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FutureStarrPrickly Pear Cactus Propagation
Prickly pear cacti (Optunia spp.) are easily identified by their upside-down pear-shaped pads or segments. Their gray-green fleshy pads produce large showy flowers in the spring that turn into red, spiny fruits later in the season. There are more than 150 varieties of prickly pear cacti, all of which are hardy in Sunset's Climate Zones 12 through 24. These drought-tolerant plants make very low-maintenance houseplants that add a bit of Southwestern flair to a room's decor. Prickly pear cacti are easily propagated through cuttings. Prickly pear is a surprisingly simple cactus. It's easy and undemanding to grow, hardy enough to survive in climates down to at least USDA Zone 4, and boasts a cheery, delicate flower. Native to the northeastern United States, the eastern prickly pear cactus doesn’t have the stature of its dessert cousin Opuntia ficus-indica (which can top 15 feet), but this smaller version adds a touch of the southwest to cooler climates and makes up for its diminutive size with its hardiness. The cactus can either be started from cuttings in the early summer or from seeds in late spring.While you can grow prickly pear from seeds, it can take up to three years to have a substantial plant, so propagation is often the preferred method. To do so, remove an individual pad from the mother cactus that's at least six months old. Allow the cut end to "heal" for at least a week, or until it scabs over. At that point, you can plant the pad cut end down in a mixture of soil and sand. It will likely need to be supported on either side until it grows roots, so use stakes or other supports to hold it upright. After about a month, test for new roots by tugging on it gently—if the plant resists pulling, you have roots. If it comes loose, give it more time. You can water the cactus sporadically after it's able to stand on its own. Prickly pear cactus can be afflicted by the phyllostica fungus. Brought on by tiny spores that colonize the tissue of the cactus when the weather is particularly wet or humid, phyllostica can eat lesions into the pads of the cactus, eventually causing large black spots that scab over. While not deadly to the prickly pear cactus, phyllostica is very contagious and can easily spread to neighboring plants through heavy wind or rain. There is no effective treatment for phyllostica—instead, it's recommended that you dispose of infected pads or cacti to ensure the disease doesn't spread.
The prickly pear cactus (Opuntia) is among the most widespread cactus genera in the U.S. With over 100 species, this plant is characterized by its spiny, flat, club-shaped pads. Many varieties have large, round spines, while others have tiny, hair-like barbs that detach upon contact. While cacti are generally known as warm-weather desert plants, there are some prickly pear species that are hardy as far north as USDA zone 4. Prickly pear is best planted outside in the spring after the threat of frost has passed. Some prickly pears produce fruits that are prized for their edibility, but the plant's growth rate is fairly slow and it can take three or four years before a new plant starts fruiting.This is the season to identify the good bloomers for stock plants. The reason is that you can't tell the flower color on these cactus unless you've seen them bloom or they are a known flower color and labeled as such. While the majority of prickly pears bloom in shades of yellow, these common ones pale compared to the multicolored, which are always my preference. Second are the pink blooming species which are the highlight of my desert plant border each spring. These are the unusual colored flowers you should look for because they are already desert adapted and proven. Finding the same cactus to buy is difficult, even when you can go shopping.Propagating prickly pear cacti by cuttings is perhaps a more common way, since cuttings are often the main form of propagation for many species of cacti. Take a pair of sterilized scissors or shears, cut a few pads from the parent plant where they connect at the node (never slice a pad in half), then let the cut end callous over. Once healed, you can place the cut side of the pad into a pot with dry soil, holding off on watering until you start to see some new growth. (Source: www.happysprout.com)