Prickly Pear Cactus, Prickly Pear, Opuntia - Care Tips

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If you want to cultivate not only a decorative plant, but also an unusual and healthy source of fruit, then the prickly pear cactus is the best choice for you. Because many Opuntia, as the varieties of prickly pear are also called, offer both. The plants do not expect much. Even beginners in plant care can therefore quickly achieve success with them. As frugal as the prickly pear is but it does not forgive some care mistakes. For a good prosperity and a rich harvest it is therefore important to pay attention to one or the other.
The prickly pear cactus needs plenty of sun to thrive and produce fruit. The more light the Opuntie gets, the better. It does not matter if the plant is on the windowsill, the balcony or in the garden. In addition, the location of the Opuntie must be somewhat protected, because they can stand no strong, cold wind or excessive rain. It should be noted that the prickly pear only tolerates short frost fractures - in prolonged cold temperatures, however, he takes damage. Separate wintering is therefore required.
The prickly pear needs a comparatively low-nutrient substrate, which is dry and loose. Well suited is a mixture of:

  • Plant soil or mature compost
  • Coconut fibers or peat
  • sand
  • Gravel or pearlite
The soil may be rocky at times, so even a mixture of equal parts of said components is easily possible.
Preferably, the prickly pear is dry, so between the watering should and should pass some time. It is ideal if the uppermost layer of the substrate is well dried. If the Opuntie is free in the garden, rainfall normally suffices. The time of fruiting is the exception here. During this phase - which falls on late summer - enough liquid is crucial. If the rain is missing, then it must also be poured in the garden. For pouring fresh and stale tap water or rainwater can be used.
Frugal as the prickly pear cactus, it usually requires no fertilizer when placed in fresh substrate. If he is already in the pot a little longer, he can be supplied with cactus fertilizer from spring to late summer. Optimal are Kali-emphasized agents in liquid form, which are administered every two weeks.
The Opuntie does not need a shape cut. Only discolored plant parts should be cut off. The prickly pear, in addition to its fruits but also edible leaves that can be prepared as vegetables. These can also be harvested by trimming. Tip: When cutting, solid gloves should be worn, because the thorns are barbed and therefore difficult to remove from the skin.
Although annual repotting is not absolutely necessary, it saves the swell and also reduces the risk of disease and pest infestations. The new pot should only be slightly larger than the previous one. Otherwise, initially only root growth is stimulated. Again, gloves should be worn to protect from the spikes.
If fruits have formed and reddened in edible varieties, the harvest will take some time. The prickly pears do not mature until they yield to light pressure. Depending on the exact species, this is usually the case in late summer, for example in August or September. Other varieties are as late as autumn. When harvesting, the fruiting bodies are again cut off or cut off with light pressure. The figs can be cut open and spooned or peeled. Tip: A particularly recommendable species is the Opuntia ficus indica, which bears very tasty fruit.
The propagation of the Opuntia takes place via seeds, which are contained in the fruits. Sown on peat and covered only slightly, they germinate quite quickly. It usually only takes about two weeks for the first sprouts to sprout up. Also possible is the propagation through a so-called cactus ear. A fleshy, green leaf of the prickly pear is cut off and cut in half. Subsequently, the resulting pieces are pressed with an interface down into substrate. But only a finger's breadth, otherwise threatens mold danger. For better grip, the pieces can also be erected with bars. By regularly pouring small quantities, roots are formed quite quickly. After just two to three weeks, the development can be seen with a slight pull on the plant. If they are stuck, roots are present and the rods can be removed.
If temperatures drop to about 10° C, the Opuntia must be brought indoors. Your ideal winter quarters are bright and unheated. A temperature between 6 and 10° C is optimal. Apart from these claims, the prickly pear shows again frugal. He just needs a sparse casting at long intervals, so as not to dry out completely.
Typical pests and diseases
Against diseases, the prickly pear shows to be unaffected. Only too much watering or too humid culture can lead to rot. Pests are also rare and usually found only in winter quarters, if this is too dry and warm. including:
  • Scale insects
  • mealybugs
  • spider mites
  • mealybugs
If the humidity is briefly increased, for example, by spraying and airtight sealing of the plant, the pests disappear again. In stubborn infestations, the use of natural predators, such as ladybugs, lacewings and parasitic wasps effect. If this control is not possible, yellow boards and insecticides can help.
Frequently asked questions
  • Are all prickly pears edible? - Prickly pear is not always prickly pear, among the varieties are therefore also purely decorative variants that are not edible. Of course, this should be taken into account in the selection.
  • Why do the fruits stay small? - If the prickly pears remain very small and the harvest is sparse overall, the Opuntie usually lacks the necessary water at the right time. As soon as flowers form, the casting volume and frequency can therefore be increased if necessary. Also a change in fresh substrate or an additional fertilization can increase the yield.
Worth knowing about the prickly pear in a nutshell
  • The prickly pear belongs to the family of cacti.
  • The genus Opuntia recorded about 400 species. Most fruits of the Opuntia are edible, and tasty.
  • The prickly pear cactus is generally cultivated as a houseplant, but there are also winter hardy varieties.
  • Opuntia prefer a bright, sunny spot (south windows are ideal), in summer if possible outdoors.
If the prickly pear spends the summer outside, it has to be in a cool place in winter, and one should also stop the watering almost completely (once a month a little water). Hibernation can be bright, at a temperature of 4-10° C. The cool and almost dry hibernation promotes flowering in summer. The care during the growing season (May - August) is very easy. Water moderately, and provide weekly with a cactus fertilizer. Dry periods are better tolerated than jamming wetness. Also the reproduction is quite simple. Broken or cut ears rooted easily. However, the fracture site or the cut surface must dry for about 14 days before planting. As substrate, cactus soil is preferred.
Some Opuntienarten adorn themselves in the summer with red or pink flowers. Opuntia have large, hard thorns and unruly glochids. While the spines are relatively easy to remove, the glochids have small barbs that make removal from the skin difficult. Therefore, it is advisable to handle Opuntia only with firm gloves. If something should happen, you can drip liquid candle wax on the places, and carefully remove the thorns with the help of tweezers.
Hardy varieties should be bought better in the specialized trade, but are not quite as inexpensive as their non hardy conspecifics. Winter hardy Opuntia look pitiful in the winter outside, and one would think, they are broken freeze. But with the first sunbeams they start to recover. Rocky, well drained soils are preferred where no waterlogging can occur, even in prolonged rain.

Video Board: In The Garden With Nick Federoff: Growing Prickly Pear Cactus.

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