My first acquaintance with a prickly pear cactus
was casual. Once I’ve noticed in the porch of my house a withering plant on the windowpane. Somebody of my neighbors put it out and forgot. The cactus was a sorry sight and I couldn’t help taking it home. My friend explained me it was a prickly pear cactus
and told that I should take care of it as of saguaro
. But it wasn’t enough for me – I needed detailed information to save my dying prickly pear
. I tried various tips and recipes before I could bring this withering plant to life. So I want to share my experience with you.
Prickly pear cacti that grow on a vast territory from Canada to Chile represent one of the cactus subfamilies. It includes many various types that differ from each other, but nevertheless they have common distinctive features that set them apart from the other cactus species. All prickly pears have a segmented stalk structure – flat stalks are globe-, disc-, table-shaped, oval or cylindrical. They are covered with the smallest serrated spikes named glochidiae, which easily stick into the skin when you touch the cactus. Sometimes it’s very hard to take them out, besides it’s painful. Maybe it was the reason why my neighbors decided to get rid of a “dangerous” Opuntia azurea.
Unfortunately the most of prickly pear representatives are too large and not so lovely as other houseplants. A lot of cacti never flower in the flat because their flowering is possible only when they reach a certain size. But still there are some small and undemanding types of cactus plants.
Just like saguaro prickly pear cactus needs much sun. When the plant is short of light it becomes high but thin and not fleshy, losing its decorative beauty. In spring I accustom it to the sun and then keep it in the open air till autumn. Some collectors bed them out in summer in the garden. It hardens and strengthens the plants, heightens their decease and vermin resistibility.
Speaking of watering, it’s, of course, connected with the temperature and air humidity: the hotter the weather is, the more you should water your prickly pear. If it’s a cool rainy day, leave it dry. In winter I water my plants once a month, keeping them along with saguaros in a cold place with the temperature about 7-10 C.
All cacti can’t bear water stagnation near their roots, so the drain ports and a drainage layer on the bottom of the pot are necessary. Moreover, the water must be soft, without any mixture and chlorine. It would be ideal to use rainwater, but I water all my plants with warm water settled for some days. If you keep an eye on your plant constantly, you can notice in time the sign of water shortage – the stalk would be shrunken.