation like grasses.
Q: Why are prickly pears an issue?
A: They’ll unfold shortly if unchecked in wild areas all over the world and is a specific challenge in Australia. There may be additionally one species that’s categorised as a noxious weed within the U.S. A typical land administration observe is to make use of scheduled burning to manage their unfold. Nevertheless, vegetation might be simply managed in dwelling gardens.
Q: Are prickly pears simple to develop?
A: Sure, prickly pears are simple to develop as soon as established.
Q: Are you able to contact prickly pear?
A: No, you shouldn’t contact them as a result of they’ve removable spines or sharp hairs referred to as glochids. Each could cause discomfort and pores and skin irritation. It’s greatest to deal with prickly pear vegetation with heavy-duty rubber gloves and tongs.
Q: What month do prickly pears bloom?
A: Prickly pears sometimes bloom from late spring to late summer time relying on the particular selection and rising atmosphere. Some can begin blooming as early as April whereas others received’t begin till early summer time. The months in bloom additionally rely on through which hemisphere these vegetation are grown.
Q: What’s the lifespan of a prickly pear cactus?
A: These vegetation have a large lifespan relying on the range and might stay a protracted life beneath appropriate situations. The Opuntia ficus indica, for instance, can stay as much as 80 years.
Q: Are you able to eat a prickly pear fruit uncooked?
A: Sure, you possibly can eat uncooked prickly pear fruit or juice the fruit to eat as a drink or for use as a pure dye. Probably the most generally consumed selection is the O. ficus indica.