195 Opuntia Varieties | Types Of Prickly Pear [With Pictures]

Opuntia is the most widespread of all genera in the cactus family. Opuntia varieties occur naturally throughout North and South America from as far north as Canada, through the Caribbean, and down into Argentina. With man’s help, however, this species can now be found worldwide where it has escaped cultivation and become naturalized even to the point of being classified as a noxious weed.

Opuntias are easily recognized by their flat paddle-shaped stem segments called cladodes that grow one on top of the other. The edge and flat surfaces of these cladodes are covered with areoles that always have tiny, easily detached spines called glochids.

opuntia varieties

Many Opuntia varieties have large, formidable spines in addition to the glochids, but some are armed only with masses of glochids. These have the appearance of being soft or fuzzy, but anyone who does touch them immediately regrets doing so. The small size of the glochids does not cause much pain but is rather highly irritating. As such, these have been collected for use in the making of itching powder.

Opuntia flowers are typically yellow, sometimes pink, and rarely white or anywhere in between these colors. Flowers are cup-shaped and do not have floral tubes, but instead, the pericarples resemble round, extensions of the cladodes. It is impossible to determine if new growth is going to be a flower or a new cladode as they are identical when first appearing – often covered with cone-shaped deciduous leaves.

If a rounded pericarple, this later becomes the fruit and may turn a bright red color or stay green. Some Opuntias have very juicy, fleshy fruit called “tunas” that are harvested and turned into candies or jellies. Similarly, cladodes when still young and tender are harvested and eaten as a vegetable – particularly in Mexico under the name Nopales.

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1,000 Types Of Cacti [With Pictures]

Opuntia Varieties

Opuntia abjecta (Big Pine Key Prickly Pear)

opuntia abjecta 1

Opuntia aciculata (Chenille Prickly Pear)

opuntia aciculata

Opuntia aequatorialis (Ecuadorian Prickly Pear)

opuntia aequatorialis

Opuntia ammophila (Florida Beach Prickly Pear)

opuntia ammophila

Opuntia amyclaea

opuntia amyclaea

Opuntia anacantha

opuntia anacantha

Opuntia anacantha is a jointed shrubby cactus, usually decumbent and rooting along the undersurface, sometimes ascending and clambering, forming low clumps to 60 cm high and 2.5 m wide. The joints are typically unarmed or with sharp spines.

This species presents a large morphological variability and has a large distribution area. This accounts for the numerous controversial synonyms. The user-friendly spineless forms appear to be the more common in cultivation.

Opuntia anahuacensis (Beach Prickly Pear)

opuntia anahuacensis

Opuntia arechavaletae

opuntia arechavaletae

Opuntia arenaria (El Paso Prickly Pear)

opuntia arenaria

Opuntia argentina

opuntia argentina

Argentine Opuntia or Opuntia argentina, or simply the Argentia cactus, has its origins in Argentina and South Africa. These cacti grow in the form of large, thick and egg-shaped ‘leaves’ that emerge from a central stem. These are flat but succulent.

Opuntia arizonica (Arizona Prickly Pear)

opuntia arizonica

Opuntia articulata (Paper Spine Cactus)

opuntia articulata

Opuntia atrispina (Dark-spined Prickly Pear)

opuntia atrispina

Opuntia atropes

opuntia atropes

Opuntia auberi

opuntia auberi

Opuntia aurantiaca (Tiger Pear)

opuntia aurantiaca

Opuntia aurea (Golden Prickly Pear)

opuntia aurea

Opuntia aureispina (Golden-spined Prickly Pear)

opuntia aureispina

Opuntia aureispina is a treelike shrub with many ascending branches near ground level 1-1.5 m tall, from short heavily spined trunks. As suggested by its common name, it possesses rather long, golden spines. The spines appear more numerous and longest in the upper part of the pads.

Opuntia aureispina can be distinguished from other prickly- pears by its spiny fruits that are fleshy at first but dry and hard at maturity, and its yellow flowers with reddish bases.

Opuntia austrina (Florida Prickly Pear)

opuntia austrina

Opuntia azurea (Purple Prickly Pear)

opuntia azurea

Opuntia azurea is a long-spined, compact, upright, prickly-pear, species with a single trunk and shiny, pale blue-green arms (usually 1-2 m tall), or branching from the base and more or less spreading.

Opuntia azurea was described as a Mexican species and is characterized by seasonally variable joints, uniformly blue-green or purple at the areoles, that may become uniformly purple in drought or winter.

The young spines are usually golden, or reddish, but almost black with age and are borne on the upper part of the cactus. The flowers are beautiful, 3 cm long, rich golden-yellow with a vivid crimson claw; aged flowers turn a pinkish-brown throughout. It produces juicy, edible red/purple fruits.

Opuntia basilaris (Beavertail Prickly Pear)

opuntia basilaris

Opuntia basilaris is a smaller prickly pear, branching upwards to 30cm (60 cm) high in clumps up to 90cm (1.2 m) in diameter.

Opuntia basilaris var. brachyclada (Short-joint Beavertail Prickly Pear)

opuntia basilaris var. brachyclada

Opuntia basilaris var. brachyclada has smaller compact segments. It is found only in chaparral vegetation and the desert edges of California.

Opuntia basilaris var. heilii (Heil’s Beavertail Prickly Pear)

opuntia basilaris var. heilii

Opuntia basilaris var. longiareolata (Grand Canyon Beavertail Prickly Pear)

opuntia basilaris var. longiareolata

Opuntia basilaris var. longiareolata has wedge-shaped, narrow stem pads. It is found in the Mojave Desert of California, Arizona and Grand Canyon.

Opuntia basilaris var. treleasei (Trelease’s Beavertail Prickly Pear)

opuntia basilaris var. treleasei

Opuntia basilaris var. treleasei has narrow elliptical or obovate pads, often with a few spines. It is found in the Pacific grassland and Mojave Desert of California.

Opuntia bensonii

opuntia bensonii

Opuntia bentonii (Beach Texas Prickly Pear)

opuntia bentonii

Opuntia bergeriana (Red-flower Prickly Pear)

opuntia bergeriana

Opuntia bergeriana is a strong shrubby species, it can grow up to 4.5 m with pads that can be up to 40 cm long. This plant produces bright red flowers in profusion and also in small specimens.

Opuntia blakeana (Unusual Arizona Prickly Pear)

opuntia blakeana

Opuntia bravoana

opuntia bravoana

Opuntia brunnescens

opuntia brunnescens

Opuntia caboensis

opuntia caboensis

Opuntia cacanapa (Texas Blue Prickly Pear)

opuntia cacanapa

Opuntia camanchica (Tulip Prickly Pear)

opuntia camanchica

Opuntia caracassana

opuntia caracassana

Opuntia cespitosa (Eastern Prickly Pear)

opuntia cespitosa

Opuntia chaffeyi

opuntia chaffeyi

Opuntia charlestonensis (Charleston’s Prickly Pear)

opuntia charlestonensis

Opuntia chavena

opuntia chavena

Opuntia chiangiana

opuntia chiangiana

Opuntia chisosensis (Chisos Mountain Prickly Pear)

opuntia chisosensis

Opuntia chlorotica (Pancake Prickly Pear)

opuntia chlorotica

Opuntia clarkiorum

opuntia clarkiorum

Opuntia cochenillifera (Cochineal Nopal Cactus)

opuntia cochenillifera

Opuntia cochenillifera is a well-known shrubby or treelike cactus with several main branches from the base and a large almost hemispherical top often 3 to 4 meters high or more. It was used in the past for the production of the cochineal insect (Dactylopious coccus Costa). A deep crimson dye is extracted from the female cochineal insects. Cochineal produces a range of scarlet, pink and other red hues from the dye found in cochineal insects, carminic acid. It was used for dyeing fabric, fibers, and wool. This species may have been selected for spinelessness in Mexico, much like Opuntia ficus-indica, to ease the culturing.

Opuntia columbiana (Columbia Prickly Pear)

opuntia columbiana

Opuntia comonduensis (Comondu Cactus)

opuntia comonduensis

Opuntia confusa (Widespread Western Prickly Pear)

opuntia confusa

Opuntia consoles

Opuntia cubensis (Cuban Prickly Pear)

opuntia cubensis

Opuntia curassavica (Curas Cactus)

opuntia curassavica

Opuntia cyclodes (Cold-hardy Western Prickly Pear)

opuntia cyclodes

Opuntia cymochila (Grassland Prickly Pear)

opuntia cymochila

Opuntia deamii

opuntia deamii

Opuntia debreczyi

opuntia debreczyi

Opuntia decumbens (Decumbens Cactus)

opuntia decumbens

Opuntia dejecta

opuntia dejecta

Opuntia demissa

opuntia demissa

Opuntia depressa (Depressa Cactus)

opuntia depressa

Opuntia dillenii (Erect Prickly Pear)

opuntia dillenii

Opuntia dillenii is a low, spreading bush growing in broad clumps and often forming dense thickets, or tall and much branched, 2 to 3 meters high, sometimes with distinct terete trunks.

Opuntia diploursina (Western Prickly Pear)

opuntia diploursina

Opuntia discata

opuntia discata

Opuntia discolor

opuntia discolor

Opuntia drummondii (Creeping Cactus)

opuntia drummondii

Opuntia dulcis (Sweet Prickly Pear)

opuntia dulcis

Opuntia durangensis (Durango Giant Prickly Pear)

opuntia durangensis

Opuntia elata (Riverina Pear)

opuntia elata

Opuntia elata is a fast-growing more or less erect, much-branched shrubby succulent plant and in time can reach 3 meters in height and spread, although 1-1.5 meters is more of the common size. The flower is a brilliant deep orange to yellow and appears from late spring throughout summer. The fruit is club-shaped and purple-red when ripe. The joints will occasionally exhibit white straight spines up to 3-4 cm long.

Opuntia elatior (Red-flower Prickly Pear)

opuntia elatior

Opuntia elizondoana

opuntia elizondoana

Opuntia engelmannii (Engelmann’s Prickly Pear)

opuntia engelmannii

Opuntia engelmannii is a very variable prickly pear, generally forming a dense, mound-shaped shrub, less than 1 meter tall (occasionally tree-like up to 3.5 meters high), usually with no apparent trunk or with a short trunk. Lower branches are generally decumbent, upper spreading to ascending.

Opuntia excelsa (Lofty Prickly Pear)


Opuntia falcata

Opuntia feroacantha

opuntia feroacantha

Opuntia ficus-indica (Indian Fig Opuntia)

opuntia ficus indica

Opuntia ficus-indica is a prickly pear cactus that has long been a domesticated crop plant important in agricultural economies throughout arid and semiarid parts of the world.

Opuntia fragilis (Brittle Prickly Pear)

opuntia fragilis

Opuntia fuliginosa

opuntia fuliginosa

Opuntia fusco-atra

opuntia fusco atra

Opuntia galapageia (Galápagos Prickly Pear)

opuntia galapageia

Opuntia galapageia is a a very variable perennial prickly pear species, sometimes low and creeping, but often becoming very large, arborescent and arboreal, 2,5-5(or more) meters high, with a well-developed, large top either open or very compact and rounded. It show a great range of variation in habit, armament of joints, and character of spines.

The greatest range of spine characters is shown between the young plants and old ones and between the trunk and the joints. These differences are very marked, but seems to be of little value.

Opuntia gaumeri

opuntia gaumeri

Opuntia gilvescens

opuntia gilvescens

Opuntia glaucescens

opuntia glaucescens

Opuntia gomei

opuntia gomei

Opuntia gosseliniana (Violet Prickly Pear)

opuntia gosseliniana

Opuntia grandis

opuntia grandis

Opuntia guatemalensis

opuntia guatemalensis

Opuntia guilanchi

opuntia guilanchi

Opuntia helleri (Wolf Island Prickly Pear)

opuntia helleri

Opuntia hondurensis

opuntia hondurensis

Opuntia howeyi

opuntia howeyi

Opuntia huajuapensis

opuntia huajuapensis

Opuntia humifusa (Low Prickly Pear)

opuntia humifusa

Opuntia humifusa is a segmented herbaceous perennial whit flattened joints, forming a spiny prostrate, spreading or erect shrub. Often in the wild it spreads to form small colonies up to 1 meter across ( or more as pads break off and root nearby).

Opuntia hyptiacantha

opuntia hyptiacantha

Opuntia inaequilateralis

opuntia inaequilateralis

Opuntia inaperta

opuntia inaperta

Opuntia insularis

opuntia insularis

Opuntia jaliscana

opuntia jaliscana

Opuntia jamaicensis (Jamaica Prickly Pear)

opuntia jamaicensis

Opuntia joconostle

opuntia joconostle

Opuntia karwinskiana

opuntia karwinskiana

Opuntia keyensis

opuntia keyensis

Opuntia laevis (Smooth Prickly Pear)

opuntia laevis

Opuntia lagunae

opuntia lagunae

Opuntia lasiacantha

opuntia lasiacantha

Opuntia leoglossa (Lion’s Tongue Cactus)

opuntia leoglossa

Opuntia leptocarpa

opuntia leptocarpa

Opuntia leucotricha (Arborescent Prickly Pear)

opuntia leucotricha

Opuntia leucotricha (Duraznillo) is a jointed shrubby cactus forming clumps or small trees with distinct trunks and a large top often 3 to 5 meters high. Flowers are deep yellow with white stamens and deep red stigma with green lobes. Fruit is fragrant whitish-yellow (Duraznillo blanco) or red (Duraznillo colorado), have a good taste and can be found in Mexican markets.

Opuntia lindheimeri (Texas Prickly Pear)

opuntia lindheimeri

Opuntia littoralis (Coastal Prickly Pear)

opuntia littoralis

Opuntia lutea

opuntia lutea

Opuntia mackensenii

opuntia mackensenii

Opuntia macrarthra (Eastern Beach Prickly Pear)

opuntia macrarthra

Opuntia macrocentra (Black-spined Prickly Pear)

opuntia macrocentra

Opuntia macrocentra is a ground-hugging to nearly upright branched shrubs 60-120 cm tall, up to 3 m wide, usually 4-10 joints high; rarely with distinct trunks. The red-tinged succulent pads and very long spines (macrocentra means long spine) easily distinguish it from the many other species of prickly pear. The purple tinge is greatest around the areoles and on the edges, although the entire plant may be purple in winter.

Opuntia macrorhiza (Prairie Prickly Pear)

opuntia macrorhiza

Opuntia macrorhiza plants form spreading mats of chains of joints, rooting where they touch the soil. Without tuberous central taproot.

Opuntia maxima


Opuntia megapotamica

opuntia megapotamica

Opuntia megarrhiza

opuntia megarrhiza

Opuntia megasperma

opuntia megasperma

Opuntia mesacantha (Southeastern Prickly Pear)

opuntia mesacantha

Opuntia mesacantha subs. lata

opuntia mesacantha subs. lata

Opuntia microdasys (Bunny Ears Cactus)

opuntia microdasys

Opuntia microdasys is usually low, much branched, and creeping but sometimes nearly erect and to 1 meter high, forming low clumps. The small pad-like stems are without spines, but with closely set golden-yellow glochids (hair-like prickles). It can produce yellow flowers but they rarely appear in cultivation.

There are many varieties of Opuntia microdasys; among other things, they may be distinguished by the shape and size of the joints and the color of the glochids. It is very popular with all types of collectors, easy to cultivate, and is without a doubt a most attractive plant.

Opuntia mojavensis

opuntia mojavensis

Opuntia monacantha (Drooping Prickly Pear)

opuntia monacantha

Opuntia monacantha is a very quick-growing shrubby or tree-like succulent 2-4 (6) m tall with a short trunk up to 2m in diameter.

Opuntia nejapensis

opuntia nejapensis

Opuntia nemoralis

opuntia nemoralis

Opuntia neochrysacantha

opuntia neochrysacantha

Opuntia ochrocentra

opuntia ochrocentra

Opuntia oligacantha

opuntia oligacantha

Opuntia olmeca

opuntia olmeca

Opuntia orbiculata (Western Prickly Pear)

opuntia orbiculata

Opuntia oricola (Chaparral Prickly Pear)

opuntia oricola

Opuntia pachyrrhiza

opuntia pachyrrhiza

Opuntia parviclada

opuntia parviclada

Opuntia perotensis

opuntia perotensis

Opuntia phaeacantha (Brown-spined Prickly Pear)

opuntia phaeacantha

Opuntia phaeacantha is a complex of several medium-sized, brown-spinal prickly pear varieties. Plants may be erect or prostrate 60-90 cm tall, occasionally even taller, with no trunk and form dense thickets up to 2.4 meters across or, it may remain a low, prostrate plant with most of the stem segments (pads) resting their edges on the ground, never growing taller than 40 cm tall.

These are recognized by their weak stems and pads that sag or lie on the ground, especially during the winter months. Flowers are golden yellow with a yellow to reddish center. Among the most common cacti in North America, Opuntia phaeacantha is the very embodiment of what most folks think of when they think of a prickly pear cactus. There are many forms with only a few spines.

Opuntia pilifera

opuntia pilifera

Opuntia pinkavae (Pinkava’s Prickly Pear)

opuntia pinkavae

Opuntia polyacantha

opuntia polyacantha

Opuntia polyacantha is a low shrubby spreading perennial plant with many branches, up to 10-20 cm (-40) centimeters tall, usually forming small clumps or mats of pads that may be 2–3 meters wide. Mats up to 3.7 m in width and 9.15 m long were observed in the Great Plains. Opuntia polyacantha plants usually live less than 20 years, but vegetative propagation can ensure a very long life span for the clonal colony.

Opuntia polyacantha var. erinacea (Mojave Prickly Pear)

opuntia polyacantha var. erinacea

Opuntia polyacantha var. erinacea has spines to 10 cm long, and very spiny fruits. It is found in western United States.

Opuntia polyacantha var. hystricina (Porcupine Prickly Pear)

opuntia polyacantha var. hystricina

Opuntia polyacantha var. hystricina has spines to 10 cm long, and fruits that are spiny above. It is found from northern Arizona to Colorado.

Opuntia polyacantha var. juniperina (Panhandle Prickly Pear)

opuntia polyacantha var. juniperina

Opuntia polyacantha var. nicholii (Navajo Bridge Prickly Pear)

opuntia polyacantha var. nicholii

Opuntia polyacantha var. nicholii has spines to 12.5 cm long, and some spines on the fruits. It is found in Navajoan.

Opuntia polyacantha var. schweriniana (Dwarf Cactus)

opuntia polyacantha var. schweriniana

Opuntia pottsii

opuntia pottsii

Opuntia pottsii is a diminutive shrubby plant up to 12(-30) cm tall, forming low prostrate clumps up to 2 meters in diameter. It is a cryptic species and grows from a tuberous root. The pads are glaucous blue-green when healthy. Usually, 1-3 grey-white spines per areole are produced only on the upper part of the pads.

Throughout its range, the flowers may be red, magenta, pink, orange, yellow, or white, and a combination of these colors are found, sometimes together in the same populations. When yellow, the flowers often have red centers.

Opuntia pottsii var. montana

opuntia pottsii var. montana

Opuntia pottsii var. montana joints are mostly wider than long. Spines are usually white. Fruit is mostly chunky and short, usually pinkish. It is found in the areas of conifer or oak woodland above 1,800 m, occasionally in grasslands at lower elevations.

Opuntia puberula

opuntia puberula

Opuntia pubescens (Velvet Bur Cactus)

opuntia pubescens

Opuntia pumila

opuntia pumila

Opuntia pycnantha

opuntia pycnantha

Opuntia pyrocarpa

opuntia pyrocarpa

Opuntia quimilo

opuntia quimilo

Opuntia quimilo is a much-branched shrub or treelike cactus with distinct trunks up to 30 cm in diameter, reaching a height and a diameter of 4 meters. Some people mistake the large, flattened pads of prickly pears, Opuntia quimilo, for example, for leaves. They are actually cladodes or stem segments that bear the green ephemeral leaves and spines.

Opuntia quimilo is one of three known gynodioecious cacti, that is to say, it has female flowers on one plant and hermaphrodite flowers on another plant.

Opuntia quitensis

opuntia quitensis

Opuntia quitensis is a sprawling to somewhat erect succulent bush, with single stems but forming large thickets usually 0.4-2 meters high, but becomes considerably higher in dense vegetation (to 3 metres tall).

This species is very variable in habit, for when grown in the open it is low and bushy with rather small joints, but when growing in thickets it becomes tall and has large joints (pads).

It is often spineless, and when the spines are present they are usually few and weak, but occasionally the joints have stout subulate spines.

Opuntia rastrera

opuntia rastrera

Opuntia repens (Roving Prickly Pear)

opuntia repens

Opuntia retrorsa

opuntia retrorsa

Opuntia rileyi

opuntia rileyi

Opuntia rioplatense

opuntia rioplatense

Opuntia robusta (Nopal Tapón)

opuntia robusta

Opuntia robusta, popularly known as the ‘wheel cactus’ in reference to the circular shape of the segments, is a much branched, often erect, succulent shrub or small tree, sometimes 4-6 meters high, but commonly 1 to 2 m, with more or less distinct trunks.

The branch segments (also known as joints, pads, articles or cladodes), are commonly thought of as leaves but are really flattened stems and are armed with tufts of numerous barbed bristles (glochids) and commonly spineless with 1 to 5 sharp spines to 4 cm long arising from each areole.

Both plants with male flowers, plants with female blossoms and plants with hermaphrodite flowers can be found in Opuntia robusta. The fruits, which may be red, orange, yellow or green, are produced in profusion, and possess thick peel (with sharp glochids) and juicy pulp containing numerous seeds; they are edible but best for animal feeding.

Opuntia rufida (Blind Prickly Pear)

opuntia rufida

Opuntia rufida is a fairly large shrubby or tree-like, blue-green prickly pear, with several branches and rarely with a somewhat definite trunk to 1.5 m high and 2.5 m wide. Spines are absent but the joints have copious evenly spaced areoles in which numerous reddish glochids are borne.

The common names in English (blind prickly pear) and Spanish (nopal cegador) come from the belief that the glochids are loose and supposedly may fly into the air when the plants are shaken. The dislodged glochids may get into the eyes of animals and cause severe problems.

Opuntia rugosa

opuntia rugosa

Opuntia rzedowskii

opuntia rzedowskii

Opuntia salmiana

opuntia salmiana

Opuntia salmiana is a shrubby Opuntia that grows to 2 meters high, much branched at base. The large yellow flowers contrast beautifully with the red-purple of the young stems. It flowers freely even when grown indoors. Strikingly enough, the fruits are highly proliferous; each lateral fruit may break off the receptacle and form a new plant; fruits of this species do not contain seeds and reproduction is completely vegetative.

Opuntia sanguinocula

opuntia sanguinocula

Opuntia santa-rita (Santa Rita Prickly Pear)

opuntia santa rita

Opuntia santa-rita is an erect, bushy succulent shrub that grows to 2 m high and 3 m wide with a distinct, though short trunk. It is a very attractive species with reddish or violet-purple pads. Small plants seem to be the most colorful. The yellow flowers are stunning on the purple pads in spring, definitely an eye-catcher.

Opuntia scheeri

opuntia scheeri

Opuntia schickendantzii

opuntia schickendantzii

Opuntia semispinosa

opuntia semispinosa

Opuntia senilis

opuntia senilis

Opuntia sierralagunensis

opuntia sierralagunensis

Opuntia soederstromiana

opuntia soederstromiana

Opuntia sphaerica

cumulopuntia sphaerica

Opuntia sphaerica is a survivor, capable of adapting to a range of weather, terrain, and climate conditions, and thriving in them. You can find them in high-drought areas, near the seaside, at elevations as high as 3,500 meters or as low as 50 meters, on slopes, and on flat terrain.

Opuntiasphaerica is known by many scientific names, such as Cumulopuntia sphaerica, Sphaeropuntia sphaerica, and Tephrocactus sphaericus, as well as colloquial names such as ‘corotilla’, ‘gatito’, ‘perrito’, and ‘puskaye’.

Opuntia spinosibacca

opuntia spinosibacca

Opuntia spinosissima (Jamaican Semaphore Cactus)

opuntia spinosissima

Opuntia spinulifera (Large Round-leaved Prickly Pear)

opuntia spinulifera

Opuntia stenopetala (Tuna Colorada)

opuntia stenopetala

Opuntia stenopetala is a low bushy plant, often forming thickets or mats, the main branches creeping and resting on the edges of the joints. Although in its habit this Opuntia is much like many others, its flowers are unique, the petals being very narrow and erect; it is a very beautiful plant, and at flowering time is covered with numerous, small, beautiful flowers.

Opuntia streptacantha

opuntia streptacantha

Opuntia stricta (Shell Mound Pricklypear)

opuntia stricta

Opuntia stricta subs. esparzae

opuntia stricta subs. esparzae

Opuntia strigil (Marble-fruit Prickly Pear)

opuntia strigil

Opuntia sulphurea

opuntia sulphurea

Opuntia sulphurea is a low and spreading or erect shrub, forming broad clumps 1 to 2 meters in diameter, 30-40 cm high. The joints are conspicuously tuberculate. The spines are very dense and stiff, whitish at first, but somewhat yellowish, horn colored, brownish to red in age.

Opuntia tapona

opuntia tapona

Opuntia taylorii

opuntia taylorii

Opuntia tehuacana

opuntia tehuacana

Opuntia tomentosa (Woollyjoint Prickly Pear)

opuntia tomentosa

Opuntia tomentosa is shrubby or tree-like species becoming 3 to 6 meters high, but occasionally reaching up to 8 m in height. It has a broad top a smooth trunk and dull green segments (often incorrectly called leaves) which are velvety to touch due to the dense covering of short fine hairs. The flowers are a deep orange.

This species was first described as cultivated plants and has long been a favorite. When grown outdoors it forms a large and conspicuous plant. It is usually nearly or quite spineless, but plants which come from the Valley of Mexico are often spiny.

Opuntia tortispina (Twist-spined Prickly Pear)

opuntia tortispina

Opuntia toumeyi

opuntia toumeyi

Opuntia triacanthos

opuntia triacanthos

Opuntia trichophora

opuntia trichophora

Opuntia tuna

opuntia tuna

Opuntia tunoidea (Carolina Prickly-pear Cactus)

opuntia tunoidea

Opuntia turpinii

Opuntia undulata

opuntia undulata

Opuntia valida

opuntia valida

Opuntia velutina

opuntia velutina

Opuntia violacea

opuntia violacea santa rita
Opuntia violacea Santa Rita

Opuntia whipplei

opuntia whipplei 1

Much more compact than most other chollas, Whipple cholla (Opuntia whipplei) is a low mat-forming or upright succulent shrub, sparingly to much branched, without a well-developed trunk. In appearance, it is highly variable.

The height and width of Opuntia whipplei vary widely with growing conditions. In some locations of its range, Opuntia whipplei grows to 1,3 meters tall in massive thickets; in other locations, the plant grows to about 30-50 cm tall and spreads to several meters in diameter in an open shrub-like formation; and in still other locations it grows in a dense low mat.

Most of the selections chosen for garden cultivation are densely covered in glass-white spines that glow when backlit. Opuntia whipplei flowers are large and yellow-green.

Opuntia wilcoxii


Opuntia woodsii

opuntia woodsii

Opuntia wootonii (Wooton Prickly Pear)

opuntia wootonii

Opuntia xanthoglochia


Opuntia zuniensis (Zuni Prickly Pear)

opuntia zuniensis

How to Care for Opuntia Cacti

If you’re planning to incorporate the Opuntia cactus into your garden, here’s everything you need to know about caring for it.


Like any heliophilic plant, flourishing in open environments with plenty of direct sunlight, the Opuntia cactus also requires ample direct sunlight to grow and bloom.

The best idea is to place them in open spaces such as exposed gardens or outdoor balconies, as these plants will soak up the sun for as long as it’s available throughout the day!

However, during the hot summer months, give the plants a little cooling time and shade to prevent damage from extreme heat; in the wild, this damage is part and parcel of daily life and doesn’t matter so much, but if you’re growing Opuntia varieties for decorative purposes, this becomes a necessary measure.


Like most cacti, Opuntia varieties are drought-tolerant plants, used to arid conditions and extremely infrequent rain.

Therefore, these plants do not require frequent watering; in fact, they’re more likely to die of root rot than underwatering in a home garden!

Once you’ve potted your Opuntia cactus, water it slowly, waiting in between to see if the water flows out of the bottom—a sign to stop watering.

If you have a tray beneath the pot, ensure that you empty the water that’s flowed out of the pot and collected in the tray, preventing water accumulation.

Opuntia varieties grow during the spring, summer, and fall months, during which time it is necessary to water them weekly once or twice so that the soil is always slightly wet.

During the cold winter months, water is just enough to prevent excessive drying of the soil (generally, watering once a week achieves this).

It is also advisable to use distilled water or rainwater to water your Opuntia cactus, as tap water contains a lot of added minerals, chemicals, and salts that could cause soil compaction in the long run.

Another helpful tip is not to splash water on the plant’s stem while watering; doing so could result in rotting.


Opuntia varieties love soil that is rich in gravel, water-permeable, and fertile, with a pH value between 6 and 7.

When grown at home or in non-wild conditions, the ideal soil combination is 20% coco coir/peat moss, 60% vermiculite, and 20% sandy soil, with or without a tiny amount of organic potting soil.

Vermiculite ensures air permeability—highly essential as the roots of the Opuntia varieties are extremely susceptible to root rot when oxygen is deficient.

Therefore, the soil should also drain well, in addition to being air-permeable (a good way to check this is to see if water quickly drains through the soil, instead of pooling at the surface and then slowly getting absorbed by the soil).

Repotting and loosening the soil annually will also help maintain air permeability.

For better soil fertility, vermicompost and eggshell powder can also be incorporated.


In their vegetating months (spring, summer, and fall), your Opuntia cacti should be fertilized with liquid fertilizer once a month.

Keep off the fertilizer in the winter months; if you’re repotting in spring or fall, you can incorporate a tiny amount of slow-release fertilizer into the soil—this will sustain the plant through the winter months.

Opt for phosphate-potassium fertilizers for the periods before and after the cactus blooms, whereas nitrogen fertilizer is best for the seedling phase.

Make sure the concentration of fertilizer is as low as possible; over-fertilizing is always more harmful than under-fertilizing; a great way to prevent the former is to use low-concentrate fertilizers and fertilize several times.

Slow growth in the base, accompanied by yellowing, could be a sign of over-fertilizing—if you notice this in your plant, stop fertilizing immediately.


As mentioned earlier, Opuntia varieties thrive in desert-like conditions, with high temperatures, strong sunlight, and minimal rainfall.

They also do well in subtropical and tropical regions with the same conditions.

The ideal temperature that Opuntia varieties enjoy is between 68 and 95°F; at temperatures lower than 50 or higher than 95, plant growth rate reduces and dormancy starts setting in.

The plant’s surroundings should be well-ventilated and the humidity in the air shouldn’t be high, so water accumulation and high-humidity areas should be avoided.

Pests and Diseases

Some of the pests and diseases that Opuntia varieties are prone to are:

  • Anthracnose: Small black dots that appear in a spiral pattern on the plant’s upper parts, caused by extreme humidity and temperatures.
  • Stem Rot: A common disease caused by a range of reasons, such as insects, cold-induced wounds, and infected soil.
  • Root-knot Nematode: Caused by insects that darken the stem and leaf surfaces, eventually resulting in death.
  • Spider Mites: Tiny insects that build web-like structures and cause the leaves to turn red and yellow.
  • Aphids: Tiny pests that cause yellowing and distortion in growth.
  • Other Diseases: These include mealybugs, soft rot, viruses such as local necrosis and mosaic leaves, rodents, and dry rot.


A great thing about Opuntia varieties is that they requires minimal pruning. Just remove any dead/withered branches and flowers to prevent any potential unhealthiness from spreading.

Potting and Repotting

Pot the plant when the temperatures outside are between 59 and 68°F, generally during fall and spring.

While seeding, the air humidity should be high, and you should cover the soil with a plastic film to maintain this humidity. The film can be removed once germination starts.

Use clay flower pots as these are permeable and ensure that they are not too small or too large, as this could cause restrictions in root development and water accumulation, respectively.

Repotting is unnecessary for large cholla plants, but if you’re growing them in pots, repot once a year—lift the whole plant, get rid of old soil hanging to it, place it in another container, and fill the container with potting soil.

How to Propagate Opuntia Cacti

Division and grafting are effective methods to propagate Opuntia varieties.

To divide, cut off the stem’s lateral branches or the plant’s tip and plant this in soil; in a few months, you’ll notice small shoots growing up.

For grafting, you’ll need a suitable rootstock. Once you have it, cut off its tip, put the Opuntia cacti, with roots removed, in the rootstock’s center, and secure it with rope. In a couple of weeks, you’ll see the parts growing together, and you can now remove the rope.

You could also try seeding, as mentioned earlier.