Prickly Pear Cactus

​​Opuntia engelmannii

  • ​​Common Name: Prickly Pear Cactus (other common names: Engelmann’s Prickly Pear Cactus, Cow Tongue Prickly Pear, Texas Prickly Pear cactus, Cactus Apple, Prickly Pear, Discus Prickly Pear, Tuna)
  • Scientific Name: Opuntia engelmannii
  • Family Name: Cactaceae
  • Origin: Native to North and Central America
  • Height: 4’ – 5’ (rarely 8’)
  • Width: 3’ – 6’ (lateral pads take root readily and spread - can colonize an area up to 30’ across)
  • Growth: moderately unless grown from seed which will take a lot longer.
  • Zone: 9 - 11
  • Light Needs: Full sun to Partial shade
  • Salt Tolerance: unknown
  • Soil/PH/Texture: tolerates poor soil - Sandy, gravelly or rocky soils – not picky as long as the soil is well draining.
  • Soil Moisture: Dry – looks best if watered every 3-4 weeks in the hottest part of summer, otherwise minimal watering.
  • Drought Tolerance: High
  • Pests/Diseases: generally, disease and pest free
  • Growing Conditions: easy to grow and low maintenance
  • Characteristics: This cactus has a short trunk, spreading, stem segments are yellow green to blue-green, flattened pads, and are glabrous, circular - obovate - rhombic in shape. The spines are evenly distributed on pad/leaf or they are absent, white to yellow, with age turning gray to blackish, spines are straight to curbed. Flowers are typically yellow throughout, or sometimes orange/pink/red and rarely they are whitish. The fruit (called tunas) are dark red/purple, ovate-elongate and kind of barrel-shaped, juicy, can bleed and stain, are edible, glabrous, spine-less, and the seeds are tan to grayish in color. It usually flowers in spring – early summer.
  • Propagation: by stem cuttings, fragments, layering or seed (seeds are slow to germinate).
  • Wildlife: attracts bees
  • Facts: Opuntia engelmannii was named after and in honor of George Engelmann, who was a German American botanist. The fruit can be used for jams, jelly or syrups. It is known in Australia and Africa as a weed and an invasive species of pastureland; the spines can injure livestock, wild herbivores, and people. The plant can lower the property value of pastures and can also curtail movement for grazing animals. It is also known for displacing native species and preventing the free movement of our beloved wildlife.
  • Designer Considerations: can be used as an accent, hedge, background plant, a specimen in a cactus, succulent or rock garden, and is perfect for xeriscaping.

Prickly Pear Cactus


Cactus & Succulent Garden

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